val dering rojas

In the Monastery of the Angels

This body will always reek of burnt wood, allspice, clove.
Inside, a moon like licorice. Black as tea. Bright as
a sugared cinnamon tongue: I can persuade myself
into anything.

And the way I measure distress: by depth of this obsession.
Crows that fly east to west. (The murder of them). How long
they can remember a face; how long I’ll continue
un-scavenged, unchanged.

And star anise, swarthy-skinned sky. Singe cleverly hidden.
The way I sweep small bones from this bed. A tiny pyre. And now,
these sweetmeats on my pillow; the low smoke of incense
like a suggestion.

I’ll always be tar-dark wings, smoldering opaque as carbon.
The way breath beats from a lung. Lithe as flight. And for ballast,
an opium-heavy tongue: I can’t pray my way
out of anything.

Loss, El Mirage Lake, Mojave Desert

It begins and ends with disappearing.
That first effervescent super-ocean
and Pangaea’s rifts and collisions.
Ever one body losing its shape
to make another.

And what leaves with loss? Say it
slowly and I don’t recognize what’s
absent; the Great Pyramid with its
perfectly creased edge, grain by grain
secretly returning to sand.

For proof, these small antiquities:
worry stones for mountains, empty shells
for something once teeming. And this abandoned
cornucopia. My cup running over
with dust.

And people are like this; they fall away
as if scales from fish, the way heat shimmers
and swells— become the kind of water that flashes
like perception: brilliant for a moment,
then gone.

In the Body Garden

You know how a body confesses. How it sings. How pilus and root
gather at the nape like nettled ropes; a dirty halo; a slipped crown.

Here, disclosed and disguised, you’re the honeybee and blowfly.
You’re blackout, you’re balefire. You’re meadowlark and crow.

You’re the larder beetle. You’re absurdity and the allure of suffering.
You’re grace and what devours it.

Once, you craved the coolness of dark earth. Scattered teeth like seeds.
Let fingernails become twisted vines.

Once, you slept in the outline of black ants, sustenance of nectar and flesh.
You spoke empty your secrets, made your mouth a graceful blue bloom.

Now, you’re tongue of knives and ear of opulent wound. You know the soft clatter
a body can make; that anyone who listens hard enough will hear its crime.

Val Dering Rojas is a Los Angeles based poet and artist. Her poetry and short fiction has been included in Referential Magazine, Dogzplot, ken*again and Right Hand Pointing among others. Her chapbook TEN is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press

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