Poem “La Cueva” in The Southeast Review

La Cueva

    Chicago, IL


The beautiful women swing
        their hips

like eternal bells.    With pink, histrionic mouths

        they sing: Who is this

in the mirror? Why won’t you love me?  Why won’t you

        let me be?

The costumes are small eruptions—
        fabrics twisted and

impossibly stitched—

                 a geisha bride, a cowgirl princess.

In the more unforgiving lights, the synthetic

        yellow wigs startle the brown clay

of skin. Briefly, we see

the soft traces

            of their shrouded youth,

how skillfully they’ve learned


         to wipe the smeared mirrors

inside them.


In the teeth

            of their gaze,
the men with the factory hands

raise their palms

        to the hormone-softened

faces— a love

        flimsy as a wet yellow dress.

They will bend

like flowers for them.



The winter frost of eyelids

in the darkness: hands

            dig for a swelling cock

reaching skyward. The matronly breasts

        hang low and exhausted,

though there can’t be children

to suckle them.

The body
        is not a hieroglyph,
but a triumph.


In the morning, the men will rise

for mass. With their wives,
they will sing

            ¡El Señor resucitó!
And as they clap their hands aleluya,

the smell,
            that singular funk

that springs from the body,

            will weep

from their callused palms.