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The Many Deaths of Inocencio Rodriguez III

ISSUE:  Spring 2018

Walking into the smell of old wounds, something about my grandmother’s
bedroom always kept me from there—the perfume
once animal golden now rancid & dark as whiskey. Lace-
medallioned, doilies marking time turned to loss
turned back into time, a web for patron saints. If you ask her,
one saved her life: When she was still Mexico’s
girl, she was in charge of fire—one night, she let the warmth
rock her to bed, forgot to snuff it out. The Holy Child
with brimmed hat & plume appeared to her, walked barefoot upon
the coals in order to solve an equation 
about faith. The house didn’t burn down that night.
Fire followed her everywhere.
A mesquite that kept watch over gold coins, on fire.
On fire, prayer in the palm of her hand,
an exhausted, red eye. When Kristen & I would venture to the back
of the house, into Grandma’s room, we saw that eye
looking back at us, perfecting our sheepishness,
imprints of guilt all over our bodies like hickeys. We swore we saw him 
glaring at us through the blinds, along with the metal roof across
the street, our founder of crisis & consumption. To him, I owe
everything, especially my mother, whose sadness
like the moon’s gradient moans I’ve proudly inherited. We were thieved
by anonymity—I knew him through only one photo,
a monochrome wedding portrait so faint it looked stenciled, so alive 
the albumen silver threatened disaster. It always predicted
the future, didn’t it? Inocencio & Isabel, he was as young 
as a punch—she, in shivers of white fabric pooling around her feet.
He never haunted me as much as that picture did
because it was an insistent threat of fire, the skunk fire
of childbirth, the flammable night cap, little purple flames of bruise.
The lit candle, novena for come back, come back, come back.
Womanhood, an education in waiting, as he 
chased his bachelor apparition until he discovered death
was even more reckless. I write to you tonight, grandfather, Inocencio,
in hopes that if I say your name enough, it might 
be the truth. That your life isn’t an old pile of femurs
glued together. That you were luminous despite your wartime.
That the inverse of collapsing is the earth repeating
God through its Richter. I’ve found you again in the void,
bludgeoned with flowers your memory, larger
& endless like a cloud’s exit.



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