Angel Dominguez is a Latinx poet and performance artist; the author of Desgraciado (Econo Textual Objects, 2017), and Black Lavender Milk (Timeless Infinite Light, 2015). His work can be found in Berkeley Poetry Review, Brooklyn Magazine, Elderly, Eleven Eleven, FENCE, NY Tyrant, Queen Mobs Teahouse, and other places. Follow him on Twitter @dadelionglitch or irl the redwoods, or ocean.
What does it mean to be beautiful—to speak beautifully? I used to understand this as poetry; as prayer, and then my body stopped singing. My body began rejecting this tongue. The tongue I write to you in; the tongue my mother calls our “native language.” But Spanish did not blossom on the Peninsula; Spanish was transmitted with violence; my blood recalls a trauma, and anxiety spreads to my pupils when speaking the tongue. It sounds beautiful to some, and yet to me it sounds like a question. It sounds like a form of torn skin. It still sounds foreign just as all language sounds foreign. I open my mouth and it rains in California for 3 days straight; the air becomes a wavering cloud; the sound washes out the color until all is spectral glow. I touch the soil of my memory, which is sand and could once become water, but now I’m all mud. I keep finding earth in my mouth; my teeth these accidental crystals or rotting fossils. I keep finding this want for blossom. This want for bloom. This want for something more than beautiful, but healing. I want to song, that makes us soft again, that brings the violence of living to a stillness; a song to cradle the traumas of our ancestries to sleep in hopes of dreaming a means of raising the sun from its absence. I want a slum of slow flowers. I want the ghosts to show themselves so that we may hold them; become a nest in which they might rest. I’m so sick of all this pain. My body is a constant struggle. My body is a stolen artifact. My body is a gulf of dreaming. My body is the result of “globalism,” my body fated to suffer diaspora displacement dissociative disorder. My tongue is a refuge. My tongue is a foreign vessel. My tongue is a weapon. My tongue is an organ. My tongue is my song. I forgot I was supposed to stop writing to you, but it’s raining and the grey of sky reminded me of time and how we’re all bound to one another across the weaving of reality; the grey traced my sight back towards that day made night when you set the Maya’s language on fire with aims of erasure. It was July 12th 1562 when you decided Mani Yucatan was a proper pyre place for your auto-de-fé; it was then you stopped my ability to speak beautifully and while I hear the song in the night of my heart, I don’t know the words. My body is quiet. Stripped of its mother tongue, my body is compliant. My body searches for its organs in the rubble of its oppressor. My body sifts through the language, patching shards together until there is an echo of the song. The mother song. The first song. The beautiful song still sleeping in the blood of those who remain. The blood of those who remember. Remember there was once a song that sounded nothing like this continent. Remember there was a song that sounded like home. That is beautiful. That is still resting in our throats. I cut my hands in the body of my oppressor. I cut my tongue in search of the dust; that dead skin that recalls a life before this language. When I bleed I can see a portal, or mirror forming in the wound; I peer deeply into it until there is a vision. After the fire is a hole in the earth that reaches to 1562; its full of ink and I’m digging. I’m still digging I’m still digging I’m still digging I’m still digging I’m still
Don’t tell my mother if they kill me #3
Tell my mom I finally arrived,
I stopped being so damn angry
I stopped writing things down
I learned to remember another
time before suffering; tensile,
I cut my tongue up with words
Tell my mom I dipped on out early
let myself take myself somewhere
where I discovered feathers grown
in stones and crystals; tell her I
finally became a paleontologist.
She’ll know what that means,
and that’ll let her know I’m safe.
Tell my mom I managed my time
well enough to finally rest enough
to sleep; I’ll call her when I wake up
till then don’t worry, just raise the fam up
to the cosmos,
everybody on top.
Don’t tell my mother if they kill me #9
Give my mom the low down on who I used to be.
Go on and tell us about the bad time absent nights;
cold sweat convulsions & how dust of moon held me
down like handcuffs, always ready with a mumble,
rough and tumble, trouble always seemed to find me
down on my luck and hungry; I mostly remember hunger
I mostly rely on my anger to survive, that’s that fire,
the way I ache for existence, I fist fight ten days just to be;
I wax on side of magus and resist the fascist government,
grow hair long like a human to confuse the binary-ed enemy
amassing a pan-spirituality in that I agree with most ghosts
most demons won’t talk with me, and I’m fine with that.
I am just a telephone for talking through walls and trees.
The world is going to end before I ever stop writing to you. Diego, the problem is that we don’t want it enough; it’s that it doesn’t matter enough anymore to make sense. The trouble is that we’re a global antibody attacking life as a disease. The trouble is that Spain still has the only surviving documents from your little campfire. The problem is that there’s no one that sees this as a problem. We’re still just acting like Spain didn’t commit cultural and literal genocide on indigenous peoples of the Americas. We’re still acting like conquest was fun and games and colonialism was the best thing to happen since shitting indoors. Idk when that took place really, it just sounded right; that sounds kind of like your reasoning/logic when devastating a people. Assess the other as other and reflex with obliteration. Devise a mediated response of self criticism and shame, this is your fault after all. That’s what colonialism taught us. Not only were we damned from the start, we chose this life. Thankfully the Spanish came to tell us how bad we should have been feeling for their eternity, unbeknownst to them, we’d had several spiraled eternities and theirs was simply one of many in which we found ourselves. But their tongues couldn’t bend that way. Instead they’d thistle out a thhhhh that sounded less like our x and dz and other such sounds I won’t tease you with now. You were a pound of agate when I found you, Diego. You were just ancient fire. You were fossilized in my marrow, I saw to the start of you, nothing left to hide when you’re dead, and I’m not too keen on hearing you out to tell the truth. I keep wresting with it: this tilt in my body. See I’m not Hispanic, not Indigenous, nor Xicanx, or American, but I feel something that must be similar to being alive. I lack a language to define myself because you mixed our blood and took our tongue. You developed my photograph with nothing more than accidental flame. Just a wisp of what was once two thousand years. You made me nothing but rocks. Nothing but sonic locational discovery site; vacation destination; wonder of the world. You made me nothing more but a keychain; headache; never-worn shirt; shot glass; piece of crap souvenir for others to store stories in.