ON HATCHING A MYTHICAL BEAST
January 29, 1986
Me rajaste she whispered to her son—
there were no sutures to mend what cracked
her shell, inside, beneath the belly.
She was prescribed a wheelchair
to hold together her bruised hips,
told to limit her carcajadas or risk spilling.
The skin of her belly striped raw
as if a jaguar had tried to claw
its way in from the outside.
With her fingers she licked
the thick black hair that feathered
his head, the way her mother had.
Stroked his back, felt the bony
shoulders of his father unaware
they were the beginnings of wings.
The boy was born of a bomb.
His moment of light,
the glowing wake of a misfire—
his first breath stolen
from the space of a collective gasp.
He emerged from a blast—
a mouth of smoke
snaking through the sky,
stitched his consciousness
from sections orbiting the air,
the debris of an explosion
falling in a soft blaze.
She chose to name him
after her brother,
after a prophet.
Her brother who died
in a heap of crooked steel,
flown until he struck dirt
like a fletching.
Whose sparrow eyes
flashed to dark,
light snuffed by the dust.
Whose crow was cut short
choked in a wail of tires
& she wailed too—
raucous, her voice
full of murder.
Quietly the newborn nested
on her chest,
frail as a hummingbird.
A Body Can be Haunted too
Inside your abdomen
there is an echoing.
A place where something cut-away
bit and clawed the walls of its exit wound,
exhaled an invisible balloon
bursting with burning air,
left its teeth.
The gall of it,
bile little thing,
to unwind like a screw
washing its own threads.
Nothing can fit its empty,
tighten shut this gaping.
Doesn’t the cup ache for what once filled it?
How long can a groan sing after it’s departed the body?
Why does pain pulse then haunt, then murmur like a memory?
I see the slits of your incisions,
two unblinking eyelids,
the rough crescents cut and stare.
I often wonder
about the smallness of pain,
how I might clutch its smallness
around my fingers.
But as with so many things of such small size
it shrinks but can’t disappear it’s hard to hold,
impossible to keep track of won’t be crushed.
Joel Salcido was born in the San Fernando Valley and raised in West Phoenix. He is the son of Mexican immigrants, a first-generation college graduate, a husband, and father of three sons. Joel characterizes his work as hood magical realism—a navigation between the grief and ecstasy of place and experience. His poetry and prose are not simply written to or about his culture and community—but from it. His work has been featured in Write On, Downtown, Public Pool, The Decolonizer, and Four Chambers Press among others. He is the recipient of a University Graduate Fellowship from Arizona State University and a Virginia G. Piper Creative Research Fellowship. Joel is the Editor-in-Chief of Hayden’s Ferry Review and an MFA candidate in poetry at Arizona State University.