La Malinche

—Nahua mistress and translator to conquistador Hernán Cortes

At her breast you leaped

toward the New World.  A boy again
runaway from home
to scale the tin roofs
of Juarez

to skin fur & feathers
Cactus Wren
& Kit Fox
the cat dragged to
your hand.

Toothy as prickly pear
in the Chihuahua,
the aunts
sniffed out your altars
& rose up
swinging beargrass
brooms, pinching mud-
caked ears, till
they beat you

down to piss

Amid bazaar accordions
a white kerchief
a huapango,
just for your eye.
So fine, so smooth but soiled,
you gushed.

Surgeon fingers
laid bare the markfoul
as a harelip
pocketsful of silver. 
Oh how your eyes
never broke
the seal of desire, not
till you won:

The beauty was yours
for a much smaller price!

Wooing her you whispered,
My love is not
a modern woman,
but a fleshy de Kooning,
bruised iris for a heart
on canvas

a voice willing to tiptoe
from seabed
to salty fog.

One night you were sleeping
when skies opened up
& swallowed
pueblo lights, the moon,
the stars

You heard footsteps or
rooster claws on the roof,
scratching backward
& forward.

She was your Indian girl that summer
in corn & sun you loved her,
but came winter
brown thighs washed milky
a neck stained too pink,
so off you sent her
on a boat with a letter
to Father.

She bolted upright in stirrups
at your decree: 
Aha! Dentata!
coming of age
with molars, full-blown.

You pressed an ear to her breast
like a stethoscope,
& listened
for muted arias

Verdi, Puccini
clear-cut & glassy.

*Originally published in Southwestern American Literature
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