Masks beneath masks until suddenly the bare bloodless skull
                                     —Salman Rushdie

When the shadow fires
The Satanic Verses
quickened in unison
next to me and the heat.
In that flash I was the god of bantam
things, in the desire to lend always
ample ear and slender tones
the tenuous pulse of trees,
crickets of my childhood home, cats howling outside,
inside a street lined with sunflowers that never
opened in spring.
Even as hate resounds like that ocean of arrows
plummeting into the void,
and the symphony sky is dyed always blue,
even as all things hurled into the air become freedom;
before I was tall I listened
to a batter of verses:
they shot through me, broke me, clothed me me, bit me,
they loved me, undressed me, crouched me, ate me,
they used me, cleansed me, normalized me;
gnawed me as though road kill,
on the asphalt left behind,
before I was ever on this earth.

Is birth always a fall?
Falling on what,
and with whom,
horizon without void?
But falling always.
I knew then it was possible to play
music hidden under
my skin, under an eyelid covering the world
split open by a lightning bolt,
to spread open the eyes of my childhood dog,
and to find deep in his
poetry hollow in the face of indifference.

By yoke and sword, fear and rust,
and elements that are neither fire
nor water nor wind,
I discovered splendor, ravishing face in a pain so
deep, animal pain most pure
in the hollows of light,
mirror, that surrogate, me,
and in what I view there is praise
for a man, a god, an indiscernible universe
that possesses neither face nor tide,
I feel at ease inside
the mesquite, feeding on its sap, on chúcata,
at the slightest hint of rain.
A sin,
A hungry dog

seeking shelter,
eternal prison of misunderstanding,
uncertain when he finds it.
And I walk,
I comply,
I trust all names,
the chance to know
on this horseshoe ledge, scarcely room for a snail
where the parched eclipses sink,
where it hurts,
where does it hurt?

On the edge
of the orange grove,
I am the bird keeping watch
with terrible, blazing, artless
black eyes.
Your hand
and the thirst of my memory.
I wear the mask, and
the word arrives,
I pass again the same place
like a river or stone,
without glimpsing my feet,
until I meet my hunger, sharp
knifepoint, not knowing how to fish.


I cannot explain this inertia
to my ghosts
I cannot expand into their pack
a roaming body
nor tell them what I feel when I
self re-produce
self re-criminate
re-enunciate to the sound
of a towering voice
higher even
than snow.

It doesn’t snow
where it never rains.

The most appalling thing about my ghosts
is that they wait in silence.


There are longer paths
than others,
and when my mother said as much
I paused to move backward
in the boat on the water.

She is partial to my feet
she has inspected them
with eyes that are magnifying glasses,
this flesh that is her flesh
and rooms
with no walls,
with crayola animals
and incense.

Catch fire.

To dodge memory
stop walking

and catch fire.


BRUNO RIOS (Hermosillo, Mexico, 1988)is a Poet, novelist, journalist, and literary critic. He has published volumes of poetry that include Los últimos días (Hoyo Negro Editores, 2011), La blanca espera del tren (Editorial Foc, 2012, Barcelona), and Sequía (Editorial Foc, 2013, Barcelona), as well as the recently published novel La voz de las abejas (Sediento Ediciones, 2016).

ROBERTO TEJADA is author of the poetry collections Full Foreground (Arizona, 2012), Exposition Park (Wesleyan, 2010), Mirrors for Gold (Krupskaya, 2006), and Todo en el ahora (Libros Magenta, 2015). Other publications include National Camera: Photography and Mexico’s Image Environment (Minnesota, 2009), Celia Alvarez Muñoz (Minnesota, 2009), and other critical writings on contemporary U.S. and Latino American artists.