by Alicia Mireles Christoff
Alicia Mireles Christoff is a Chicana writer and Associate Professor of English at Amherst College. She is author of Novel Relations: Victorian Fiction and British Psychoanalysis (Princeton University Press, 2019), and her poetry and essays have appeared in The Yale Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, Public Books, and elsewhere. She lives in Pittsfield, MA.
This poem was awarded the 2020 Peach Silver in Poetry by guest judge ALOK.
"poems like this remind me that this business of being alive is experimental. contradiction is the norm, not the exception. we are marbled and all over the place (yes), but that doesn’t mean we are confused, just that we are infinite. reading DESERT CHANGE is less a diamond glimmering in the sunlight, more… choking on a diamond, learning each facet the hard way. you read it once, then you read it again, and you are reading a different poem. because the objects, the scenes, the images, the feelings, they become different things when you allow them to stop social distancing and hang out together. or rather: we become a different thing once we remember that from most vantage points our organs do not have different names. teeming in this “poem” are so many micro poems. they insist on having their own part, like a rogue choir. and if you let them, at least for a second, you begin to look at the room around you, the world around you, with a different prescription. almost as if entropy, it is everything. poems like this teach us how to perceive the world anew."
1. Say you shift on your cot and I feel it. Say you desert cross and I buy a TV.
2. Say cactus cuts the sky. Say empty water jugs roll like tumbleweed. Say you see razor wire. Say you look into the face of the sun and I squint.
3. Say buds burst and do not open. Capture the violence of spring. Say superbloom and tourists flood the desert. Say you are dispossessed and I say: ughh I hate my landlord.
4. Say you are tear-gassed and love Disney. Say that makes me uncomfortable. Say I’m just sad that everyone loves white girls best. Say the photograph was taken the same year two countries got hot for a Mexica maid. Say Frozen was on sale at Walmart.
5. What happens to bones that don’t brine and pearl? What is the song of bone becomes bone. Say a carcass is silent and not a song at all. Say of thee I sing.
6. Let’s craft an island of plastic straws. Let’s make emergency blankets from the candy bar wrappers. Let’s write poems in palimpsest across steel slat contracts. Let’s do nothing.
7. Say I say I love you in the dark and I mean about it everyone.
8. Say I’m Chicana. Say I say mi gente and words call things into being. Say my accent is off. Say I can’t roll mis erres and my spells are ruined. Say you say oh say can you.
9. Say your fear. We will make you say your fear.
10. Say I toggle between Democracy Now and my fertility app. Say, get out and stay out. Say die. Say, I would never say that. Say never say die but know that everything you are saying and not saying you are saying die.