Sacred Poetry of Place

I. Indigo

Paint your city indigo
and place it at the heel of the mountains,
at the edge of the rainforest

Name it
for the twin peaks like horns,
or for a saint,
and pave it with cobblestone

Make a quiet
rainfall
and a silky
fog lift
and a sun that will
breakthrough

to reflect
whitewashed indigo
like the freshwater of the lakes in Chiapas

Build a place for prayer
on a hill overlooking the city
a mosque, or a raft
and climb or glide, but do not swim
when you hear the call to prayer —

sometimes a marriage procession,
or the voice of the muezzin,
or a dancing boy and his tambourine

II. Rosary

Crammed between tables of Moroccan men,
in the outdoor seating of a café,
over a glass of mint tea,
I would like to tell you:

Civilizations do not clash in me
anymore —
perhaps they never did

I know I am not made of oil and water
because I am blurring continents, smearing oceans
with the edge of my left hand

I know I am café nusnus
because I am momentarily unsure
whether the woman in the mural
is a Muslim or a Zapatista,
because I am speaking Spanish to my African mother,
watching Mexican telenovelas in darija,
searching for Córdoba in Marrakech

My spine is a rosary
And I carry places like prayer beads.
Run your fingertips
down the middle of my back
and you will see that I am whole,
not split,
soft-skinned and another shade of coffee

you will be surprised,
as I still am,
at the length of my spinal column,
at the distance between vertebrae —
thirty-three places of origin,
and I have not returned to all of them yet

my birthplaces are cuauhnahuac,
close to trees,
sometimes named
for the horns of a cow or a goat,
but when you touch the curve of my spine,
you will see that I have emerged
from the city where it is always spring,
from the inside of an oak,
from a tree with purple bark in the mountains of Oaxaca

you can trace my roots
in the syllables of my last name,
listen to my father’s love of the earth
when I tell you who I am,
hear the sweat and soil whisper
that I am his daughter

and when you reach my sacrum,
and feel the fused bones,
you will understand why I cannot distinguish
between some of these places.

© 2011 Tania Flores
Read the previous poem in this series, “Mélange.”
Tania Flores authors the blog, “pitaya and parachute sketches.”

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