From her first wail, she fought. Whispered no beneath her breath after every Sí, Papa. Ate bananas until she was sick after refusing yucca. Slipped from the schoolhouse to play on the riverbanks, dipped her toes in water churning with piranhas, their fierce jaws jutting like the stubborn child she was.
When she came of age, the women of the village warned about the boto, how it took the form of a man at night, how looking straight into its eyes would bring nightmares without end. This was enough to convince her she must try.
One night, she slipped from her hammock, slid flat on her stomach among the canoes, hoping for a glimpse of the long-razored snout, the beads of black set back deep in the sides of the head. When her father caught her, he beat her until her flesh peeled back, pink and slick as a boto itself.
In the morning, her mother prepared a castor poultice, advised her to forget her foolish notions. She did not listen. When her father left, she hid on the shore, waiting for the pink backs of the dolphins to crest and dive, crest and dive.
Tonight the stars are slurry floating on
the river, a familiar darkness, hypnotic
lapping of current against canoes. No
change. The same bright curves against
the distance. Then a sudden churning,
shadows passing beneath shadows,
a streak of pink and gray like sunrise
in the midnight water. I rest my hand
on the surface until the fish rises, grazes
my skin to tremble, my palms tracing
the arc of its movement, its thick muscle,
its fins. The head emerges, one shining
eye staring directly into mine, the snout
closed to hide the teeth so as not to fright
me. One minute or one hour. How long
we stared until it slid back deeper, further
and disappeared. That night, I slept
the sweetest sleep, dreamt of rising.
She waits in the rill, my riverine girl,
and water cannot hold me. Tonight
I am alluvial, powering past her
outstretched arms onto the bank
where my gills close and I grow legs,
eyes that stare from a human face,
skin a thing I never knew I wanted.
How can one want a thing until
he's felt it, worn it, lived a moment
inside of it? She scans the water for
ombre waves of pink and gray, then
turns to offer her hands flat and
and welcoming. I glide my head across
her palms until fingers clutch my hair
and she explores my eyes, a darkness
she can recognize. Then she swims
into me, all lips and sway, all hips
and honey, and skin and skin and skin.
When they kiss, she cannot help but marvel
at the smooth skin of his back, oddly slick
but not with sweat, the way his hair is slick
but not with oil like the men in the village.
His arms, brown as the wide muddy water,
cradle her back, her knees as he sweeps her up
then lays her down on the riverbank, his fine
hands sliding her skirt higher on her hips.
She has heard the myths: strange, flippered
babies, waking to gasping slabs of muscle
who flop helpless in the morning air where
lovers had fallen to sleep – but she knows
that they are only stories. The man between
her thighs is a man, not a fish. When he calls
her querida, his tongue rolls like a current,
like a language he has known all his life.
I Am The Mouth
My heart pulses aquamarine,
each beat rivering my veins
and now a double throbbing
as I lace my fingers over the swell
of my belly, little starfish safe in
the blood-rush of the womb.
New swimmer in this ancient sea,
you turn and flail graceful as the flip
of your father's muscled back,
a back which has known both river
and dirt. I let their curses bead and
drip from me, ignore my mother's kind
yet fearful face. I know that all of us
are born from the water, spend
our first days floating before we are
flood-shoved, shivering, into
strong hands, soft arms,
harsh and unforgiving light.
Seeking the Encante
Think: the tint of a riven peach,
a split that shuttles the orange
of suns onto a blue map of days
Think: the synchronized strength
of a spider's web intact, its prey
wrapped in chance and symmetry
Think: the echo of a dolphin's cry
mixed with the pounding in my
own ears, the blasting cap of never
Think: feet sunk in wet clay, the baby
in my arms asleep, at peace, a strong
current that could snatch us simple
Think: no more lies. Fix this,
the moon as witness. See his pink
back rising – the waves cover us both.