PRAYER TO THE CHARCOAL DUST

FELICIA ZAMORA

A shadow rattles inside this suit of cells, in wait for headlights on the horizon. You pray the driver knows you, knows you lay in the center of concrete, a piece of a center line only existing outside double yellows & laws matching intention.

^^^^

Face of slivered moon questions you; glow penetrates topical everything, flesh. A miniature finger of a miniature woman swishes tip on the backside of your sternum. She sits cross legged behind your manubrium on lumps of tissues, feels her way into fibers, takes out her miniature chisel & begins to etch the story of a hummingbird’s birth. She carves only vowels & plus signs; miracles of mathematics & the scrape of metal on bone into magic.

^^^^

What absorption means funneling through lightless tunnels. We call these passages, pupils. We call these passages, witness. We call these passages up our throats into conjure, mis ojos solo pueden soportar tanto, a prayer in bleed.

^^^^

Creases of her knuckles smell of wind flowing south; your lips open 585 miles away amid striations of rock & stone as moisture pools on your tongue in the shape of her name.

^^^^

You carry more dusk in your lungs than a billion sunsets burning together. Weight of char, of fire arms in schools & children in plead, don’t let them kill us today, of construction of walls & children in concentration camps on american soil, of the kitchen with black-face figurines next to the stove, of acronyms & ICE raids & the man from your university on trial—hung jury—for giving water to the thirsty in the desert, of bang bang bang—someone thought funny to light fireworks off in El Paso days after, of the words great and america in any proximity to each other, of your aortic sack in wrench of headlines & tickertapes. You carry more dusk in your lungs than a billion sunsets burning.

^^^^

Creases of your knuckles smell of soil just before rain, lowest root to bark of the sycamore. The closest sycamore tree to your nose remains in California & Mexico. You close your eyes to pray the wet from the night; the wet here too.

^^^^

Face of three-quarters moon questions you; light penetrates your muscle. A miniature knee of a miniature woman bends to scale your vertebrae. She stables each foot in bone’s crevasse before lift & hull of her weight. Her palms bleed. She began in the sacral, traversing her miniature body through lumbar to thoracic. She pauses on the mountain of your spine to wipe fluid & bits of tissues from her eyes. Throws her head back to a cellular sky. Six more juts of bone to go before she reaches the seven cervical. Hums escape her mouth, aaaa…ooooo…uuuuu…eeeeeaaaaayeeeayeeaeoooooyayaya; in deep breath she climbs.

^^^^

You sit on hot bricks outside your desert home. You imagine us before language, before the tongue flicks the roof of mouth & a lullaby juts out. Our bodies mechanisms for action & the mouth forms from smooth & round edges & muscle & we think purpose. The first person to kill another person acted before speech; where did we learn the fever of taking? You imagine false inception. You image the seeds of honor from horror. You wish the night a cradle inside you; the lullaby that never hatches.

^^^^

Creases of your knuckles smell of placenta, branching loops of blood vessels on the baby’s head after birth. You do not remember the canal or the foreceps or the pungent disinfectant birthing suite or the sting of light. Instead, you remember how the cold compressed your tiny lungs & rippled throughout your ribcage into song.

^^^^

Face of full moon questions you; your bone aghast in all illumination. A miniature sack where a miniature heart suspends in a miniature woman, ruptures as her arms & legs & torso crawl toward your cerebellum. Her climb past the cervical vertebra, past the medulla oblongata, leaves her miniature body in spasms & contorts & shakes; your lips stutter in vowels. She creeps in caterpillar form, deep into the gelatinous tissues, a maze where she lays on her back & begins to chunk out pieces of fiber, pieces of gray matter. Before her chest collapses & your organ swallows her miniature frame, she sees the moon; moon round spilling prayers from her cratered face; moon full & disfigured in the missing tufts of brain.

from Issue 31.2, Winner of the 2019 Wabash Prize for Poetry


FELICIA ZAMORA’S poetry books include Quotient (2021), Body of Render 2018 Benjamin Saltman Award winner (2020), Instrument of Gaps, & in Open, Marvel, and Of Form & Gather 2016 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize winner. She’s received fellowships and residencies from CantoMundo, Ragdale Foundation, PLAYA, Moth Magazine, and Martha’s Vineyard, authored two chapbooks, won the Tomaž Šalamun Prize, and was the 2017 Poet Laureate of Fort Collins, CO. She teaches creative writing online at Colorado State University, is associate poetry editor for Colorado Review, and program manager for the Center for Imagination in the Borderlands at Arizona State University.