Cathexis Northwest Press
incisivus for a seed; watching the orionids atop a finca ruin; of great men
By: Isaac Salazar
incisivus for a seed
ever hear of a man’s siren call?
in the fields of yellow embrace,
petal works and such,
touched by a he who comes with wicker baskets
to a poke and prod, an examination of nakedness;
to crack a sunflower seed he needs a good mouth,
he needs a good mouth that purples necks with those perfectly white human teeth, sucking
the sweet concord from the maw of sticky sap and bristle broaches
awww full (yet?)
feeling for an aim away into
a bitter inside, multiple insides, pockets of rancid fun fed by the tropical heat of the moment
see -- the wet and the disease too
look -- trek a weevil larva, a pebble pet
munching down on my cypsela heart
capable of such delicate hurt.
Huh, the seed was never strong enough to begin with;
carnassial dentition, he starts to munch harder than the weevil,
a process that usually involves cream-colored suits and numb limbs
in order to extract
his wrist the perfect cant
he trudges on valiantly with a bag of lust tools, lecherous like leeches.
but his soft flesh body isn’t here for the long run;
it’s unsupportable in a world that requires a shell;
and so he is a cruel,
i am fortified
with weevils they are harmless, you the scary carnivore; it’s my subterfuge
in penetrating times of tongue
watching the orionids atop a finca ruin
who am i after all
i want to ask the blistering tail of halley’s comet
decayed shards gliding loudly
above us all
,firing up that ocular space to the sides of me
,that hard to reach periphery.
assemblage of mind and matter,
notch on the spine of time
that cannot be regained.
there, the sky is a landfill,
illuminated piles of plasma;
look, underbelly of meaning;
see, and thoughts;
one, our uncomplicated blips;
two, stardust that shoots across the night;
see, revealed by a new month;
but these are not feelings. none of this is real.
geese spear the sky and rubber cries of determination
aching out their calls like first breaths,
eager to be somewhere.
we all lurk just for tonight,
hidden from our predators,
digging stiffly into a bag of chips,
testing our eyes for sensitivity,
muscles flexing in the growing cold -- sepulchritude.
in a place i want always to see you
from a box i pried open with a pocket knife.
you spilled out like powdered milk,
your memories were everywhere;
in the rainbow
in the double rainbow
in the hermit crab’s slow ascent, in each crag.
your hair mixing with the tidal pools
your nails foaming at the surf
your mouth a small break in the sky for one crooked cloud
your skin a tacky wind that pressed
i was almost taken by a wave so large that it seemed planned
a last chance to join you, gripping the back of my neck with its cold hand
from beneath the surface of sea light, of May,
which has been your vigilance.
your beautiful grave is a trap that wants you dead and me alive.
It forces us to just be human.
all that gets caught stops to be surrounded and transformed by wall and wind. eternal and
ubiquitous. in some perfect combination. but i am stubborn, bullying the questions i hope will
disintegrate quickly, quietly, so i don’t have to hear the crushing of their stupefied bones. no one
else knows this stretch of memory. like a stomach lining vulnerable and devoid of nutrient. that
you were once a child who didn’t want to be alone, to beg for what would keep him alive. the
streets you ambled down barefoot and dripping filthy sweat are marked now by cookie cutter
units, fast-food chains, and supermarkets. gone is the abundance of shacks lined with brightly
nectared fruits and the canopy of steam from oversized scalded pots of ocher spiced rice and
stew. and the doña with the presents of the sea who took pity on your stunted bones and said
come here have a little something to eat. but i am there, and I can see from here in this
picturesque vault: collagen spreading into that thin broth that tips me back and keeps me full.
of great men
put Steinbeck in his place
on the bookshelf.
you said in puffs of smoke like
a brown popeye who gulps a fond,
healthy green cilantro & nopales,
flexing your triceps
in the mirror rot ugly black,
maintaining the autobiography
of your greatest self;
because great men
don’t write books
but go to the gym,
a makeshift gallinero,
stirring crimp wire grille
the effects of steroids’
rage for a natural champion like you
who i find in a fair fight
my tactics suck,
for the cheese i am swiss,
mildly nutty, defective gaping
i cannot beat you
to the punch,
i cannot stamp your toes.
you’re too quick
in those athletic shorts
that bulge thighs
and blue boxing gloves,
hammering your hands down with gusto;
you say to work on my recovery
because i am punch-drunk,
constantly jerking my head,
till my feet come off
the sticky pads,
bare blood soles,
riding with the punches,
choking you with the towel
and bulging your eyes
before you sit me down
at the sunset that dawns
on my beautiful and ambiguous body;
the trigger of the trap,
locks and loads,
Isaac Salazar (he/him) is a queer xicano with proud Michoacán roots. Originally from Texas, he studies English at Cornell University. While conducting research on ideological constructions of landscape in Mexican American literature, Isaac serves as the Editor-in-Chief for the Cornell Book Review. He is a neophyte armadillo poet that enjoys the practice of hermitude, playing the mellophone, running, and [re]watching rom-coms.
Interview with the Poet:
Cathexis Northwest Press:
How long have you been writing poetry?
I’ve been writing poetry since high school. In retrospect, however, I didn’t take it seriously. I
didn’t start to take it seriously until I enrolled in an introduction to creative writing class at the
start of my junior year in college. Ever since then poetry has been, and always felt like, my first
love. What chance did I stand against kismet?
Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?
I vividly remember reading Robert Frost in the eighth grade. It was “Fire and Ice,” nine lines of a
packed punch. My peers and I were deeply contentious about the eschatological predictions the
poem had to offer. It was the aftermath of 2012. We were pretty delirious heathens.
Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?
That is hard to say since my favorite poets change monthly. My favorite poets right now include
Natalie Diaz (Postcolonial Love Poem, specifically “It Was the Animals"), Alfredo Aguilar
(literally anything, but right now I’m still gnawing on “On This Side of the Desert”), Anthony
Cody (Borderland Apocrypha), Tomás Q. Morín (Machete), Gabriel Ojeda-Sagué (Losing Miami
Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get
you in the zone?
My writing process is erratic. Most of my ideas come out of the blue, so I almost always carry
my Moleskine. These ideas range from an epithet to a line or two. I usually base or title my
poems after these ideas rather than include them in the body of the poem. Once I get home, it is
at a desk where I insert my headphones and listen to reverb songs in order to fully tune in to my
craft. Somehow it always ends up being the Twilight New Moon soundtrack. I proudly blame
Lykke Li and Bon Iver.
How do you decide the form for your poems? Do you start writing with a form in mind, or
do you let the poem tell you what it will look like as you go?
Before poetry, I was writing prose. Some of that essay form takes shape in my poetry, so I
purposely try to mess with the form for the sake of newness, for the sake of sounding less
“aesthetically dense.” However, I have been getting into the poetics of breathing. Breath’s
punctuations, cessations, inhalations, exhalations. There is something about the poetic breath
leaving a temporal-bodily marker that I always resonate with. Here, I let the poem have an
agency of its own. Me, well, I’m just a guest facilitating the process.
Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?
Read and write a lot. It's easier said than done, but both will do you wicked favors in the long
run. Also, read what makes you uncomfortable (whether in content or form).
What is your editing process like?
After I finish a poem, I usually take a day or two away from it. When I do come back to it I read
it out loud, tweak the minor faults, and read it out loud again. That’s kind of all there is to my
When do you know that a poem is finished?
I never know. My poems are never rigid. As much as I would like to think my poems (my
babies) are fully developed, they always have more growing to do before they can bloom their