The Animals

under the baleful eye of desert stratus
            I count the number of times I’ve eaten an animal

                        my mouth also a captor

I’m served by a man who escaped Guatemala
            wrapped in his mother’s body

                        like all prey, he moves invisibly

as I tear and grind lamb slathered in mint
            I forget he is there

I forget how my sister disappeared
            from a Walmart parking lot
                        and reappeared as a dull knife
                                    in Oaxaca

she stumbled into our house
            in the middle of night’s coma

we tried to stitch her together
            but the stigmata bristled until she died

like me, the man who mows our lawn
            arrived in a piñata, his body
                        mapped to newspaper and glue

he refuses to give his real name, even for aid

            he thinks another biblical deluge is coming
                        and warns me to make peace
                                    with the country I despise

what country, I want to know

whenever anyone waves a flag
            in front of my face I worry
                        that I harbor an unconscious allegiance

                                    to something other than rain

a secret contempt, the way a knot
            infects an old tree

something, in other words,
            capable of punishment

Rodney Gomez is the author of Citizens of the Mausoleum and Ceremony of Sand. His collections Arsenal with Praise Song and Geographic Tongue, winner of the Pleiades Press’s Visual Poetry Series, are forthcoming. His work appears in Poetry, New England Review, Poetry Northwest, the Gettysburg Review, Blackbird, and other journals. He is a member of the Macondo Writers Workshop and serves as the 2020–2021 Poet Laureate of McAllen, Texas.