for Sheryl Maree Reily

Written by Ciona D. Rouse 



Don’t believe it      Don’t

believe that you can be

on the earth and not become

the ocean      that you don’t have to

completely obliterate

your core    that you can ignore

the undulating

desert in your belly

Don’t believe that you can

forget the cactus your fingers—

how they hold up the sky


Pull a mackerel from the mouth

of the Moana

with your bare hands

maybe             Split the spine

of a birch on Ester Dome

Honor its rings like veins

like the systems of blood

and breath that keep your body

beating warm               like the sacrifice

wood makes for you in winter

Sink your bottom

into Todos Santos beaches

thank the grit

of sand that clings to your flesh



Listen to the sounds, the glorious

noise of fishermen with their filthy

mouths, the seagulls squawking

thanksgiving for the guts the men

throw from their filthy hands

the same hands that labor and feed

their families their barrio, barely

scraping by             same hands

that touch the earth the ways we should

touch bodies when two becomes one:

daily        wanting            willing to

feel the stick and sweat

Connect                  See these men

Find their rough and tumble

as wonderful as the waves

See that they are the sea.


Remember you are, too.


I don’t pretend to know anything

about brave except that it’s what

it means to be the red salmon:

willing to be spilled open.

I simply find it intolerable to tolerate

injustice                I find it impossible

to build power on another’s possibilities

I find that art is the language

which helps me best

find these guts and bleed

them onto capital and cowardice

remind us that                we are


the dirt, the air, the branches reaching,

the crowing morning rooster, the chorus

of dogs barking at sunset              The seeds

that plant themselves around us

also grow palms, wild iris

& passion fruit in our souls          Hold

onto the motions and colors

of nature         Let them go deeply

into you           Let them roll their river

out of you        Let them live

Let them live    Let yourself

not destroy