This Is the Horse Poem I’ve Been Try­ing to Write

The Iowa Review - - CONTENTS - Kelsi Vanada

smoke, but she imag­ines them stream­ing tears. Imag­ine, she says to her friend in her head, the lone­li­ness of hear­ing a river’s mur­mur all your girlhood and never be­ing able to mur­mur back. Her friend an­swers with a pic­ture of the wife he has lost. His love, he calls her, a name la Alien­ada has never been called by. But soon, la Alien­ada is losing even her mind’s eye, losing the voice and im­age of her friend across the city. Where be­fore her mind could hover above the half-star shape of the prison he de­scribed and its blood­thirsty tree he showed her, now she merely traces a half star in the air with her fin­gers, not re­mem­ber­ing what this shape be­longs to, nor the man who’s trapped in­side. Later, she can­not mold her words into sen­tences to send him. And then she for­gets al­to­gether. She sits in cold wet, a pud­dle of piss around her. She rocks back and forth, her long hair cov­er­ing, un­cov­er­ing, cov­er­ing her eyes. She slams her cupped palms down on the floor, ham­mers her el­bows against it. But no noise is loud enough to reach the bro­ken place in la Alien­ada where the ear alerts the mind that a sound has been made. los de­scen­dentes

In an­other story, the mute Alien­ada speaks at last. A brand-new voice. Strong and clear. And be­cause her voice is new, it could be any­thing, any­one’s voice. In an­other story, out of her mouth comes the voice of her friend, el Pri­sionero. El Pri­sionero says, Ya. He says, Enough. He spi­ders his way up the wall of a pit he’s been kept in. He plots with his fel­low pris­on­ers, com­mand­ing their at­ten­tion with the bass drum of his voice, which is la Alien­ada’s voice, too. He seizes one bar with both hands. An­other pris­oner seizes the bar next to his. All the pris­on­ers clutch the bars as if they were not bars at all, but life rafts float­ing off into the bay of Puerto Bar­rios. To­gether, the pris­on­ers pry the bars apart. After all, they are strong like their fa­thers, grand­fa­thers, great-grand­fa­thers be­fore them. But in this story, later, in the after, the ba­bies are born. Most grow into chil­dren, though some do not. One child says to her fa­ther, Papá, look, and shows him her red­dened palms and lit­tle bumps on the soles of her feet. One child says to his mother one day, Mamá, I can­not see you very well. And fi­nally, I can­not see you at all.

Ex­per­i­men­tal Stud­ies on Hu­man Inoc­u­la­tion with Syphilis, Gon­or­rhea, and Chan­croid

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