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

“This poem is about the body at play, at ache, at peak brightness—the labor of flesh. It is also about an ancient and ceremonial indigenous basketball game played across South America. Probably most importantly, I am asking what it can mean to enact light again and again from one dark body toward another dark body—to pull light, give light, sing light, wage light, beg light, eat light, through those same dark bodies. To build and then move these bodies with light...light...light...loosing them into a contest and playing field of pleasure, forever, like light sometimes moves.”
—Natalie Diaz

Skin-Light

My whole life I have obeyed it—

            its every hunting. I move beneath it
            as a jaguar moves, in the dark-
                          liquid blading of shoulder.

The opened-gold field and glide of the hand,

            light-fruited, and scythe-lit.

I have come to this god-made place—

           Teotlachco, the ball court—
           because the light called: lightwards!
                        and dwells here, Lamp-land.    
          
           We touch the ball of light
           to one another—split bodies stroked bright—
                        desire-knocked.
                                    Light reshapes my lover’s elbow, 
  
           a brass whistle.

I put my mouth there—mercy-luxed, and come, we both,

           to light. It streams me.
           A rush of scorpions—
                        fast-light. A lash of breath—
                                    god-maker.
      
           Light horizons her hip—springs an ocelot
           cut of chalcedony and magnetite.
                       Hip, limestone and cliffed,

slopes like light into her thigh—light-box, skin-bound.

           Wind shakes the calabash,
           disrupts the light to ripple—light-struck,
                       then scatter.
 
This is the war I was born toward, her skin,

           its lake-glint. I desire—I thirst—
           to be filled—light-well.
 
The light throbs everything, and songs

           against her body, girdling the knee bone.
           Our bodies—light-harnessed, light-thrashed.
                       The bruising: bilirubin bloom,
                                    violet.

A work of all good yokes—blood-light—

           to make us think the pain is ours
           to keep, light-trapped, lanterned.
                       I asked for it. I own it—
                                    lightmonger.

I am light now, or on the side of light—

           light-head, light-trophied.
           Light-wracked and light-gone.

           Still, the sweet maize—an eruption
           of light, or its feast,
                       from the stalk
                                    of my lover’s throat.

And I, light-eater, light-loving.

Copyright © 2018 by Natalie Diaz. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 4, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Natalie Diaz. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 4, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Natalie Diaz

Natalie Diaz

Natalie Diaz is the author of When My Brother Was an Aztec (Copper Canyon Press, 2012). She teaches at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. 

by this poet

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He sat cross-legged, weeping on the steps
when Mom unlocked and opened the front door.
     O God, he said, O God.
           He wants to kill me, Mom.

When Mom unlocked and opened the front door
at 3 a.m., she was in her nightgown, Dad was asleep.
     He wants to kill me, he told her
poem

Forgive me, distant wars, for bringing
flowers home.
         —
Wisława Szymborska

In the Kashmir mountains,
my brother shot many men,
blew skulls from brown skins,
dyed white desert sand crimson.

What is there to say to a man
who has

poem

I don’t call it sleep anymore.
             I’ll risk losing something new instead—

like you lost your rosen moon, shook it loose.

But sometimes when I get my horns in a thing—
a wonder, a grief or a line of her—it is a sticky and ruined
             fruit to unfasten from,

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