La Bestia & other poems
By Sammie Clifford.
in the late 1800s the United States built the railroad to connect the north of America to the south. These refrigerated cars brought cold cattle from southern Mexico to the tip of the United States. Transportation of resources was the business—
leaving the south of Mexico like a swollen tongue pulled into an engorged dark mouth.
Is this Mrs. Cecelia Francisco Galvan?
It is you?
And these children ride the beast.
Slide notes under their parents’ doors
at twelve, thirteen, grab hold of giant smoking metal snakes that derail feet from legs
torsos from square heads.
The mother of Rosario, correct?
A young man enters.
“Is this the green building?” he asks.
“Si,” I say, “This is the center for migrants.”
My Spanish falters after midnight in Agua Prieta. Jordan steps in, seeing how the words have made me claustrophobic, I rub my arms.
“I am looking for my wife,” the boy says.
Birdboned, he looks like he could be fourteen and no more. He scratches his skin and huge flakes fall to the floor.
“How old is she?”
“Thirteen,” more flakes.
“Does the State know that you are married?”
He looks up at us, the circles under his eyes sharpening the blackness of the irises.
“We were married in a church.” Then, “She is pregnant.”
Look, the Mexican Consulate in Tucson has informed us that the DNA tests were positive.
“I am going back to go look for her,” he says.
“We can only give you bus tickets south.”
“No,” he says, “I will ride the train.”
They have stated that the body is Rosario.
Come from Guatemala
and feel it—
the suction of the train.
At first, the air is so thick with rain, lick skin just for the taste of it.
Even as far as Mexico City, the jungle slaps faces as the train passes through.
Then comes Sonora, Sasabe, and Douglas, Arizona, and the red
eczema of the lungs.
I would like to express to you both that given the state in which the body was found, it is not possible to view it.
To ride on the top of a train is to ride a cold river on your bare back—
the world splits open for you.
A blet begins as a bruise, a spot of softness. On a pear the skin yellows and grainy bumps appear, silent to the eye, discoverable only by thumb. These bumps on a yellowing spot of a green Bartlett pear tell a fruit connoisseur that the meat inside is at peak suppleness. Perfect for teeth to slide off of, releasing cloudy droplets of juice. This is decomposed enough. The blet of a man begins as the whites of his eye brown like burning sugar. Dark spots on a trembling hand indicate tiny perforations appearing on his liver. Squeeze it after a while and you’ll be able to tell that they have grown. The body replaced by separation. Rough, falling to pieces on your tongue. Sometimes fruits swell, but mostly they shrink. Eating away occurs and the crispness of the skin withers. What was once taut sags into growing spots of sweet disintegration. An explosion of the gut and a dissipation of body. By now you have taken the fruit out of the basket and placed it alone on the counter. When the belly button sticks out like a pregnant lady’s you have two weeks to live. Poke the pear with a fork and let the punctured skin exhale its fermented juice.
Desert scarcity transfigures any single straight path into a labyrinth. Impossible to discern if what came before is already ahead. Three central plants dominate the landscape: the wild waif with red flowers, the Saguaros, and the Creosote bush that litters the red earth and smells after rain. My friend from Tucson tells me that the smell reminds her of a giant earthen release— a sensual prayer of thanks for water. Roots that refuse life to all else.
by this time
a sweltering bus through lines of metal
vehicles crawling toward hotel rooms
filled with more men than can lie
down, simply sitting,
hands shaking mountain dew from cans
and finally a white van,
blank signs, noises in the trunk
drew us towards this:
forests of one armed
There is very little shade in the desert and all kinds of little creatures scuttle under the harsh-leafed bush. I pass by one of the plants to see a Banded Gila Monster curl, barely discovered, in the space below.
we can only walk for so long
fall into the cyan green
of Creosote’s king clone ring
plant our face in the colony—
an animal god that smells after rain,
governess of everything wet—
beg for the stolen water of eleven thousand years.
one day asleep under la gobernadora
and our body becomes one of the hypovolemic plants
smoldered into extinction
throughout the ages.
We reach the drop off point and I am up to my knees in black backpacks, muddy sweatshirts and heavy working boots. Someone hands me a camera, asks me to take a picture of her filling the sack, clearing the area. I find a child’s Yankee sweatshirt with a book inside, “Los Ninos de lo Cielo.”
Dan, leading the group, points over the hill towards a shallow wood of Creosotes, says, “Two weeks ago, that is where we found her.”
we may think we are the suncrowned roosters
but the flint of our every step
ignites and mummifies the cold cut pollos
like a newborn artifact—
undiscovered ringent species—
one lime green shoe
still left on.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A Denver native, Sammie Clifford is a recent graduate of Lake Forest College with a degree in Creative Writing. She currently lives in Austin, Texas.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, September 15th, 2013.