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Prayers or Oubliettes


Despair has a loose daughter.

I lay with her and read the body’s bones

like stories. I can tell you the year-long myth

of her hips, how I numbered stars,

the abacus of her mouth.


The sheets are berserk with wind’s riddling.

All the beds of the past cannot dress the ghosts

at my table. Their breasts rest on plates

like broken goblets whose rims I once thirsted at.

Instead of grace, we rattle forks

in our empty bowls.


We are the muezzins of the desert

crying out like mockers from memory’s

violet towers. We scour the earth

as Isis did. Fall is forever here—

women’s dresses wrinkle

on the ground, men fall to their knees

in heaps, genitals rotting like spent fruit—

even our roots fall from the soil.


The world has tired of tears.

We weep owls now. They live longer.

They know their way in the dark.


Unfasten your cage of teeth and tongue.

The taste of a thousand moths is chalk.

The mottled wings are the words to pain.


We have no mazel tov.

We call out for our mothers

with empty wine jugs at our heels.

from When My Brother Was an AztecFind it in the library

Copyright © 2012 Natalie Diaz
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Published in Natalie Diaz Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.