NOSTOS, A LONGING
I learned the myth of a mother
rejecting her animal infant by scent
but remain half-convinced
of the touch that mars a body
alien, estranged, the way a thumb
measuring an in-between
distance just as soon might smear
my name illegible, a black
streak, the negative of meteor
debris tracking a wish across
white sky. No less the wake
of a folded boat along
a canal, paper buffeted past
bottle throats, snags of glass, all
discarded, iridesced. And, in our
wishing, scavenge what glitters
in the dreck. Because any exile
believes herself a changeling, taken
in. All her beloveds, duped.
A doubling like common time, or
how a slow shutter resolves into
an exposure of ghost in silver
nitrate, gelatin. If written, the trope
replaces waking, when, vanished
by morning we ask—no-one who will
answer—where am I? Where am I now?
You were between two animals.
Between two attributions.
At the crotch of a river’s fork.
At a loss, at least.
Between all losses, tendering alms.
By the skin of one’s stolen teeth.
The lethargy of one newly shorn.
To derive, say, attenuate, say
starved to a taper. A porousness.
False asphodel if aphasic, if sticky.
Vaseline-smear a focalization.
Ocean maw and mountain blade
recede. At last, at least—this. A figure
gathers line and edge. She is between
two roars. Who devours or drowns.
Say shore when you mean precipice.
Say split when you mean in pieces.
Redoubled at the jut of some far
becoming. Between, to say the least.
A shade and its absorption. To
swatch a sea’s phonemes, to score
what of light she keeps to let through.
PAULA MENDOZA’s work has appeared in Bennington Review, Seneca Review, The Journal, and elsewhere. She earned her MFA at the University of Michigan and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Utah. She lives and writes in Salt Lake City.