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a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

William Archila

My anger is a burnt match on a blanket of snow. My anger

resembles the songsmith shredding his songs. I don’t get it

why conquest is another word for foreign policy, why this

prism tongue, unbreakable & tethered, is a colonizer’s tongue.


How to decolonize leaf & limb? How to decolonize a ghost

who says everyone is dead? I’ve met some of the dead, & they

make me wanna holler every time they shake their maracas

composed entirely of decay. Decolonize my colonized TV set.


Decolonize my decrepit body & abandoned consciousness.

Decolonize this ghost who would love to tell you it all broke down

with four-legged beasts & flying infections. It was simple

a cluster of cells that took hold of the corn, & the grip tightened

in the carcass of a drum. Decolonize my bones. In this haggard look

decolonize me. I want to see everything from a bird’s eye view.

To the mother holding a portrait of her daughter.

To the toothless, to the sexless. You knobs of a stump.

To the mothers of the imprisoned, the disappeared

& the murdered. You, Niña Juana. You, Doña Concha,

you old hag standing by the road in a burst of light.

You who live with so many candles. What is it

about the creases in your mouth, when it rains quietly

they come alive. You where everything’s a rag, head rag

soaked with rage & the disheveled apron of your mind.

When the light singles you out I get tongue tied. I get

you, you spit & tongue. You who sucked cleaned

the mud off your son. You first to put out the light.

You first person to bury your husband. You withered

bride. You cauldron. You drum. You first may come.

Cipitio, don’t you know the rain still falls in black & white

& every shade of gray in between is brushed aside?


People say I’m too pessimistic, too dark, too unlikely

to succeed, but I’ve seen a blade of grass turn blue


in winter & snowballs defrost into muck in California.

I know I’m impatient. An etherized patient, but what is


so wrong with failure. What doesn’t fall, can’t get back up.

The rivers are still running & only the nations have passed.


Cipitio, does it matter if you’re here to hear a tree fall?

A tree is still a tree which falls when falling is all it has.


Because a law was passed, the light of cracking has begun

to change its tense to fallen & there are so many birds.


Even though its height can be taken, it’s so sad, so small what

the weight carries when it has been faithful, steady & immeasurable.


William Archila is the author of The Art of Exile, International Latino Book Award, and The Gravedigger’s Archaeology, Letras Latinas/Red Hen Poetry Prize. He has been published in American Poetry Review, AGNl, Conjunctions, Colorado Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Missouri Review, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Magazine, and the anthologies The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNext, Theatre Under My Skin: Contemporary Salvadoran Poetry, and The Wandering Song: Central American Writing in the US. He lives in Los Angeles, on Tongva land.

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