Origin Story

Smoke-thin memories penciled fast as you can while your mother breathes ghosts from the end of a line you can feel cannot touch the words on the paper reaching like seeds seeking like roots for who you are who she was and why you left your left ear goes numb to the sudden silence the celestial static the pyrite dust the wings in amber frozen in false light the distance between you bare on the page.


Lock half-buried in the Galisteo plains where the Navajos fought the Spanish and Anglos who also fought the Spanish and Anglos you straddle the line of history’s front line while you and your mother trace her grandfather’s tracks through the snake weed thorns to a ruin of stone and yellow-stained wind the barbed wire whistling through sun-edged teeth the no trespassing sign with its shotgun stare you dip both hands into puddles of rust to see your reflection ripple generations deep when a keyhole appears draining sand through its eye the door it once opened long ago lost.


Mishmash of words all running together on hands and knees tumbling down the acequia on the way home from school the Chicano boys chase the Anglo boys chase the Coyoté in the crosshairs if he can only maintain his run-on momentum he could speak over his shoulder what he can’t say outright a slanted truth a kind of redemption an indirect direction feinting circling doubling back to use the confusion to remain unseen he looks one way while heading another lost in translation his secret shelter while no one is watching he slips beneath the bridge of a hyphen.


In frames on shelves on tabletop shrines the hand-carved sorrow the hand-painted belief the puddles of fire the platters of eyes the red dripping thorns from your mother’s white walls pulling you back one bead at a time to the glow-in-the-dark rosary beneath the covers of your bed cupping your hands so tight it hurts yet the green still fades so you speak to the cross the one prayer you know still the darkness spreads you don’t know the words you can’t find his face so you squint to summon you memory’s emulsion but there is no burn there is no impression you begin to cry to convince yourself the ember was real the flame in the seed was yours to hold.


R’s you roll like fists of dice hollowed of meaning but strategically weighted with just enough tildas to come up sevens and scoop up the pot and run down the alley before the switchblade questions flash street lamp bright and the footfalls follow the holes in your story to the safe in your closet you thought you kept safe but left open a crack with the combination spinning for the whole world to read.


Said as a slur slurred over the phone by a man who had read a column you wrote in the afternoon paper about North Valley green chile and tortillas and beans salted with Spanish the way you were raised but the words did not match your photo in the paper your name in the paper your skin in the paper so he called to inform you what New Mexicans call a mutt mongrel mix on the edge of the village gathering up scraps and sneaking through fences and slipping through spaces of in-between spaces here’s what you are you’re a coyoté he said a coyoté he said that’s what you are a coyoté he said and the third time he said it it stuck like the fur in a barbed wire scar in the teeth of the scar so yes you said that is me.


Black labyrinth scoring on Zuni silver bands just pieces of home you tell people who ask but they might as well be shackles of mirror polished bright as the heat rising up through arroyos and asphalt roads and headstone roses nourished with visions of acequia tracks across both wrists if you could only read the language of edges you could find your way back from one place to another one job to the next and when you trace the maze you can almost feel the jeweler’s hammer the sawblade teeth the bright blue flame melting grains into a whole that’s what matters that’s what you believe beneath the surface the shimmer is real.

Harrison Candelaria Fletcher is the author of Descanso For My Father and Presentimiento: A Life in Dreams. He teaches at Colorado State University and Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Artwork by Dev Murphy