A Mexica woman, her talons fluid
like snakes, seduced my lover to her
side, smooth as liquid, side a slab of flesh
that would fire up any man’s
nocturnal desires. She wore a translucent tunic
as yellow as maize, with blood-
red squares along the hem, and feathers hung
from her ears, swung like her serpent god Quezacoatl.
She left hazy Tenochtitlán like her ancestors
left Aztlán and searched for a snake
on a nopal, searched for her Lake
Texcoco, but all she found when she swam
the Rio Grande was a grackle
on the roof of my house.
She followed those iridescent feathers and spotted
my lover mowing our front lawn, the grass
we knelt and planted,
blade by Saint Agustin blade.
I fried corn shells
in the kitchen, she sensed life
growing in my womb
and knew that my lover would listen to her,
give her a temporary home. That night,
they made love while I slept
beside them. I heard her moans, her cries for her lost
child—a daughter who longs to be found on the other side, a side
she won’t cross. I dreamt she pressed her lips on
and he became entangled
in a snare created from black locks
of her waist-length hair. He fell,
then slept, and she skipped
her talons along my skin:
my son kicked at her touch—I jerked
at her longing, unshed
tears, and unused love.
She left before sunrise. I woke to her song,
rose, sought her from the window.
Caressing her stomach, the Cihuateotl turned
and smiled. She was the ghost
of motherhood, the ghost of sorrows
it could bring,
but there, in the morning sun,
she was a lost wife who knew
as much about death
as I did about life.