Caribbean & Latin American

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Death By Water

Poems (1968-1972)
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Aquí era el paraíso / Here Was Paradise

Aquí era el paraíso / Here Was Paradise

Selección de poemas de Humberto Ak’abal / Selected Poems of Humberto Ak’abal
by Humberto Ak'abal
illustrated by Amelia Lau Carling
translated by Hugh Hazelton
edited by Patricia Aldana
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eat salt | gaze at the ocean

eat salt | gaze at the ocean

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some conditions apply
Cadaver Number 929-75

Tension simmers
this music I speak
Pregnant with the world,
babies pop from me
& as I spin their cradles
from my own gut-string
my mind splits open
like a robin's egg cracked
but still singing

Enslaved by feathers and blood
on my windowsill, holy water wells
like stigmata in my palms Lonely as god
before the invention of colour, I leave
only land behind after metaphors fail

The mountain presence rejects nothing
I bumslide down these mountains
& splat into the sea
already so full with bones and miracles,
my closed-quartz throat
a bloodstone-dark jewel of history

Swirling in the cold prick of bubbles
on my underbelly, I sink
reach centre & roil
in its wake

Only my lover sees me
with human — eyes,
eyes that stain
the sky bloody with Betelgeuse
I approach this lover so rough with need
that by day's end his empty scrotum sags,
but first we fall thrashing
like fish in saltchuck

The firemen will say
.they must have smoked in bed
just for godsake don't step there
where slugs ooze viscid mess

When my film splinters white
I do not wake because
I am already married
to a different dangerous man
who rattles the stones
in my skull's cavity
& scrapes my knees
on ice-cleaved ground

A husband whose hammer head
indents my occipital bone
as he shatters me
& splatters my blood

No care can efface this
Janus-pain love
that barks while the sun stands still
in its empty ring of frozen trumpets
& love, love turns to milk stone

Pulled lifeless from Furry Creek,they identify Cadaver Number 929-75
and Mrs Pat Lowther
as one and the same

How dare they doubt me,
doubt I could be this husk


Thanks for the stories whose plot twists
jump out
from behind potted palms
in hotel lobbies
Thanks for the stories whose subtexts
lie about their age and weight,
wear the wrong shade of lipstick
and pad their bras with old clichés

Thanks for the story protagonists
who text while driving
and don't believe
in turn signals

Thanks for the supporting characters
who ramble through frozen food aisles
choosing too much sodium, sugar, and transfats
while talking with their mouths full

Thanks for the genre stories
who leave rings around the bathtub
and never replace
empty toilet paper rolls

Thanks for the first-person narrators
who arrive too early,
stay too late
and tweet too much

Thanks for the second-person narrators
who drink indiscriminately
before noon--
you know who you are

Thanks for the third-person narrators
who are spooked by climate change
and can't be trusted
with nuclear codes

Thanks for all the storiesthese stories tell

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