C.N.P Poetry 

  • 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.

Reveal its

algae,

sand,

salt,

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

to constrain

the effects of steroids’

rage for a natural champion like you

who i find in a fair fight

with myself;


my tactics suck,

for the cheese i am swiss,

mildly nutty, defective gaping

opportunities:

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

into introspection

before you sit me down

at the sunset that dawns

on my beautiful and ambiguous body;


the trigger of the trap,

locks and loads,

fires—




 

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?


Isaac Salazar:

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?


CNP:

Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?


IS:

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.


CNP:

Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?


IS:

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

and Madness).


CNP:

Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get

you in the zone?


IS:

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.


CNP:

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?


IS:

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.


CNP:

Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?


IS:

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).


CNP:

What is your editing process like?


IS:

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

editing.


CNP:

When do you know that a poem is finished?


IS:

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

boldest.