The Expatriate I

I never was public enemy number one
or dressed for success or
fastest on the draw

I sat in the bottoms of canyons
enveloped in red rock or Fulton Street
and the grandeurs filled me with
narrative

I sat on the tops of statueless villages
sweating buckets of pesos and mystery
meats, and the experience left me
uninspired

I never was worth the espionage
of a face database from a photo
filtering app

I never made the watchlists.

But I labored away at this terrain,
sometimes up and sometimes down,
where I only sometimes observed
the face of my motherland
sometimes observing me, but
more often not

more often the death mask,
its valleys and crests
couldn’t speak or console

and besides I often saw faces
of others. These human relations,
warm in their immediacy, cold in
their languages. The mother
she speaks a dust idiom,
and what is that?

She’d said, “this world is
not my home”. I’d registered
that phrase, at least.

I don’t know how I feel.
Canyons or villages.
Her delicate features replicated
in that hard death mask there.

I know one thing:
the true motherland is a delicate,
featureless
decay.

I’m waiting for you,
brothers and sisters,
to ween yourselves off
of those funerary fetishes.

Let’s break the clay and
churn it into soil,
let’s water the fields
with the impure blood
of traitors,
let’s wear our citizenships
like phrygian caps once more,
and find a woman a lot
like our mothers.

Salty Cross

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About an hour east of Salina Cruz
on the Pacific Gulf of Tehuantepec
down the peninsular that ends
at the mouth of the Laguna Superior
in about 650 square meters:
Santa María del Mar,
fourteen kilometers down the road
from San Mateo del Mar.

María, isolated, cut off,
no electricity, no fresh water,
no road out, no teachers in,
no police, no military;
The sadistic mateyanos
blocked the road, cut the
lines. Snip. Slap. Sizzle.
And a grito or a glare.
You could imagine either.

You could imagine Mateo sipping
on alternating currents,
corralling together trucks
full of Peñafiel and Bimbo,
Seguridad Regional. The
Apostle sat atop the
diverted riches of the
Virgin. And the sea, of course.

It’s an agrarian dispute.
A fight over salt fields.
A salty cross to bear,
the two saints of the sea,
the one with its hands ever
tightening, waiting for the
last quake, for the tide pools
to exhale, or for the maldito
mar to wash away the
bruises of brothers.

Goodbye Our Western Skies

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Goodbye our Western skies
Into the dark American night

What the Mormon Battalion stumbled upon
in the bones of Mountain Meadows unhitched
can’t see the frontier for the horizon
and the Marian apparitions of Felipe Espinosa,
staring closer into nopal spine until vision
goes viscous and the American Oedipus cries,
Indian grave robber pads his own cache,
Goodbye our Western skies.

assassinated governors, gubernatorial assassins,
and the buried alive, because you know there were,
in all the Boot Hills along the Chisholm Trail
what all we built on the campfires of DeSoto
and the cigarette butts of truckers dying anonymous,
tomb of the unknown temperance, child brides raised
in the sovereignty of the fundaments, mystery which
lanced the growth and pulled out the lie until
it walked itself brisk and wide abreast the Union
Pacific, its horrible rapidity and grotesque
animation a blur of the mind of someone’s time,
Goodbye our Western skies.

Goodbye our Western skies
Into the dark American night

And whatever you say we are still here,
and the painted arrows on the red rock canyons
they’re still here, and the Navajo are still
aware of the evil which they could commit, too,
and through it all I’m not sure where to place,
figuratively, the Western skies.
Goodbye.

Now I’m an old hand – I mean, indulge me in this
for the moment – and I am hanging up my hat and
moving into town and running up the rag that’ll
let them all know where I stand where I stand
and that I’m a man who knows my limits, in that sense,
but I’m a man consciously ignorant of the depth
of the mine shafts, filled with bodies. For they
go down farther in my heart than I ever
ever want to know.

Goodbye our Western skies

Peachtree Ballroom

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“Imma gone down ta ol’ Atlan-ta,
Imma gone down ta ol’ Atlanta some-a-these days
(Hallelujah)”

Ever’one I ever knew in Atlanta moved back to their
Southern hometowns. The city rings hollow of
Olympic days, obstinate Underground Atlanta
refusing to rejuvenate, always wearing its
party hat with a grimace.

Peachtree Ballroom, Ramada Plaza. Cracked
paint, ants in the elevators, hasn’t seen a fix
since 1996. Homeless passed out on the brick
sidewalk under sculptures evoking torches.
How much you chargin’? Sweet baby Jesus.
My name is Morgan, but it ain’t JP.

“You ask the judge to treat you well,
you offer a hundred dollars and he’ll send you to
Atlanta”

We watch you, our hope, our torch.
Atlanta. Who else would never understand.
It ain’t a good day. Hell, might not even be the worst.
But it’s good to get to know you again.
The Peachtree Ballroom with its dull brown
carpet, plastic dividing walls all pulled back,
stains and all. Alone in the ballroom,
alone on the roof, alone in Turner Field,
alone in the heart of Georgia. We’ll talk about
the I-85 collapse and why no one will use
MARTA. It’s a big empty ballroom today.
Oh, boy. Oh, boy.

“Went up on the Kennesaw Mountain
Gave my horn a blow,
Prettiest girl in Atlanter,
came a knockin’ at my do’…”

Dreams About Women, IV

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In this dream I died like my mother.
Lost control of the car.
Felt that weightless instant.
Stomach rising.
Saw it coming.
That long practiced moment.
That slow collision.
Lucid instant.
Knowing the next thing will be pain.

In this dream I died like my mother.
The slow collision of lifetimes
was around the bend in that dark road.
That I did not see.
I did not see the road I left behind.
I did not make it home that night.
I did not live anymore.
I did not see it coming.
I did not know pain.

The final instant is ambiguous.
Private, meaningless captivity of an instant.
And did they find me with Creedence
Clearwater still playing, suffocated in my
ribs and blood in the thick forested culvert
dripping humidity from the night before?
What came out to fill the road?
A Sweetgum ball. A feral peacock.
Squirrels stealing acorns from squirrels,
big trees grown from other, forgotten acorns.
And there I would be, dead.
Florida. Morning. After.

Dead. Dead, you say?
Why, my mother was dead.
I suppose that makes me
…half-dead?

A lively country road at the dewy dawn.

A Georgia Baby

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A Georgia baby’s a good thang
but she wun’t ’bout ta truly b’lieve it
she looked around with the innocence of
not knowing how the world works when you
precisely know how the world works but you
are tubin’ down the river in an’ ol’ tire
with her round stomach centered spinning
whitest legs dangling, her toenails pulled
to the wicks, battery acid burns, tattoo
of a perdy lil’ thang butter- dragon-
fly fly fly fly it takes a village
A Georgia baby’s a good thang
her mouth formed a silent scream in
order to blindly locate the straw on the
Baja Blast as she looked at a man and a man
and another. Her companion said it,
“that’s why no one in their thirties
should have babies. Yer fine, sugar.
We need mommas like you. And besides,
a Georgia baby’s a good thang.”

Groucho Said It Best

you could be mistaking swollen catfish for
deflated football, commiserating about
Groucho Marx in a hot Texas border town

if the evens go north to south
and the odds go east to west
then I-2 is the end of the road

sits a big fat catfish dryin’ in the scrub
lookin’ just so like you could’a set ‘im
down in the water an’ he’d’a swam away

kickin’ up corn husks amid grasshoppers
on the frontage road with trailers draped
with sheriff candidates in tan galon hats

as Mendez Mobile Trailer Washout truck
circles the self-storage parking lot swish
swishin’ agua in the tank shimmers in the

eyes of parched truckers commiserating about Groucho: “here’s to our girlfriends and wives
… may they never find out about each other”

if the evens go north to swish swish swish
and the odds go east to west swish swish
then there will never be anything past I-2

35 North: Dallas Texas. Dollars Taxes.
Groucho said it best: littering tamale husks
plastic wrappers and catfish alike. whatever

it is
I’m against
it