Lorna Dee Cervantes


Drawings: For John Who Said to Write about True Love

“The writer. It’ s a cul-de-sac,” you wrote that
winter of our nation’ s discontent. That first time
I found you, blue marble lying still in the trench, you, staked
in waiting for something, anything but the cell of your small
apartment with the fixtures never scrubbed, the seven great
named cats you gassed in the move. I couldn’ t keep them.
You explained so I understood. And what cat never loved
your shell-like ways, the claw of your steady fingers, firme
from the rasping of banjos and steady as it goes

First Thought

best thought, you had taught
me — a river runs through it,
the foot of the soul standing
stubbornly in the freeze, all
the shards of ice crumpling up
the banks, what survives
in the ignorance. Play it away.
Be ceremony. Be a lit candle
to what blows you. Outside,
the sun gives a favorite present,
mountain nests in ironic meadows,
otter takes off her shoes, the small
hands of her feet reaching, reaching; still,
far away people are dying. Crisp
one dollar bills fold another life.

"Love of My Flesh, Living Death"

Once I wasn’ t always so plain.
I was strewn feathers on a cross
of dune, an expanse of ocean
at my feet, garlands of gulls.

Sirens and gulls. They couldn’ t tame you.
You know as well as they: to be
a dove is to bear the falcon
at your breast, your nights, your seas.

My fear is simple, heart-faced
above a flare of etchings, a lineage
in letters, my sudden stare. It’ s you.


Cherry plums suck a week’ s soak,
overnight they explode into the scenery of before
your touch. The curtains open on the end of our past.
Pink trumpets on the vines bare to the hummingbirds.
Butterflies unclasp from the purse of their couplings, they
light and open on the doubled hands of eucalyptus fronds.
They sip from the pistils for seven generations that bear
them through another tongue as the first year of our
punishing mathematic begins clicking the calendar
forward. They land like seasoned rocks on the