Spring 2016, Volume 20

Poetry by David Dominguez


—for my students

Breakfast, and I’m eating plain yogurt, figs from my garden, and honey.
            I’m sitting in a lawn chair on the backyard patio—

life is good, and the sunlight warming my lap and the pages
            of a book remind me of Tucson

and the subterranean apartment I rented alone and far from home.
            There was a sofa in front of my one window

where at noon the sun burned briefly on the cushions as starlings
            stirred in the trees with their admonishments.

Stepping back there now, I remember feeling hopeless after reading
            Lorca’s “Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías.”

I recall how I put the book on the coffee table and closed my eyes
            and saw blood glowing in my arteries.

In the leaves, the starlings went on with their disconnected chatter,
            and I said to myself, “I’ll never write anything like

‘And the bull alone with a high heart! At five o’clock in the afternoon.’”
            For three months, I didn’t write one word

but instead passed the days swimming in the public pool where,
            from my half-closed eyes, I watched light ride

the splashing water or resting on the surface when I floated, face down,
            sinking with fear: “What do I do now?” I asked.

Some nights, I filled my red truck with gas and drove west on the 19
            until my headlights flooded the desert, and when

the city was less than pinpoints of glitter, and when all I could hear
            was the whine of silence in my ears,

I parked alongside the highway, leaned against my pickup, and stared
            at stars so sure of themselves as they shone

that I believed they couldn’t help but give me something that would
            make me sit at my desk and write.

I felt directionless and wanted to walk out into the landscape,
            but I feared snakes and scorpions

hiding in the buckhorn and staghorn as I recalled my father’s words,
            “You’ll be lost forever on the far side of the moon”—

words that haunted me as I imagined slipping into lunar shadows
            that no human telescope would spot

as I wandered lost and ripped with nostalgia for the nights I read
            in used bookstores on Campbell—a time when

the future seemed so clear I smelled it in dirt that somebody
            rinsed from the sidewalk as I walked home.

Then, one night while sipping black coffee along the side of the 19,
            I remembered lying on the living room floor

as my father and I listened to Brahms’s “Lullaby,” which inspired me
            to practice “Away in a Manger” on my trumpet: 

“It’s a lullaby. Play it like that,” my father said as my sixth grade lips
            struggled to phrase notes that would

please a child under the beating stars, and remembering this,
            I looked up to the oblivious heavens

and tied words to images—Cassiopeia, Perseus, Cygnus, Pegasus—
            and let them sing clearly through my mind.


—Originally in Volume 8, Spring 2010


BIO: David Dominguez is the author of two poetry collections, Work Done Right (2003) and The Ghost of Caesar Chavez: Poems (2010). He teaches composition and poetry writing at Reedley College and is the co-founder and poetry editor of The Packinghouse Review (www.thepackinghousereview.com).