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  • Esteban Rodriguez

Diaspora (III & VIII)


Then decomposition. The moment

when the sagebrush just above your body

casts its shadow, and the shadow burrows

through your clumps of branded fabric,

through your flattened limbs drained

of muscles, cartilage. Day and night

carry out their cycles, render everything

stagnant. The scene begs for a wake

of buzzards, for their clichéd hovering,

their descent on the blackened bones

and bile, and their methodic picking

of the heart in its ultimate metaphorical

condition. But not every death translates

into a preconceived notion of what death is,

and instead, your body merely lies there,

secreting its tissue back inside itself;

no passing tumbleweeds to offer this image

a sense of closure, or to add a symbolic

element beyond the elements of exposure –

how your flesh coagulates into an object

patrolmen stumble on, photograph, haul out

and leave, with a numbered tag hanging

from your toes, on a cold, steel table.


As dawn unscales the last scabs of darkness, miles

upon half-lucid miles of saguaro appear before you,

each with a handful of severed doll heads hanging

from their arms. You move through this forest, study

their faces, the porcelain chipped, cracked, and faded,

deprived of the manufactured-painted lips that once

made it easy to mouth speeches to their jaws. You look down,

notice pieces of your unemployed flesh slipping along

your bones, and when chunks of your thighs and calves

reach the ground, scuttle and hide in the nearest hole,

you begin scooping the scalped and earless skulls,

the tiny suits and dresses, the shoes that drift like flower

petals from your hands, as you descend into a valley

of powdered carcasses, knotted hides, horns and pelvises,

and spinal columns the earth, for reasons you’ll never know,

has kept perfectly intact.

Esteban Rodríguez holds an MFA from the University of Texas Pan-American. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Notre Dame Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, New England Review, and Water~Stone Review. He lives in Austin, Texas.

Image courtesy of Bill Dickinson

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