In This Desert

I’m always finding grit between
my teeth. The smallest pebbles upswept

into languid tongue. The desert is so close—tiny
granules make bright constellations—such sharp

light. But then you enter and sweep away the mountains
of miniscule. Survivalists say you should suck

on a pebble to stave off thirst. Even though
I wasn’t taught much, I know they learned it from

the old ones. I hide pebbles in the bed as a test, see
if you notice the way they badger flesh—I want you

to mouth them, back to me, remind me that I’m 78%
water and even the desert sometimes rains. Your fingers

lightly hum song on my brown thighs. I feel soft
about what your almost white hands find there,

want to welcome you in, but instead I wonder if I can
love someone who can never know what I’ve lost.

What I really want to ask is: Can I love after that blood
stain I sometimes rub raw? I’m always trying to get at

that hurt. Instead I ask if you can taste my bitter, and watch
your face for signs of puckering. Will you grow tired of my sour?

The way I serve melancholy for dinner. I’m always inviting ghost
guests to the table; I ask you to set a plate for Brother, another

for Uncle and Grandfather, make way for the family
tree, so I can dig a hole in the living

room and plant a nopal, let you find the thorns, as we wait—
for it to fruit, so there might be a little sweetness as we bite history.

CASANDRA LOPEZ is a Chicana, Cahuilla, Luiseño and Tongva writer raised in Southern California who currently lives in Seattle. She has an MFA from the University of New Mexico and has been selected for residencies with the Santa Fe Art Institute as well as the School of Advanced Research, where she was the Indigenous writer-in-residence for 2013. Winner of the 2013 Native Writers Chapbook Award from the Sequoyah National Research Center, her work can be found in various literary journals. She is a CantoMundo Fellow and a founding editor of As/Us: A Space For Women Of The World.