September 4, 2018

Raquel Vasquez Gilliland

THE TALE OF THE EARTH

There is an earth inside you
and he howls until his feet
pierce the space
between your hips.

You scream.
It sounds
half-wind,
half-bear.

Three pushes and he’s out,
face-down, slippery
as though covered
in huckleberry jam.

Put him to your breast,
lean back against the tree.
Introduce little Earth
to ancient Earth.

Tell them both how
they have oceans
and moons. Tell them both
how they’re held with stars.

from Tales from the House of Vasquez
Rattle Chapbook Prize Winner

__________

Raquel Vasquez Gilliland: “Nearly two years after having a nervous breakdown after the birth of my son, I started to examine this experience with poetry. Mental illness runs on my mother’s side of the family—with the Vasquez women, specifically—and in searching for the reasons why, I found stories. Some of these are from the lips of my grandmother and mother, some are ones I unearthed inexplicably, from the fertile dirt where poems grow.” (web)

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August 21, 2018

Nancy Miller Gomez

INVOKING THE MUSE IN CELL BLOCK B

There is a heavy sucking
when the door swings open
and a dull clank when it locks.
The men enter the classroom
and open their notebooks.
One taps the table.
One covers his eyes and yawns.
Another gets up and paces
as if he is circling a flight path.
Sometimes it takes a while for the stories
to come out. But then, a mouthful of tacks,
baby shoes, a bat cracked across a small boy’s arm.
They gather these images like kindling
to try to ignite the darkness.
The walls sweat like a submarine.
The air hangs dank and mossy.
There’s an odd Doppler shift of footsteps
as guards come and go, their shapeless voices rising
and falling in the halls. A fluorescent hum glows
off the greenish paint slopped onto cinderblock
so thick it looks like molded cheese.
A man with broken glasses scans the dictionary.
Raven noose, he says, and writes it down.
Ravenous. His neighbor draws crosses
on the palms of his hands.
The alarm blinks its red eye.
What is true about a swastika
etched into a man’s forehead?
Why does it matter if he still dreams
of nights in a cold stairwell,
pallets burning under a bridge,
the sound of his grandmother singing?
They are still waiting in this moonless place.
Children waiting for mothers,
mothers waiting for children
now grown to have children
waiting for them, waiting for wives
or lovers, a visitor, another day. Nothing.
Each scar provides its own dark facts.
What if the thesis is a bottle smashed
on a body? What if the body
can’t grow wings?
The man with the teardrop
tattooed on his cheek
holds the ink tube of a pen
as if it is breathing,
and stares up at a skylight
so dirty it might be night.

from Punishment
Rattle Chapbook Series Selection

__________

Nancy Miller Gomez: “Poetry helps me to make emotional sense of my life. Each poem is a struggle to clarify something I don’t yet understand.” (web)

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June 7, 2018

Nancy Miller Gomez

PUNISHMENT

They used books as weapons.
This is not a metaphor.
Because there were no blankets and they were cold,
the men in cell block L threw books
with intent to do bodily harm.
They rained down from above.
Rained down from the cells.
Guards shielded themselves
with dinner trays and mop buckets.
The men tossed entire libraries. A rage of books.
Lobbed in high arcs like footballs,
or pitched overhand like grenades.
Hardcovers shattered on cheekbones
or exploded on the back of someone’s head.
Paperbacks spiraled down, loose pages fluttering.
Thin ones skipped across the shiny tile like stones on water.
There was mayhem. There was blood.
Words littered the floor. Guards ran for their lives.
The men had spent years collecting—
biographies, mysteries, histories, science fiction,
even poetry books, their spines fine and reedy,
or thick with free verse.
One man threw his grandmother’s leather Bible.
Inside the front cover in elegant script
she’d noted the date and time of his birth.
Now it lay face down, back broken.
Another man hurled his family album.
It fell from the third floor, the photos scattering
on impact. His wife, his son, his daughter
smiled up from the chaos.

from Punishment
Rattle Chapbook Series Selection

__________

Nancy Miller Gomez: “Poetry helps me to make emotional sense of my life. Each poem is a struggle to clarify something I don’t yet understand.” (web)

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