From the Portugese
Across the great breasts of the desert the horses gallop.
Where are they going?
They go to worship at Delphi - the sun comes round.
The nervous horses make no sacrifice along the crying river.
Following their teeth and strongly embracing a death that returns from
Outside, leaving messages they come like exploring
Triggered, they run between the population, the abandoned chief's
The last horses release the river between the envies.
And beat the lasting earth with relentless cadences.
Look - the rest of one ancient race of man's companion.
Then the villains substitute the horses' breasts with machines.
It is lost again - the abysmal history.
The impatient horses running to the river, to the curve of the horizon
Desperately claiming no man.
Little Olivia Rose seven hours old
has her eyes shut to the flash of the camera.
The strain of fighting her way out to
this world shows on her face. Under hospital
lights her skin is tawny like that of the
onion placed on my mother's kitchen table
next to the refrigerator upon which the
magnet-fastened picture of Olivia Rose
hangs. It is the sort of onion that is seldom found_
symmetrical, spherical_that are
photographed, too, for cookbooks, supermarket
fliers. It bears no black spots or bruises,
isn't oblong or lopsided. Olivia
has been lucky, too. Her head in the picture,
which is the same size as the onion, lacks
dents. Her entrance did not leave her soft
skull coned or flattened in the back. She
is a fortunate human being, one who will
be genuinely cooed over early in life. Maybe
she'll be disappointed in her teen years, but
at least she'll have a good start. This onion
and the Buddha-like countenance of Olivia
Rose, small eyes shut gently, accepting of
her fate being born human, seem destined to have been
paired in my mother's kitchen. The onion's
base is reminiscent of the place where Olivia's
small head, weighing the same, meets her new,
flexible spine. Its sturdiness warns of
Olivia's fragility and the curled, burnished yellow
stem atop, like raffia to the touch, mirrors the
curl of her pixie hair. The onion asks me to draw it
eyes, mouth, nose, to fasten it to infant's clothes filled
with lettuce leaves and dried grass, to swaddle it
on the counter. But I deny it, and in an act of
violence beneath Olivia's framed face, I cleave it
in half with a knife too dull that takes too long and
it's like divulging the best kept secret of a
friend. The onion lies halved and dead still wearing
its skin, stinging my eyes with accusation and I
realize that I betrayed this bulb on the
Saturday between Good Friday and Easter
Sunday. But I don't have Judas' desperate will
to return the thirty pieces of silver and retreat to
the basement to hang myself. I will put it
in the Easter pie mixed with egg, cheese,
and pepperoni _the poor man's quiche that
repels children. It is a far cry from Olivia's
menu of breast milk and later, mashed
bananas. Nothing here _not the onion _bears the scent
of bringing up baby. If anything, it smells of frightening
infant illnesses stealing away parents' sanities and
sleep. To bite the onion is the fact that Olivia Rose is not mine.
I cry with its free sweetness as the juice releases
between my teeth only to be followed by the
bitter acidity of envy. The evidence remains
on my palate. If Olivia were mine, I'd keep the
onion whole, dress it in finery to be Cinderella's
coach or the Wizard's crystal ball. Instead,
here it lies divided, its heart split and
empty like my mother's arms awaiting
a first grandchild.
Christine Luberto is currently an MFA candidate in the creative writing program at the New School. In 1997 Christine was awarded the Fourteenth Annual Wildwood Prize in Poetry.