When My Brother Was an Aztec

BOOK: When My Brother Was an Aztec
11.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Note to the Reader

Copper Canyon Press encourages you to calibrate your settings by using the line of characters below, which optimizes the line length and character size:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Pellentesque euismod

Please take the time to adjust the size of the text on your viewer so that the line of characters above appears on one line, if possible.

When this text appears on one line on your device, the resulting settings will most accurately reproduce the layout of the text on the page and the line length intended by the author. Viewing the title at a higher than optimal text size or on a device too small to accommodate the lines in the text will cause the reading experience to be altered considerably; single lines of some poems will be displayed as multiple lines of text. If this occurs, the turn of the line will be marked with a shallow indent.

Thank you. We hope you enjoy these poems.

This e-book edition was created through a special grant provided by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. Copper Canyon Press would like to thank Constellation Digital Services for their partnership in making this e-book possible.

With immeasurable gratitude to Cecilia,
Diane, Eloise, Janet, and Ted

No hay mal que dure cien años,

ni cuerpo que lo resista.

—Spanish proverb

  1. Abecedarian Requiring Further Examination of Anglikan Seraphym Subjugation of a Wild Indian Rezervation
  2. Hand-Me-Down Halloween
  3. Why I Hate Raisins
  4. The Red Blues
  5. The Gospel of Guy No-Horse
  6. A Woman with No Legs
  7. Tortilla Smoke: A Genesis
  8. Reservation Mary
  9. Cloud Watching
  10. Mercy Songs to Melancholy
  11. If Eve Side-Stealer & Mary Busted-Chest Ruled the World
  12. The Last Mojave Indian Barbie
  13. Reservation Grass
  14. Other Small Thundering
  15. Jimmy Eagle 's Hot Cowboy Boots Blues
  16. The Facts of Art
  17. Prayers or Oubliettes
  18. The Clouds Are Buffalo Limping toward Jesus
  1. My Brother at 3 a.m.
  2. Zoology
  3. How to Go to Dinner with a Brother on Drugs
  4. Downhill Triolets
  5. As a Consequence of My Brother Stealing All the Lightbulbs
  6. Formication
  7. Mariposa Nocturna
  8. Black Magic Brother
  9. A Brother Named Gethsemane
  10. Soirée Fantastique
  11. No More Cake Here
  1. I Watch Her Eat the Apple
  2. Toward the Amaranth Gates of War or Love
  3. Self-Portrait as a Chimera
  4. Dome Riddle
  5. I Lean Out the Window and She Nods Off in Bed, the Needle Gently Rocking on the Bedside Table
  6. Monday Aubade
  7. When the Beloved Asks, “What Would You Do if You Woke Up and I Was a Shark?”
  8. Lorca's Red Dresses
  9. Of Course She Looked Back
  10. Apotheosis of Kiss
  11. Orange Alert
  12. The Elephants
  13. Why I Don't Mention Flowers When Conversations with My Brother Reach Uncomfortable Silences
  14. The Beauty of a Busted Fruit
  15. Love Potion 2012
  16. A Wild Life Zoo
When My Brother Was an Aztec

he lived in our basement and sacrificed my parents

every morning. It was awful. Unforgivable. But they kept coming

back for more. They loved him, was all they could say.

It started with him stumbling along
la Avenida de los Muertos,

my parents walking behind like effigies in a procession

he might burn to the ground at any moment. They didn't know

what else to do except be there to pick him up when he died.

They forgot who was dying, who was already dead. My brother

quit wearing shirts when a carnival of dirty-breasted women

made him their leader, following him up and down the stairs—

They were acrobats, moving, twitching like snakes— They fed him

crushed diamonds and fire. He gobbled the gifts. My parents

begged him to pluck their eyes out. He thought he was

a god, half-man half-hummingbird. My parents

at his feet, wrecked honeysuckles, he lowered his swordlike mouth,

gorged on them, draining color until their eyebrows whitened.

My brother shattered and quartered them before his basement festivals—

waved their shaking hearts in his fists,

while flea-ridden dogs ran up and down the steps, licking their asses,

turning tricks. Neighbors were amazed my parents' hearts kept

growing back—It said a lot about my parents, or parents' hearts.

My brother flung them into
dropped them from cliffs,

punched holes into their skulls like useless jars or vases,

broke them to pieces and fed them to gods ruling

the ratty crotches of street fair whores with pocked faces

spreading their thighs in flophouses with no electricity. He slept

in filthy clothes smelling of rotten peaches and matches, fell in love

with sparkling spoonfuls the carnival dog-women fed him. My parents

lost their appetites for food, for sons. Like all bad kings, my brother

wore a crown, a green baseball cap turned backwards

with a Mexican flag embroidered on it. When he wore it

in the front yard, which he treated like his personal

all his realm knew he had the power that day, had all the jewels

a king could eat or smoke or shoot. The slave girls came

to the fence and ate out of his hands. He fed them

through the chain links. My parents watched from the window,

crying over their house turned zoo, their son who was

now a rusted cage. The Aztec held court in a salt cedar grove

across the street where peacocks lived. My parents crossed fingers

so he'd never come back, lit

so he would. He always came home with turquoise and jade

feathers and stinking of peacock shit. My parents gathered

what he'd left of their bodies, trying to stand without legs,

trying to defend his blows with missing arms, searching for their fingers

to pray, to climb out of whatever dark belly my brother, the Aztec,

their son, had fed them to.

Abecedarian Requiring Further Examination of Anglikan Seraphym Subjugation of a Wild Indian Rezervation

Angels don't come to the reservation.

Bats, maybe, or owls, boxy mottled things.

Coyotes, too. They all mean the same thing—

death. And death

eats angels, I guess, because I haven't seen an angel

fly through this valley ever.

Gabriel? Never heard of him. Know a guy named Gabe though—

he came through here one powwow and stayed, typical

Indian. Sure he had wings,

jailbird that he was. He flies around in stolen cars. Wherever he stops,

kids grow like gourds from women's bellies.

Like I said, no Indian I've ever heard of has ever been or seen an angel.

Maybe in a Christmas pageant or something—

Nazarene church holds one every December,

organized by Pastor John's wife. It's no wonder

Pastor John's son is the angel—everyone knows angels are white.

Quit bothering with angels, I say. They're no good for Indians.

Remember what happened last time

some white god came floating across the ocean?

Truth is, there may be angels, but if there are angels

up there, living on clouds or sitting on thrones across the sea wearing

velvet robes and golden rings, drinking whiskey from silver cups,

we're better off if they stay rich and fat and ugly and

'xactly where they are—in their own distant heavens.

You better hope you never see angels on the rez. If you do, they'll be marching you off to

Zion or Oklahoma, or some other hell they've mapped out for us.

Hand-Me-Down Halloween

The year we moved off / the reservation /

a / white / boy up the street gave me a green trash bag

fat with corduroys, bright collared shirts

& a two-piece / Tonto / costume

turquoise thunderbird on the chest

shirt & pants

the color of my grandmother's skin / reddish brown /

my mother's skin / brown-redskin /

My mother's boyfriend laughed

said now I was a / fake / Indian

look-it her now yer
girl is a

My first Halloween off / the reservation /

/ white / Jeremiah told all his / white / friends

that I was wearing his old costume

/ A hand-me-down? /

I looked at my hands

All them / whites / laughed at me

/ called me half-breed /

threw Tootsie Rolls at / the half-breed / me

Later / darker / in the night

at / white / Jeremiah's front door /
tricker treat

I made a / good / little Injun his father said

now don't you make a
little Injun

He gave me a Tootsie Roll

More night came / darker / darker /

Mothers gathered their / white / kids from the dark

My / dark / mother gathered / empty / cans

while I waited to gather my / white / kid

I waited to gather / white / Jeremiah

He was / the skeleton / walking past my house

a glowing skull and ribs

I ran & tackled his / white / bones / in the street

His candy spilled out / like a million pinto beans /

Asphalt tore my / brown-red-skin / knees

I hit him harder and harder / whiter / and harder

He cried for his momma

I put my fist-me-downs / again and again and down /

He cried / for that white / She came running

She swung me off him

dug nails into my wrist

pulled me to my front door

yelled at her / white / kid to go wait at home

go wait at home Jeremiah, Momma will take care of this

She was ready / to take care of this /

to pound on my door / but no
tricker treat

My door was already open

and before that white could speak or knock

/ or put her hands down on my door /

my mother told her to take her hands off of me

hands off my girl

My mother stepped / or fell / toward that white /

I don't remember what happened next

I don't remember that / white / momma leaving

/ but I know she did /

My mother's boyfriend said

well / Kemosabe / you ruined your costume

you fuckt up yer costume

My first Halloween

off / the reservation /

my mother said / maybe / next year

you can be a little Tinker Bell / or something /

now go git that
boy's can-dee

—iss-in the road

BOOK: When My Brother Was an Aztec
11.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Streak of Lightning by Clare O'Donohue
B00B1W3R6U EBOK by J., Anna
Bourne 4 - The Bourne Legacy by Robert Ludlum, Eric Van Lustbader
The Waterfall by Carla Neggers
To Die For by Phillip Hunter
The Seer by Kirsten Jones