Self-Portrait as Desert

Is there a song
            for recovery

that doesn’t also
sting? That straightens

            the coat hanger
called violence?

You ask for water
            but I have none

to pour you.

I strike an altar
            with melted candles.

Saint Martin de Porres
            wears a blast crater

in his heart.

All I know by this time
            is how bullets
                        cannot possibly feed

a collapsar.

Yet I use them
            to sustain
                        and underwrite
            my grief.

Tonight I bury myself
            the same as any other night.

First a tumbledown
quilt with lace hemming.

Then glass which resists
            secrets.            The ease

with which a gun
shapes itself into a broom

            in my palm, how it dissolves
what I never was.

I use ghosts
            as inhibition

to pixelate the landscape.

I make passionate love
            to my previous molts.


Will I recover the old me,
            the one who didn’t ache
after every annihilation?

            The one who didn’t say
                        I would be better off

                        never having arrived?

Good-bye, ghost.
Good-bye, fat lip.

I suppose I am turning
            into my father.

Just today I barked
            an order into dawn

                        and it went right back
to sleep.

No more family
                        and their Naugahyde
            patience. No more

novelty of falling hair.

            Is there a way
to recover the weather vane

I once was, scrape it
                        clean of rust,

start it up again
            like a windup doll?

Is there a way
            to vanquish

the tyrant
of the interior?

I am not a romantic

            about pain. I wear it
rebozo. I wear it

            loose like the hand’s bones
                        around my throat.

When I die, discard
            my razors and hide

a lantern in my coffin.

Why is every animal a fuse?

            Why will every man
invariably try to annihilate
                        another?            The voice

staked into the ground
            begs to be finally let out.

Before I knew the knife
            I knew the need,
                        a prow parting skin.

            Then I spilled my body
                        on linoleum, holding
my hands up like a stab.

A wave wearing away rock
            at the edge of a creek.

An excuse
            for the eventual expulsion
of the alien body.

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.