Kim Lagunas

The choir renders hosannas of seashores

and crashing surf, hoping

the Ocean will talk back. Fishers of men

throw nets over the worshipers’ heads,

try capturing a devotion paid for

in blood. For now, though, the folding

and bending of palm leaves into crucifixions 

will suffice. Washingtonia robusta, or

Mexican fan palm: a tree that’s known

the Valley for as long as our abuelos

and bisabuelos have. In the screeching

pew, I look to my family,

watch them make a dead man’s prophecy

out of a living thing’s crown

and I pray for His return, and saltwater,

and the knowledge needed for palm folding.

Today, my uncle makes my cross,

but I am not gentle enough

with it, and so I unravel Calvary

as the choir’s music rises, exploding

into exultant Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

I join with them in song,

sending my voice in search of clouds

deep enough to hold my shame,

that which is most Catholic in me.

My family and I hold washingtonia robusta 

leaves to our chests while we pray,

make Mexican fan palm a talisman 

for the dispossessed. Their leaves

rising and curling ‘round the open air, bathing 

in the blueness of the sky. Not natural, 

but naturalized, making away 

with the misnomer of citizenship.

I cannot tell my beloveds that I feel

my skin being pulled tight

over my skull, diaphanous as it hangs

from my cheekbones like curtains

doing a piss-poor job of hiding 

a writhing tongue. There, in a twisted bed,

I ask Jesus, my Jesus, to please take

the thoughts away, and the Spirit moves,

bends my arms and fingers crooked.