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Because we cannot be together
we live in six notes of Vietnamese
where no one can understand
us except those who speak
in tongues and the language of birds

Because we cannot be together
we boil the roots of telephone cords torn
from the black soils of sleep
hold negatives up to the light
in houses where windows
are yellow eyes, our power
pirated from street lamps
and flooding gutters

So many years since that chopstick
click of yes, so many years I can count them
in illegal U.S. wars, pueblo feast days
wicks drowned in red wax

These are the ruined
scripts of what might
have been an ordinary life

These are the monuments

The right to remain

Breathing between the lines

Demetria Martinez


From Breathing Between the Lines, by Demetria Martinez. © 1997 Demetria Martinez. Reprinted by permission of the University of Arizona Press.