If I forget you, Israel, let my right hand be severed with un machetazo. In the old world a chicken bone fell like rain — they say you can find them even here if you look hard enough. When the man comes we fill our chests with rain. Dirt, too, smells like rain before the reaping. The cartography of loss is condensed milk on a tile floor sticking in the grout and it is entirely too hot here, but when our uncle tried to leave the valley of a hundred fires they put him in the prison sí, la cárcel, and if Andy García can’t convince you as much then let me tell you what!

There was a road there not too far from Alabama where in the brush were the letters of Paul written in sweet black juice. I plucked the berries from Paul’s field thinking yes I might die here but at least I will bear the stain of good on my fingers, if only the angel of death would look back from Montgomery and sigh on me before dinner.

Later I poured dad’s whiskey in paper cups on the dirt and cupped the earth in my palms. For a moment it was the earth and not the clouds moving, an island of water like salt eroding borders and moving further from me. I shoved fistfuls of cotton in my mouth so I could be an ageless woman too like the earth rooted in blue water and the wind’s reverberation from Galilee to Islamorada to Cienfuegos, so I would have time, you see.

You once said that words were the red clay in August growing upward in wisps when the earth opened its mouth and yawned. You could crack an egg over Jerusalem and it would burn. The mirage was the thing, only it was outside of you, and I walked with the Gentiles in their Birkenstocks and where were you?

When the man came we wept into the dust at the rotten fruit all eaten by flies, we all in white before the head of the offering, uncalved, in the burning valley below.