Guerillera

We cut them down at daybreak
at the head of a dry wash
with their dogs & their rifles asleep
in the thorn scrub,
soon to flower

as I remember it growing up:
the sudden reds & purples
against the ground,
the clouds of bees

& I close my eyes
for a heart-
beat or two—
but not, I assure you,
from any faint-heartedness.
It’s only men who tremble
when their guns go off.

I could tell you about the girl
I used to be: quiet,
solemn in the face
of the world’s inevitable cruelties.
Helping my uncle at slaughtering time

I loved the way he made
his blade shimmy right through
the toughest joints so fast
they hardly moved—
one moment a carcass
complete with bone & gristle,
the next an exclusive
disjunction. Even now

I can hear him singing
as he feeds the low fire,
scraps of fat simmering
for soap:
One knee for Doña Sebastiana,
both knees for God alone.
It’s a dull knife that cuts the hand.
Keep your heart still
& your shoulder to the sky.

__________

Doña Sebastiana: In Mexican folk religion, personification of Death as a female saint.

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