Yesenia Montilla
Featured Writer

Invasion Prevention

                                      The next time I let tongues
roam my body whose ancestors never knew                Lucumí
Yoruba, Taino or another Arawakan spilling out their mouth
                  let my past me                         remember
that a white man never asked me for
                  anything that
he didn’t assume was already his — & ain’t that
the last of the learning I need to do before
                                        leaving this earth

Just yesterday I saw one flower peeking through cold dirt
& I realized Spring was here —



Chasing Duende

                    For Natalie, Peggy & John

They say he has a lover’s tongue
all warm liquid & plated fur. That
when he decides to lick you like
the rim of a salted glass the
moon becomes full behind your
eyelids & god stays at bay. Querido
Duende I’ve worshipped you, you
without a face, your irrational heart.
I say ven a mi & I get my monthly blood.
My pockets are full of coins now
I use them to pay the ferryman
I shuttle the dead across the river
hold their hand as though they
were my children. Grandfather
& your tribe of thousands.
Grandmother, could I have birthed
you? Made you in your most perfect
image? Sister, not your time.
Father, any day now —

Last night I dreamt of hands on me
not like divination but like devotion
two cocks & a naked neck in the yard.
Yemaya tells me: sacrifice them, all of
them, pluck their feathers & bring
your honey mouth to the shore. She
likes sweet & soft things. Forces me
to tell the story of my great love,
but love is an endangered word,
untranslatable, its etymology closer
to that of raven or he who won’t
let me touch him — What if my wrist
bleed from such longing? What if I choke
on a picture? What if I forget the thinness
of my waist at dawn & lose myself
to magic? What then? Will I ever recover?
Will the monster that hides in the soles
of my shoes finally reveal himself? Will
he be she, or they, or a god with red lips?

I swear I hear whispering in the bed
sheets & my eyes grow heavy, my hips
start to rock, a valley between two mounds
at the very beginning; before light, before the
rib was plucked & the honeybee knelt at
the flowers entryway. Yemaya, will you
bring me Duende, bring me a lock of his
hair, his head severed that I can sew
onto me like a new dress? Duende, do I know
your half-eaten smile, your dirty words?
Have we already met & I confused your
sucking for a song? This heartache for
a poem? When I was kissed by the full
lipped girl at midnight I saw another’s
face & I haven’t been able to see anything
else. Brown eyes, crooked teeth, a beard
so manicured, like a rich man’s lawn —



Case Study: Agoraphobia

soot-filled world a mouth
where only sirens live
& if I were to dream
while walking will I be
stabbed to death
or murdered outside
my favorite everything bagel shop — I once
loved a city & late
at night I still sleep
almost awake hips
griding remembering
every kiss I ever took
from someone’s mouth
dark alley, dark bar, dark
being so beautiful it’s
almost black with stars
infinite joy, in this city
that always failed to fall
into a deep slumber
now I am skittish
don’t trust the ice
cream man, falling
in love with trees
instead of human
faces. Heidi’s apartment
looks on the park
& when I visit I stare
out the window
like a house cat
recalling it once
was a lion —



On the Day DMX Dies I Watch the Video of Him Riding a Coaster with His Daughter & I Fall Apart

sling clicks into place
her side ponytail
a vision
she whispers
I don’t want to
he responds its too late
the sling takes off
shoots them into
the blue
nothing of
even before that
she extends her hand and without
even looking he finds it
and gathers it
into his
as though her hand were
the last of the water for a
thirsty man
in air they are
birds without wings
the unknowing of how
she screams
daddy’s got
daddy’s got



songbirds on skewers[1]

at the end of the world
we are still puttering about
dreaming of cocktails
with delicate names such as
rosalie in rome equal parts
botanist & crème de rose
with muddled rosemary
& a coconut sugar rim

at the end of the world
we are cunning creatures
avoiding our own
mortality with abundant
amounts of edibles &
popcorn the frank
method; in a pot with sage,
garlic & cold pressed olive oil

we give stacey a nobel
we weep over another name: ma’khia
we pray for our loved ones
we wonder when will it be over
we hope it’s not just the beginning
we miss our friends
we meander around our own living

& in italy, brescia to be exact
the carabinieri officers breaking
up a party, illegal & against protocols
find 65 endangered & normally protected
songbirds skewered
& served
over a creamy polenta.      A delicacy
the guests call it                    but            oh god
how at the end of our days,
while a puddle jump away a country
massacres its people         another
hides death tolls,                   the world feels
ripe for war
& the trees
whisper of their own demise
we humans imperfect        & quite
want to leave
the earth
without song —


[1] Based on an article in the NY Times: On the Menu at a Lunch in Italy: Protected Songbirds