(after Amy Cropper’s Inverse, painted ash and hawthorn, 2011, Lyndon Sculpture Garden, Milwaukee, WI, and Ana Mendieta’s Body Tracks,paintings, 1982)
Cropper stripped the Hawthorne of her skin, excised arms, painted war on her flayed torso until she blazed--a squat flame igniting weeds, yellow leaves, even the snow mounting her lap. All year long, naked boughs glistened like a flock of bloody wings.
But when May pushes green through cracked lips, blossoms from a torch of lacquered limbs, I wait for Ana Mendieta to step out of the knotted wood, trunk simmering, arms raised in the V of free- fall to our knees, broken stems regenerating.
Spiral Unwound from the Inside Out
(after María Magdalena Campos de Pons’ Constellation, instant color prints,2004)
When she whirls against time, Anansi climbs her thatch to the sky, traps crow talk in his weave.
Snagged twists, tangled kinks grow their own feet, arms and legs akimbo.
Her crown of serpents uncoiling, questions stretch across pink sand,
snap back to lasso twigs, rinds, straw binds her nest-- a home fleeting as dream.
Black egg waits in a branch to hatch--feed and fly or starve, fall into open mouths.
Braids scream like sprung whips, barbed wire, frayed ropes flung and dangling
J-hooks, bound loops swung. Whose eyes appear in clouds floating on the skin of water?
River runs low, step its stones. Follow the trail inked thick as a runaway dreadlock.
You may carry this knot as blood clot or embryo. Either way, she’ll break free.
Come close: hive vibrating with sweet bees, mesh ofthorns,cyclone.
Loaded ship lost in the curl of whitecaps, crew hurls its cargo into a howling sea.
Yemayá’s winds lift you from the waves by your tresses, aerial roots rising in a lilac sky
until they sever the snarl at its neck. Hang its gnarled head like a peach pit, a talisman.
One day you’ll tie the banks of re- member together. She’s tossed you the cord. Hold tight.
Fading sun, island afloat in a milky sea. She releases her mother’s hand, drifts away.
You keep, secret as dark stars or distant planets re- turning again to their origin.
(after Roy Staab’s July 2012 installation on Little Lake, Lynden Sculpture Garden, Milwaukee, WI)
Buckthorn saplings curve into hoops, linking boughs. Ring around the rosy.
Four staked crowns etch surface. Barbed shiver. Pocket full of hands.
What do you net in the intersect when you walk on water?
A forest, my haunted face crowing, cumulous algae? Our ashes, child slim as a reed?
Where does a lemniscate drift, chiral twin wander when the sun falls down?
Down falls sun wander in chiral drift scate where reed child our cumulous crowing haunt my forest.
Walk you intersect Do what?
Full pock barbed face etch own ake
rosy round ing ink oops pling.
-- Brenda Cárdenas is the author of Boomerang (Bilingual Review Press, 2009) and the chapbooks Bread of the Earth/The Last Colors with Roberto Harrison (2011) and From the Tongues of Brick and Stone (2005). She also coedited Between the Heart and the Land: Latina Poets in the Midwest (2001). Cárdenas’ poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry, Latina/o Poetics, The Golden Shovel Anthology, City Creatures: Animal Encounters in the Chicago Wilderness, Angels of the Americlypse: New Latino/a Writing, The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry, Pilgrimage, The City Visible: Chicago Poetry for the New Century, and RATTLE, among others. Cárdenas served as the Milwaukee Poet Laureate from 2010-2012, and in 2014, the Library of Congress recorded a reading of her work for their Spotlight on U. S. Hispanic Writers. She is an Associate Professor in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.