7.01 / January 2012

Two Poems

the pilgrimage of mouths

My throat is a winding staircase
of stone, where words pace up
to my teeth’s narrow apertures
and dare jump. Other nights

I choke on their clumsy catapult down
into the roil of my belly, a cauldron stoked
by slow sipping a 12-year Barbadian

rum. I approach the decade with eyes
focused ahead, squinting to discern the unfamiliar

shape growing edges against the dark
like an animal slowing in the center of the road:
a woman wearing green mascara and rabbit

fur, resisting nothing, delivering two naked bodies
into the other’s mouth, remember my mouth

was full of bullets I let dribble to my living
room hardwood one at a time, blackbirds falling
from the aviary of my jaws. Some nights
my throat is a rifle’s cold catheter holding

breath, a sacral growl threatening to unsteady
the trigger, but not on this first morning.
In the year of car keys left dangling in the ignition
of my locked Dodge, a future lover with a wooden wedge
and a hammer, my throat is a blade’s narrow sheath,

a panopticon caging the columnar waver of a question
or a poem or an apology. Before I can earn forgiveness

I must first fumble the rum glass too near
his piano, and then my throat becomes a lighthouse
and every lover I’ll have this year is churning oars
toward the intermittent fingers of light I send
curling into the black grain of months

yet to learn the density of sound. My ribs
are a parapet for the pilgrimage of mouths
whose poems are not metaphors for kisses; no longer
a pharaoh’s third bride wafting through his sarcophagus
apartment, kicking clay pots of honey, crushing jade locusts
against the final hieroglyphs, intent on wailing the corpse
awake, this year my throat is a pillar of its own, a monument naked
of epitaphs or erasures, helix of sex
and sound, mouth rounding to name
what time has left unnamed.

instructions for giving

I wrapped the gifts in one man’s
living room and stacked them
into my Maxima to drive to another’s.
One was impressed with the care given
to each precise crease, the attention
to hiding lines of tape, the symmetry
of identical snow flakes falling over
the box’s edges, the single blade
of sewing scissors scraping along
the ridged underside of the wisps
of silver ribbon, its wild helix erupting
from my sharp knots. The other was silent

and angry when I left his bed Christmas morning
to pull on jeans without sex. One man would later slap

my cheek as I perched in my panties on the edge
of his tub sobbing with scissors poised on the ribbon
of my veins, tired of being an unopened present

for the other man. Distinctions are peripheral.
First, you place the gift on the blank swath
of paper, intuit equidistance and cut, let the blade
glide like a tear from one edge to the other, like a lover
crossing the city in a Maxima doomed to crash, fold both
sides to the center crisply, obscuring adhesive
as though the wrap will stick by magic. The sides
are tricky, a labyrinth of triangles. Precision is paramount.

Once the gift is secure in its sheath of shimmer and hope
for some glimmer of gratitude, then comes the joy
of ribbons, royal purple and crimson crisscrossed
and absolute, with no indication of where each thread

begins. They culminate in a celebration of ringlets
cascading. This is the type of giving. The bliss

of a lover ripping through knots to receive me, and me
expecting nothing in return.

Kristiana Colón is a poet, playwright, actor, and educator living and working in Chicago. She has served as an adjunct English and Humanities professor at Chicago State University, Malcolm X College, and Tribeca Flashpoint Academy. She is proud to have been nominated for a 2011 Pushcart Prize for her poem “severance” in Organs of Vision and Speech, as well as see her work anthologized in Dzanc Books' Best of the Web 2010 and Haven Books' Not a Musecollection. Other recent publications include African American Review, Diverse Voices Quarterly, the Logan Square Literary Review, and the Midwestern Edition, among several other online and print journals. Kristiana is an Assistant Editor for Muzzle, an online literary magazine, and an Artistic Associate at Teatro Luna, Chicago’s all-Latina theater company. She is an MFA graduate from the School of the Art Institute and has been seen on HBO's Def Poetry Jam. More information about Kristiana, as well as text, audio, and video samples of her work, can be found at www.kristianacolon.com.
7.01 / January 2012