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By Brenda Cárdenas

after Ana Mendieta's Silueta series, earth-body works,

        This body always compost--
hair a plot of thin green stems
        snowing a shroud of petals,
skin mud-sucked to bark,
        trunk only timber isthmusing
river banks, each finger
        a dirty uprooting.

How many stones did I have
        to swallow before my legs
believed their own weight?
        Dropped into silhouette
of thigh and hip, a ridge
        of ossicles crushed to fine
white whispers. Offering Cuilapán

        their orphaned pleas, one
twin lingers outside the nave, one
        cloistered in a vaulted niche,
its ledge of red roses edging
        her blood-soaked robes.
Meat, bone-a deer's skitter
        and bolt from the arrow,
an iguana's severed tail, spiny tracks.

        They say we dig our own graves.
I have laid me down
        in a Yagul tomb, outlined
our island arms with twig, rock,
        blossom, mud. Our pulse with fire,
glass and blood. I've raised
        myself in the earth's beds, left
this trace, this exiled breath.

Added: Monday, July 14, 2014  /  An earlier version of this poem was published in "Cuadernos de ALDEEU" (Fall, 2013) and as part of Mind the Gap, a portfolio of poem-print translations, Eds. Tim Abel and Sara Parr, 2013. Used with permission.
Brenda Cárdenas

Brenda Cárdenas has authored Boomerang, From the Tongues of Brick and Stone, and with Roberto Harrison, Bread of the Earth/The Last Colors. She also co-edited Between the Heart and the Land: Latina Poets in the Midwest. Her poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Latina/o Poetics: The Art of Poetry, Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology, The Golden Shovel Anthology, POETRY, Mind the Gap: A Portfolio of Poem-Print Translations, The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry, RATTLE, and elsewhere. She has given readings widely, including at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Poetry Foundation, the Poet’s House, the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, and the Bryant Park Reading Room. An Associate Professor in the Creative Writing program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Cárdenas served as the Milwaukee Poet Laureate from 2010-2012. Brenda also co-created and co-taught the PINTURA : PALABRA inaugural workshop at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.

Other poems by this author