Carmen Calatayud

Four Poems from In the Company of Spirits

Buying Back My Voice

“A pearl goes up for auction.  No one has enough, so
the pearl buys itelf.”

To sell my throat:
decorated with ribbon,
hung in a window
for the highest bid.

Knotted muscles that long for a drink
surround a voicebox shriveled pink,
emptied of words such as yes, no,
not so much.

Saturday night shoppers stupified
into believing a throat they see
to be better than their own

imagine what they would say
with a new larynx,
free of phrases they’ve been fed
an entire life such as
Whatever you want.

This throat is not for sale
I hear my mind form this thought
and move to the counter,
quietly place a debit card
next to the salesperson’s hand.

I swallow the solstice moon
and fill my neck with strength.
I buy my voicebox back and lift it
off its sterling silver hook.

Driving Miguel’s Low Rider Across the Border to HeavenCover_In_the_Company_of_Spirits

Rancheras coat my throat
as I ride the starlit highway,
shop for a shimmering lane.
Before logic presses my chest,
I make a quick choice that
causes the car to careen.

I crawl in one of the four directions,
far from the grief that staggers
behind me and the mountain range.

The desert stills my body.
Mariposas circle the crash site,
as though I were strewn across Michoacán.

Buried sentimientos rise like hungry beggars.
My eternity swallowed and held.
México, your river is in front of me.
The exhalation of pain disappears.

Mariachis sing, pluck each note con cariño.
A trumpet so bright my insides smile.
Silver buttons on a black jacket blind me.
I release my seat belt.
Mi cielo, I’m finally home.

Tale from Chiapas

In this country, we count the trees, then count again.
We lift the streets by mixing paint.
Nine guardians live upstairs and we sing with them.
There’s a slit in the sky and we reach through to pull down the sun.
We weave bluegreen patterns as we have dreamed them.
At times, tricky spirits swallow our eyes.
They bring bad news like the black moths.
We open the coffin, smell el alma during the wind.
We wait for angels in the cave.
Little stones line the path that measures nothing.
Trotting donkeys knock on doors to whisper the tale.
This voice is our constant companion.
We point to the northern sky before sleep smokes our limbs.
Fig trees spin into ash, and we wash our soil with milk.

In the Company of Spirits

We write on walls, on floors,
on stained façades: the elders’ wishes
and the visions of cousins still to be born.

Inside our heads, rain thunders
its way through the sky of grey matter,
signals the storm of wet, sparkling stars.

We scrawl letters into heavy words.
This primal language drips from our lips
while eagles screech near the door.

Spirits appear on the steps above.
Marigolds sprout from their hips that glide down the stairs.
They unfurl the path, restore the family flesh.

We move outside to listen to birds, and see
tricksters wind their way toward our tribe.
Witness the wolves who create a chain around us.

Olive trees tell us to settle down, there
is nothing to be done. A thousand clouds
cry inside my chest.

A guardian takes my hand and moistens it with soil:
This is the land you came from. There is no worry in this dirt.
You are the harvest of our desert trance.

Press 53, founded in 2005 in Winston-Salem NC, publishes 8 to 10 poetry books annually, as well as short story collections, anthologies, Press 53 classics, and Prime Number magazine.   Reprinted by permission.

Carmen Calatayud is the author of In the Company of Spirits (Press 53, 2012), chosen by Pamela Uschuk and William Pitt Root for the Silver Concho Poetry Series. The book was a runner-up for the Academy of American Poets Walt Whitman Award. Calatayud is a Larry Neal Poetry Award winner and the recipient of a Virginia Center for the Creative Arts fellowship. Born to a Spanish father and an Irish mother in the US, she is a poet moderator for Poets Responding to SB1070, a Facebook group created by Francisco X. Alaracón that features poetry and news about the Arizona immigration law, racial profiling, and copycat legislation in other states. Calatayud works as a psychotherapist and additions counselor in DC. To read more by this author: Carmen Calatayud: Floricanto Issue