I am an invention—dark alarm,
Briareus’s hands striking the bells of my blood.
Whose toll am I?
I think too much—
each morning the Minotauromachy.
Through the night I swing the sickle of my wonders,
a harvest-work—of touch and worry.
Spend dawn and its day burning my dead—
Who fell in the night? What the night reaped?
I am every answer—
a mathematics of anxiety. How any maul can solve
the mesquite tree for the pyre.
In my chest I am two-hearted always—
love and what love becomes
arrive when they want to, and hungry.
The locusts disappeared the fields then themselves.
I bent—wept alone on the threshing floor,
not for what went stick to the feast—
I wept for the locusts.
I know what it’s like to be appetite of your own appetite,
citizen of what savages you,
to dare bloom pleasure from your wounds—
and to bleed out from that bouquet.
A head like mine was shaped on thirst.
I dream what is wet or might quench—
aquifers, rivers, cenotes, canals.
The dusked mirage of lake above your knee I sip and lick—
my tongue blush as the fluoresced ear of a jackrabbit.
I obey what I don’t understand, then I become it,
which needs no understanding.
The astonishment of my body’s limits—
how it is easily divided by a black field,
and the black field multiplied in stars.
The throng of a lover constellating.
Like any desert, I learn myself by what’s desired of me—
and I am demoned by those desires.
For this, I move like a wound—always, and fruiting,
sweetened by the thorn.
The tumbleweed turns and turns,
until it bursts free all its spores into the wind,
until it is only what it might become.
There is no such thing as time or June,
only what you’re born into—
only waiting for the rain, for the flood,
for what erupts my badlands and my tired eyes in beauty—
Mojave aster, desert globemallow,
where once was terrible nothing.
There is no god here in these flesh-hours,
though your jaw is a temple and your hips
strike like an axe—
the labrys I injure myself against.
But you called to here by me come softly,
into the bull-noon of my body—
and not unknowingly.
You’ve heard me churn and lather, yet knock and enter.
Together we are the color of magnets,
and also their doing. Manganese, lodestone,
ores the light will not touch, so we touch the light—
give it to one another
until we are riddled and leaking with it.
What else can we prostrate
or set before the large feet of our creators
if not the diminishment of the body—this Book of Scars.
Sand grinds like gears between my teeth—
sparkling, small machinery of want.
What question can I ask of the thing I am?
All I have done and failed to do.
The furrows I tear with my grief-mouth, a map of myself
carved by my own horns.
I have a name, yet no one who will say it not roughly.
I am your Native,
and this is my American labyrinth.
Here I am, at your thighs—lilac-lit pools of ablution.
Take my body and make of it—
a Nation, a confession.
Through you even I can be clean.
Photograph © Jim Choate
This poem appears in Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz, forthcoming from Faber & Faber in the UK and Graywolf Press in the US.