Last Thursday The sky is a woman. Silent now. Her old stories are written in the constellations. She stares in the white pond of moon, a dark turban of night on her head. Complexity is her mirror. Of all the wonders of this world, she is the most ancient of mysteries. She can cleanse the earth with a lift of her skirt, split calm open with chaos. Her life is as long as the beginning; she floats beyond the wicket of time. Her morning eye, bright with the known and unknown, stares down at waves of colorful faces rowing beneath her. The boats of their bodies are burdened with dark and beautiful cargo. This Thursday afternoon, Ambreen’s sixteen-year-old body, is bound and set ablaze for love. Her mother and brother give their blessings as fire leap-frogs through pools of petrol. A van, her tomb, burns with tradition as tongues of fire lick her bones, and a full mouth of smoke sucks her breath. Could they hear the flesh of their flesh crying, begging escape from the flames? Were their ears plugged with customs? Are their hands made of stones? When the ground is a cold pillar of her memory, she is a lone white dove flying into the ancient arms of mother sky. First appeared in A Book of the Year: Poetry Society of Texas, 2017, the anthology of prize poems of the Poetry Society of Texas
Homeless Man as Poet October unbuttons his rumpled coat. Leaves fall from high limbs onto a cracked sidewalk. A vortex of orange, pink and amber whirls into the opening gate of night. He stretches his mouth with his forefinger and thumb. He tells me, This is an ocean. My tongue swims in here. Do you like it? An answer floats in my mind before he interrupts my thoughts. He points to a colony of stars. The sky loves the ocean. You think the breeze of wind is an accident? He seals a message in its breath. He wants to give her violets. Can you open the vault between them?” Hey! They won’t let me in there. He nods at the coffee shop. I blink; a cup of hot Chai in hand is evidence I am accepted. He tells me buildings are gods with windows for eyes. Sometimes they rupture the darkness with a lamp silhouetted against the pane. Small money and an illegible expression is what I give him for his poem. I watch him hobble into a nebulous ocean of darkness, a shadow cast between buildings that reject him. Wind and night are the footprints he leaves behind. I wish I had told him my body is an ocean and loneliness swims inside. I wish I had told him we are both leaves fallen from the wide open mouth of a violet sky. First appeared in A Book of the Year: Poetry Society of Texas, 2017, the anthology of prize poems of the Poetry Society of Texas
I Am Rose The plaintive courtship-themed 1853 lyrics of "The Yellow Rose of Texas" fit the minstrel genre by depicting an African-American singer, who is longing to return to "a yellow girl," a term used to describe a mulatto, or mixed-race female born of African-American and white progenitors This iconic song of modern Texas and a popular traditional American tune, has experienced several transformations of its lyrics and periodic revivals in popularity since its appearance in the 1850s. —The Hand book of the Texas Historical Association This is what you’ll find if you unzip history, music pulsing in the cage of my ribs. In the dark pipe of his longing, my man makes a song for me. White notes burst in his belly when he thinks about the full nectar of my lips. He keeps my name in the pocket of his tongue, calls me his “yellow girl.” Anonymity doesn’t keep me safe from the long arms of lust. My beauty is a magnet. He sings of diamonds and dew; the hard light of my eyes is a hammer drumming against hungry hands reaching to lift the skirt of my womanhood. Heat climbs down the ladder of morning three rungs at a time, descends on the day with a heavy foot; he tells me he’s leaving. I listen to his reasons, promises of return. My face waters with sweat, tears, knowing I will not take him back into the folds of my love. This quiet dusk I watch the sky float in the Rio Grande, dream of the waves of muscles swelling across his broad back, the camber of his mouth, hard handsome face softening when he backs away from me. I remember our fingers sliding off the cliff of our grasp, the cavern of emptiness. I shudder; the next touch will not be his. I feel the petals of my want withering along the pebbled-stone of distance. First appeared in Bearing the Mask: Southwestern Persona Poems
Loretta is an award winning poet and five-time Pushcart Prize Nominee. She won the 2016 Phillis Wheatley Book Award for poetry, for her collection, In This House. Her book Word Ghetto won the 2011 Bluelight Press Book Award. Her book, Desert Lights is forthcoming, July 2017 from Lamar University Press. Loretta was a juried participant in the 2015 Houston Poetry Fest. Her poem “Into the Woods” won first place in the 2016 Austin International Poetry Festival. Her poem “Last Thursday” won the prestigious 2016 Therese Lindsey Award offered by the Poetry Society of Texas. She has been a panel presenter at the Bullock Museum, The ASU Writers Conference and the Langdon Review Literary Arts Festival. Her poems and essays appear in numerous publications throughout the United States, Canada, and the UK. Loretta was elected as the 2015 “Community Statesman in the Arts” by the Heritage of Odessa Foundation. She is also a recent breast cancer survivor.