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Carmen Calatayud

About the Poet
Carmen Calatayud is a psychotherapist in Washington, DC. Born to a Spanish father and Irish mother, her poetry has appeared in journals such as Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts, Red River Review, Slow Trains, and PALABRA: A Magazine of Chicano and Latino Literary Art.

Her poems are anthologized in various collections, including DC Poets Against the War: An Anthology and Mondo Barbie.

Calatayud was a finalist for the Joy Harjo Poetry Award and the Rita Dove Poetry Award. She won a 2003 Larry Neal Award for Poetry.

Her poetry manuscript Cave Walk is a finalist for the 2010 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize and a semifinalist for the 2010 Walt Whitman Award.

Transfiguration Between the Graves
Arlington Cemetery

I cup the flame in my watery palms.
It doesn't smell like burning skin anymore.

I'm the stone cutter
who protects me from my grief.
I'm terrified I'll bloom wide open.

I want to take my nerves
and drag them from the mud,
prove the moon isn't mechanical
and worm away from pointing fingers
and god-sized lies.

I want to sit in the broken rain
and watch headstones dance and collapse
and turn into the green smoke
I could never see before.

I want electricity to drench me.
I'm a shaky miracle, gargling fire and water.
I want chaos and beauty in one big bite.

I want to feel the sum of all my lives
and feel the zero before I was born,
because my hands are full of flames
and so empty the palm lines are gone.

I want to sweat without explaining
and hold my death for an instant.

I want to be part of the air that travels
between grave and sky,
that visits this city and brings flowers to it,
that filters the tired bones
above and below the ground.

I want to float unnoticed
and swallow myself
and wait for nothing like a saint.

To top


Hermana in the Sky

I can't scrape you from my soul
or fold up your altar.
You're the sister I fought for,
grief underneath my fingernails,
shock locked inside my womb.
Your grace engulfed me,
took me over trails
where saguaros kept our secrets
and waved us by.
With you I was explosive.
I walked with fire and water
and understood alchemy.
Now that you're gone,
I attract tricksters en mis sueños,
step over carcasses,
run from fists flying
toward my mouth.
I dodge the lies.
I'm lonely for friends
like firecrackers
who tell me the truth.

Last night I heard you weep
underneath my house.
Black bones cracked inside my throat.
You pulled me out of winter's cave,
but it's hell in the hallway
between guts and wisdom.
I'm tired of wandering
like a nomad. Aimless,
I wait for you to fly overhead.
Be my satellite. Show me where
to cross the border.
Haz la lucha conmigo.

Someone said that everyone
has a secret with God.
That secret is the time
we choose to leave and why.
I begged you to hide me in your grave,
away from saints who never respond.
Without you here, I punish myself
for the crimes of chronic fatigue
and never accomplishing enough.
But I swear you're pieces of sun
that still work on me
from the southwestern sky.
You were strength without apologies
and left me to be average.
Dangerous, drunk moon.
I could suffocate on your speeches.
We commingled with the cause.
We are la raza who disappeared
into the night.

I wash away my days.
When I'm sick with sadness
I conjure your face on a stage of angels
then imagine you in front of me,
my wrists decorated in bracelets
to make you smile.
I don't have to tell you
that my lungs are filled
with tears. Too humid to move.
They breathe like clouds passing by,
waiting for peace of mind.
For a gust of wind like you.

To top


Cave Walk

I know the carcasses. Certain sensation, flavor of face.

Tempered cave paintings, deserted cups and blades.

Hieroglyphic lullabies soothe the jagged wall.

Spoon sand in circles of life. Snake settles for the evening.

Women grow feathers, fly through volcanic ash.

Maps depict swirling nightmares of spirits who negotiate death.

Systems of lightening love, beauty between the lives.

I want the dead to bite the wind and knock me over twice.

Chest rises, howls coalesce under seventh constellation.

In this cave, I die repeatedly with a bell in every hand.

Dance of hips gives rise to spine, sliding in the cold.

I am the violet moon, bone of a thousand smiles.

To top


~ Carmen Calatayud
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