Maps for Migrants and Ghosts

“…Ask me where I’m from, &…/I may point at the dirt
as if it were the embodiment of all things.”
~ James A.H. White, “[Im]Migratory Patterns”

Are there little fish swimming in jars of brine
in the cupboard, are there pickled moons and stars,

curtains of smoke after a fireworks festival
when dancers ripple into the streets to show off

their ink? In that other world, we wait for tinny
bell-chime and scrape of foot pedal, the call

of the scissors-grinder widening through sleepy
towns. Oh pity you poor collectors of blunt

throwaway instruments. A procession of penitents
inches toward the river, the expert thwack of bamboo

whips calling forth the blood. There are questions
that should never be answered with further whys

or hows. Like a star, at the heart of every place
a central note is buried: say anise, say achuete oil,

say hair singed off the belly of a squealing pig.
Heat rising from the heads of schoolchildren

at three in the afternoon, yeasty like bread.
The stronger the scent, the better. Even the gods

and ancestors know they thrive better in certain
places. They don’t like filling out forms or

having to justify their ritual preferences. They
don’t understand the need for gendered pronouns.

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