Dome Riddle

Natalie Diaz

Tonight I am riddled by this thick skull

this white bowling ball zipped in the sad sack carrying case of my face,
this over wound bone jack-in-the-box,
this Orlando’s zero, Oaxacan offering: cabeza locada, calavera azucarada,
of Mnemosyne,
this sticky, sweet guilt hive, piedra blanca del rio oscuro,
this electric tom tom drum ticking like an Acme bomb, hypnotized explosive
   device, pensive general, scalp-strapped warrior, soldier with a loaded God  
this Hotchkiss-obliterated headdress, Gatling-lit labyrinth,
this memory grenade, death epithet, death epitaph, mound of momento mori,
this twenty-two part talisman wearing a skirt of breasts, giant ball of masa,
this god patella in the long leg of my torso, zoo of Blake’s tygers and canines,
this red-skinned apple, lamp illuminated by teeth, gang of grin, spit wad of scheme,
this jawbone of an ass, smiling sliver of smite, David’s rock striking the Goliath
   of my body,
this Library of Babel,  homegrown Golgotha, melon festival,
this language mausoleum: chuksanych iraavtahanm, ‘avi kwa’anyay, ‘ava iiyaly  
   sumach nyamasav
this amygdale cage, misery penitentiary, hidden glacier hungry for a taste of titanic
this pleasure altar, Frenchkiss sweatshop, abacus of one-night stands, hippocampus
   whorehouse, oubliette of regret,
this church of tongue, chapel of vengeance, cathedral of thought, silvery-blue dome
   of despair, attic confessional, plaza del toro y pensamientos,
this museum of Tribal dentistry,
this commodity cranium cupboard, petrified dream catcher, sun-ruined basketball I
   haul—rotten gray along the seams—perpetual missed shot,
this insomnia podium, little bowl in a big fish, brain amphitheater, girl in the moon,
this 3 a.m. war bell tolling, tolling, duende vision prison, jar of fading stars,
this single scoop vanilla head rush, thunder head, fast ball, lightning rod,
this mad scientist in a white lab helmet, atom bomb mushroom cloud, ghost of
   Smoking Mirror,
this hot air balloon, forgetful chandelier, casa de relámpago,
this coyote beacon, calcium corral of hot Perlino ponies, night blooming cereus,
   gourd gone rattle, bankrupt factory of tears,
this Halloween crown, hat rack, worry contraption, Rimbaud’s drunken boat afloat
   in the wine dark belly of my personal Monstruo,
this coliseum venatio: Borges’s other tiger licking the empty shell of Lorca’s white
this underdressed godhead, forever-hatching egg, this mug again and again at my

and all this because tonight I imagined you sleeping with her
the way we once slept—as intimate as a jaw, maxilla and mandible hot,
in the skin—in love, our heads almost touching.

Reservation Grass

            I keep no account of lamentation.

                                                                        ~Walt Whitman

We smoke more grass than we ever promise to plant.
Our front yards are green and brown, triangles of glass—What is the grass?—emeralds
            and garnets sewed like seeds in the dirt.
The shards of glass grow men bunched together—multitudes—men larger than weeds
            and Whitmans, leaning against the sides of houses—dance with the dancers
            and drink with the drinkers
—upon dirt not lawn.

Corned beef comes on the first of every month—this the meat of hunger—in white cans
            with bold black writing.
We—myself and mine—toss it in a pot and wonder how it will ever feed us all—witness
            and wait
—but never worry, never fret, never give a damn, over mowing the grass.

What have we—the red aboriginesout of hopeful green stuff woven?

Small Thundering

We are born with spinning coins in place of eyes,
paid-in-full to ferry Charon’s narrow skiffs. We red-
cloaked captains helming dark fits of sleep.
Our medicine bags are anchored by buffalo nickels—
Sleek skulls, horns, and hooves etched by Gatlings.
How we plow and furrow the dizzying Styx—
lovingly digging the dark oars
as if they were grandmother’s legs
promising to take us home. 

A gunnysack full of tigers wrestles in our chests—
They pace, stalking our hearts, building a jail
with their stripes. Each tail a fuse. Each eye a cinder.
Chest translates to bomb.
Bomb is a song—
the drum’s shame-hollowed lament.
Burlap is no place for prayers or hands.
The reservation is no place for a jungle. 

The snow-dim prairies are garlanded with children—
My people dance like pyres but do not celebrate
the bodies red as hollyhocks.
Some lay where they first fell,
enamored by warmth woven from of a blanket of blood.
Others crawled until they came undone,
petal by petal,
streaking the white field crimson.
I am bluer than a sky weeping bones—
            This is the way to build a flag,
            a wound. 

Yesterday is much closer than today,
a black bayonet carried between the shoulder blades
like an itch, or the bud of a wing.
Streetlights glow, neon gourds,
electric dandelions—
blow them out!
Wish hard for orange buttes and purple canyons,
moon-hoofed horses with manes made from wars,
other small thundering.

Self-Portrait as a Chimera

I am what I have done—

A sweeping gesture to the thorn of mast jutting from my mother’s spine—spine a series of narrow steps leading to the temple of her neck where the things we worship demand we hurl her heart from that height, still warm, still humming with the holy music of an organ—

We do. We do. We do and do and do.

The last wild horse leaping off a cliff at Dana Point. A hurtling God carved from red clay. Wings of wind. Two satellite eyes spiraling like coals from a long-cold fire. Dreaming of Cortés, his dirty-beard and the burns it left when we kissed. Yet we kissed for years and my savage hair wove around him like braids of smoke.

Skeletons of apples rot the gardens of Thalheim. First snow wept at the windows while I held a man’s wife in my arms. I palmed her heavy breasts like loot bags. Her teeth at my throat like a pearl necklace I could break to pieces. I would break to pieces. Dieb.

A bandit born with masked eyes. El Maragato’s thigh wound glittering like red lace. My love hidden away in a cave as I face the gallows each morning, her scent the bandana around my face, her picture folded in the cuff of my boot.

The gravediggers and their beautiful shoulder blades smooth as shovel heads. I build and build my brother a funeral, eating the dirt along the way—queen of pica, pilferer of misery feasts—hoarding my brother like a wrecked Spanish galleon. I am more cerulean than the sea I swallow each day on the way to reaching out for him, to sing his name, to wear him like a dress made of debris.

These dark rosettes name me Jaguar. These stripes are my slave dress. Black soot. Red hematite. I am filled with ink. A codice, splayed, opened, ready to be burnt in the square—

I am. I am and am and am. What have I done?

Natalie Diaz
Natalie Diaz

Natalie Diaz is Mojave and Pima and grew up in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California. She played professional basketball in Europe and Asia for several years before completing her MFA at Old Dominion University. She currently lives in Mohave Valley, Arizona, where she works to  revitalize the Mojave heritage language by documenting the last Elder speakers of Mojave. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Iowa Review, North American Review, Crab Orchard and others. When My Brother Was An Aztec, her first book of poetry, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in 2012.