Natalie Diaz

I had the pleasure of meeting Natalie Diaz at Bread Loaf this summer. Such a beautiful one, she is.

Lean Out the Window and She Nods Off in Bed, the Needle Gently Rocking on the Bedside Table

While she sleeps, I paint
Valencia oranges across her skin,
seven times the color orange,
a bright tree glittering the limestone grotto of her clavicle—
heaving bonfires pulsing each pale limb
like Nero’s condemned heretics sparking along Via Appia.

A small stream of Prussian blue I’ve trickled
down her bicep. A fat red nasturtium
eddies her inner elbow.

Against her swollen palms,
I’ve brushed glowing halves of avocados
lamping like bell-hipped women in ecstasy.

A wounded Saint Teresa sketched to each breast.

Her navel is a charcoal bowl of figs,
all stem thick with sour milk and gowned
in taffeta the color of bruises.

This is to offer up with our flophouse prayers—

God created us with absence
in our hands, but we will not return that way.
Not now, when we are both so capable of growing full
on banquets embroidered by Lorca’s gypsy nun.

She sleeps, gone to the needle’s gentle rocking,
and I lean out the window, a Horus
drunk on my own scent
and midnight’s slow drip of stars.

She has always been more orchard than loved,
I, more bite than mouth.

So much is empty in this hour—
the spoon, still warm, lost in the sheets,
the candle’s yellow-white thorn of flame,
and night, open as autumn’s unfilled basket
as the locusts feast the field.

-Natalie Diaz

“I Lean Out the Window and She Nods Off in Bed, the Needle Gently Rocking on the Bedside Table” by Natalie Diaz, appears in When My Brother Was An Aztec (2012) and is used by permission of Copper Canyon Press. It also appeared in Narrative Magazine, Spring 2012.

Violence is painful, but it is also a beautiful and functioning part of our lives. It has to be. We don’t stop at violence—at least not in the world I live in—we begin over and over again out of it. This is one reason why the rituals and beliefs of the Aztecs lure me—they made light from violence, or found light despite violence, which doesn’t happen if you close your eyes.