Two Poems by Rio Cortez

To Salt Lake, Letter Regarding Genealogy

after Charles Olson

No shore no shore      backed against a paradox of water      where snow
halts in valleys & we drink
what melts, I, risen from one break      in the endless
salt flat.      I have had to build. O! how I have built for you!
See how I have come, Salt Lake, with my thousand faces of the void!
My face night with no stars,      my face waves
in night sea.      I was born to work.
My mother, crow-headed goddess, called me dust & trusted
I’d become.      I changed for you! I became
a quarry in Big Cottonwood. Later, I was born
in uniform & carried a pickax in my throat.
I stole the mountain’s sandstone & it wasn’t good enough
so I took its quartz instead & told you      “pray by it”. I,
Guard-thing of the White city.      How would you pray without me!
I was born with a sore head from a perm      & swaddled in pages
from The Good Book.         I was a decoy.
I pretended not to know my many names.
I did the work of believing with you.
I was born on swamp property    the woman who bore me was an animal.
We were both animals, then.
I covered your wagon w canvas & I found you


If I take up the bow

What should we kill

How will we disappear

Behind the Cypress

How will we

Convince them

We are not here

When we are here

What will we call mercy

Is it the arrow

To the bloodline

Do we keep

Their names

Or do we give

Them our names

Amor Fati

“I am trying to understand. I have washed / clean the canopy and set the knives in order.”

The Double Blind

“What is more intimate than a fist? / Than the champagne cork / pop / of cartilage and bone?”