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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, September 4, 2018.
About this Poem 

"This wasn’t a poem, not at first, but part of an essay I could not complete. After the attack at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, I felt an emptiness and thought that this emptiness might be filled by the mestizaje of the essays I make. When I couldn’t finish the essay, I sat with a Sharpie in a hotel room in Miami and thought about my brownness and my body, about my heart and my feet. I wanted a remedy for that emptiness, so I searched behind the altar of my failed essay and dismantled it into pieces I could refashion into the sounds I felt and the breath I was trying to stuff back into my body. That night, before heading to a Masterbeat circuit event, I reforged these lines to invoke the only presence I felt might answer my need: el duende."
—Joe Jiménez

Broken Retablo for Being on My Back, My Feet Bare & in the Air

                                  Caliche. Great bird, woodsmoke, needle. Snake, owl. Nopal vibration.

Almost every day 
	     of my life 
I have wanted 

to be filled. 

By something: 
a great bird, woodsmoke, 
	    wild laughters, 

an untethered

tongue. 
When I’m on my back, 
		          any yell 
can be a needle, 

any breath 
	   works as thread. 

On asphalt 
	    or caliche, 

in dirt, 
my feet bare their crooked 
		        hymns: 

hoping to be entered. 

I don’t own words 
		         for every sound 

I feel. 
I don’t own words 
for breath 

I stuff back into my body 

after loving 
	     & not being loved. 

but Who isn’t
in love with at least one
seam, a sound:
	   one vibration

of this world?

Ask any bolus of owls,
	    ask víboras.

Ask the nopales
	     of certainty
& joy.	

But who owns 
	     any certainty, really?
Any word?

& who still speaks
	     the languages

of víboras & caliche,

& who will reteach my body
that language

	     of great birds & nopal?

Copyright © 2018 by Joe Jiménez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 4, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Joe Jiménez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 4, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Joe Jiménez

Joe Jiménez

Joe Jiménez is the author of Rattlesnake Allegory forthcoming from Red Hen Press in 2019.