About the Feature

Photo by Rene Böhmer on Unsplash

One of us hears from her
last week at a Crisis Prevention
Meeting. One of us hears her speaking
in Ainu.

It isn’t Ainu we decide because
it is also dying or
dead by some reports. It must be
pieces of many languages strung together with
a syntax more vast than anything we
can destroy, a language
of witness; I mean wetness.

It is time to call a meeting
that isn’t called. Once we call it,
it turns into another Crisis Prevention Meeting and our lungs
hurt as the metal taste returns,
piercing our molars, keeping us arrested.

We need to move.

Fright freezes us to the spot, makes
us swallow more fillers, churns the stomach,
causes our brains to beep incessantly.
We know the others have it wrong when
they confuse panic for desire.

Sometimes, if we are quiet, we hear the fear evaporating;
it sounds like tiny bells sighing in succession
and our bodies grow agile again.

One of us is born yesterday. We labor
for twenty hours, find that if we grab
the doorframe and squat, her little head
makes it over the hump and into the final
passage, we suck on ice,
don’t taste the copper for now;
we open up and the others are open too
like sleeping dogs.

The new one of us blinks and stares,
flexes her little starfish hands.

The new language is a smile, a yawn.
It moves through us like a wave.
We know we are not speaking
the new language. We know we are still dying,
but she is singing to us in the new language
while many sleep pressed against her soft, soft back.

About the Author

Xochiquetzal Candelaria’s book Empire was published by the University of Arizona Press. Her work has appeared in The Nation, Tin House, New England Review, Seneca Review and other magazines. She is the recipient of awards including an NEA fellowship in poetry and grants from the Vermont Studio Center, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, and the LEF Foundation. Her poetry and essays have been anthologized, most recently in Other Musics: New Latina Poetry, The Poetry of Capital, and The Awesome Difficult Work of Love: June Jordan’s Legacy. She teaches writing at City College of San Francisco.