by David Dominguez
the Horses’ Heads/ Were toward Eternity–
“Because I Could not Stop For Death,” Emily Dickinson
In spring, my mother cranked open the window
and the master bedroom, struck by sunlight, filled
with the smell of lilacs and Mexican orange
that brushed the pane, and the bees swarmed the blossoms
and filled my ears with a workman’s buzz,
a buzz I never feared, for our cupboard glowed
with mason jars and red clover honey.
And from the shadows of the ant-infested apricot
and the garden we planted on Good Friday,
black-throated hummingbirds emerged and hovered
in jasmine tangled between fence slats.
I remember summer, the branch-webbed sky,
squirrels, blue jays, and dive-bombing mockers
who strafed my head when I gathered vegetables because
I wanted salt, lemon, and sliced cucumber.
One twilight, I found a black and yellow monarch
fanning its antennae, head, thorax, and abdomen;
I pierced its wings with a stick, held it
like a lantern against a bone-white moon,
realizing its milkweed dusted veins and my veins
carried blood to our bodies’ edges . . .
and so knelt on my scabbed knee and buried it.
In autumn, doves roosted in the rain gutter,
moaned at the moon-lit dawn as if their longing
might nudge the earth around the sun and bring back spring,
which I found hidden in patches of Bermuda
as my fingers raked through snails, twigs, and leaves
in search of pecans that brightened my heart
when I munched on them and watched Dad scan the sky
so I could see whirling rings of rock and dust:
anything is possible, he said, as I looked through the eyepiece.
Most of all, I remember how in winter my mother felt
exhausted by the responsibilities of daughterhood—
Lo siento, Mamá, el doctor dice que tienes cancer;
or of motherhood—where’s Ranger, Mom?. . .
Son, I let the doctor put him to sleep because he broke his back;
or of wifehood—I just got home from work, Dear,
and I cut my finger peeling potatoes, and it’s still bleeding.
She leaned against the counter, stared at the yard,
mourned the giant sun flowers propped against the fence,
and said, Come rest with me for a while, Mijo.
I sat Indian style on their bed as she unfolded the afghan,
reached to her nightstand drawer, and took out
Poems by Emily Dickinson wrapped in a white dust jacket.
Her fingertips glided over the gardenia spread across the cover
and the words Dad had written on the first page,
To my wife with love, from your husband on Mother’s Day;
I’d fall asleep and see horses’ ears twitch and press towards eternity,
hooves clopping through fog caught between pines—
and then, my first words emerged and perched themselves
on power lines and trilled against the galactic sky.
David Dominguez holds a BA in comparative literature from the University of California at Irvine and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Arizona. He is the author of the collections Work Done Right (University of Arizona Press) and The Ghost of César Chávez (C&R Press). His poems have appeared in numerous journals, such as Crab Orchard Review, The Bloomsbury Review, Border Senses Literary Magazine, PALABRA a Magazine of Chicano and Latino Literary Art, Poet Lore, and Southern Review. In addition, his work has been anthologized in The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry; Bear Flag Republic: Prose Poems and Poetics from California; Breathe: 101 Contemporary Odes; and Camino del Sol: Fifteen Years of Latina and Latino Writing. New work is forthcoming in Miramar and in the anthology Latino Poetics (University of New Mexico Press, 2016). Dominguez teaches writing at Reedley College.