I arrive at my father’s feet a dying
mapou tree. He covers his eyes with
mud while the goats feast on my fallen hair.
I hear my mother call for the Lord
to send just enough rain for our lungs
& her carnations to see a new season.
My mother always says boys & men are best
at taking. I remember the ones I loved who
turned pomegranates in my yard into salt.
In the mirror, I see a donkey’s head without
a home. Daisies dance atop her hair &
she teaches me how to wail for cover.
My mother & I kneel on uncooked rice.
Sweat of our hands no longer remembers
its owner. Our knees become prunes.
One night, I see my father weep & rock
like a forgotten river. How he must know
what it’s like to fight against disappearance.
Every year Lake Azuéi rises & forces change
on the trees & birds & people of the watershed.
They no longer believe the water will leave them.
The longer I stay in the home my lover & I
built on this mountain, the more I tire
of circadian leaps into the field of cacti.
I spend nights imagining a life without hail &
company of vultures. I make peace with the ways
my father & I look away from errors & ruin.
My parents make rituals of warnings & I follow
in their footsteps anyway. My mother says I can
build a new home from clouds & I believe her.
I’m getting used to undressing in this dying wilderness. Now that
he’s banned from my home, when sky darkens & thickens with breaths
that once were, I think I hear him outside my front door. This is normal.
Intense fears after the scorching. Dormant memories fly out the body’s
openings. No warning. Desires to avoid places that remind me. Even
if place is home. Tonight, a stray cat stands on my back deck & wails
as if she’s tired of aching for us both. My ivory slip hugs me like it knows
it’s my own kind of moon. I flip on the deck’s light. Her amber eyes claw mine
& she runs. Perhaps she doesn’t want to see me standing like a tree stripped
of its leaves & water. This protection order guides me through
split existence—a forest after partial clearing. With blinds open, I let the slip become
its own rainfall. Trust the air on my uncovered body. Some nights I wish
to rush growth by plunging my feet in soil. That I could make sense
of wondering if he’s eaten, if he mourns. Yet my body can’t forget being cut
through its heartwood. Each day, I show up everywhere fighting to be a steady dwelling.
A Horse’s Arrival
after “A horse at the Cardo Beach” by Valda Nogueira Clouds move quickly above your gait & my feet lodged in glassy, tainted sand. Your faint colored skin hangs, seeming to have aged quicker than God or your mother intended. I like to think we arrive in the paths of each other’s hungers. Oh mare, I want to ask how you walk smoothly despite devastation. Sometimes I can do this too & yes, I notice how the ocean water turned on all its fish. How the oysters have disappeared the more humans force metal pollution. I ask for permission to touch your neck & take your lean forward as a yes. Rest my palm there, startled. It feels like pulses of three dancing women in your flesh, perhaps from another land. When I was a little girl I thought anything was possible, like leaving earth on a cardboard spaceship or becoming my own hero. Dear mare, closer now. I know what it’s like to be dominated against your will. I know what it’s like to stand in the face of other beings’ selfishness. I know I can be selfish. Your black hair, dull silk blowing in the wind. I search for answers in your body’s shadows only to stumble, empty-handed & back into my own longings.
Nadia Alexis is a poet and photographer born to Haitian immigrants in Harlem, NYC. Her poetry has appeared in Mud Season Review, Texas Review, and elsewhere. She’s a fellow of The Watering Hole and Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, as well as a PhD student at the University of Mississippi.