I want to take you to a chamber
deep beneath a palace
where the walls' bricks and the soil outside them
take on a certain sameness

it is a room in which you never want to find yourself
on account of all the selves that have been lost there

it is a death sentence
a thousand years of holding your breath
the air never cools
humid like a tepid lake in suspension

this is the dragon's exhale,
the stifling sorrow of a beast that no longer flies or ignites,
the floor is its senescing tongue
dirtied with the bones of many meals
and its teeth bar the only window
outside of which, right now, it is just barely morning

a few hours ago
the man in the corner rose from his place in the dirt
to continue his scratching

every morning the man does this, approaches the wall
with his stone chisel outstretched
like the stone is a penance the wall will never accept
and so he begins his troubled strokes

it is a language that I cannot read,
but these walls are covered in volumes
and he continues to carve
in a fever

there are either armies
or prisons
in his veins, no matter
to conquer or escape
the wrath of his hands on these bricks
is the same

a swolen revolution has possessed his fingers
and set them to inglorious riots upon the wall

I have begged him to break
to take water, to breathe,
I put my hand on his shoulder
"don't stop me!"

it is the only time he has looked at me

thrown away comfort
"don't you see," he raged
"this, this is my history"

"they'll have to read it, someday"
his index outstretched toward that window
where the choked coughs of dragon smoke
had now blot out the sun.

I stepped toward it and still he looked at the wall
his hand pressed to its texture
"this is my people's embossment on my heart,
torrent lessons of my father in the tissues of my survival."

out the window, at a distance
from the smoke I witnessed
a mighty fist drop ships on the horizon
and cross their sails red,
as the armada came

"it is only hours now,"
his prophecy

after us the many nations lusted,
their approach mimicked the storming heavens
and insulted the nature
of all the names that dwell there

he was bloody and a carving terror
to the list of Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone
add this man, the fourth fury

he threw dust
a star birthing planets in its prison
the air became the clay of the bricks
of our internment

and he began shouting chapters

across the chamber
from four walls imbued with his labor
he sucked in stories
and spit them in his hands
blew them to shapes of his liking
and hurled them to the peoples of conquest

at the window again
I watched two planes meet their end
Lady Liberty took one and then the second to her chest
but the date was not September
and she fell yelling
"Roldos! Torrijos!"
her torch fallen
she gazed upon a face looking up
cupped toward her in her tender hand
waking to find she'd killed lovers in her sleep

Liberty fell on the horizon and the armies came faster

"we built kingdoms in the jungle,"
this prisoner shouted,
"combed the stars you also love for letters from god,
we toiled in our fields
and holding the eyes of our lover
painted ourselves content,
it was our children we hoped for,
and the company of friends we prized."

don't you also fear the dark seas mouth?
where in our smallness are we so alien?"

on the ships now nearing shore
ornaments on a tree
were the many worlds they'd hung from their cross beams
their oars were the bones of 24,000
starved each day in the sea on which they sailed

and the vessels,
captained by a fellowship of SOA graduates and Wall Street dreams,
represented exactly what the failure of our hero-making means

knowing I was to die
I looked to this man
to ask him his name

but god had not decided yet
only written drafts in his back

the scars themselves, they were a book
of gods' efforts to name a now sacred plight,
Oscar Romero was scratched out
as was Sitting Bull
and Malcom and King and Bhutto
Wounded Knee and Kent State
sunrise in Vietnam
and whatever you name
an ocean of G.I. coke
settling in the veins
of the sons of south L.A.

but he wouldn't stop reading
this history was in his eyes
the dragon had but to swallow
and these nations would descend
in greed and ire

outside the earth was skewered
its blood fed to machines
but this remnant in prison
would not ready himself for the raping

he chisled this history till his hands broke
nearly buried in scraps of our prison
willed it to endure till the dust had cursed him blind
he read it all from memory

"look it in the eyes
the day we framed our home
and laid our crop
rode our grandfather's stories to sleepland
and far away
found our mother blowing morning's flame in her palms

chase my brother's lightning legs
as they charge the space
between grasses in the field
go with him to our tree and, quietly, watch
as the tiny bugs


whether the fire gave smoke's smell to my grandmother
or snatched it from her shawl
afterall, in the flicker on her face
there is ancient collusion

hear the bells break their fasting
and walk the morning streets
of my dull blue and burnt orange city with me
we will pray and share a meal
i'll show you how to pitch the fires
after the Ghost Dance
pursue the Power running between the trees
who's faster than your shadow's grip
we'll tease its sweat from their leaves
and stow its strength
a treasure in our bellies

the stars will walk us through these woods,
and we'll know the footprints
of Creator as we cross them

simply exclaim,
over many suns burning in the night
when you find their faces in the unlikely tears of mud,
and in our tongue, you'll be native

i will taste your musket"
his eyes beginning to dart
"i will birth a boil for every member of your future nation
alongside the earth, i will swallow your mines
but only after you read
why we built our cities in circles
buried our faith at the center for safe keeping,

how just so slightly
our lovers discovered their raining on us
and squeezed their clouds blue
so we might rest in the sun
and in our chest
stir another disturbance in our atmosphere
all will agree, it will be a righteous storming

i'll try to remember
the clip with which our poets ran
when they took to the hills
to hunt their works and then,
the memory of our heroes will not die with me
but with you."

at that, life left his knees
a slow spring
he recoiled to the floor

knelt before the wall
madness drug his wife's face across his mind
"here lies kleios," now screaming, "the last of his kind,"
the weeping was slow before it was a wail
and he managed a final drop from the well so dried inside him
"do you see now," his lifted arms pled,
"how we were so much more than war."

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