Four Poems by Luis Montaño

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Walking South

Me, I’m going to walk south
and pace it so I get
to Tierra del Fuego in a hundred years.

I will kiss Sacajawea goodbye,
say hello to Mangas Coloradas,
read the lines on stern Geronimo’s face–
invite him to plant flowers at Sand Creek,
eat whole coffee beans, handfuls of flour
to remember Bosque Redondo.

Wearing my Chicano ghost shirt
I’ll walk in Cuahutemoc’s empty shoes
smuggling out the songs of Victor Jara,
about political body parts,
boxes of toes from runaways,
boxes of hands, jars of pickled
kidneys, and confiscated corneas,
eyes of witness, tongue of snitch,
ears of more,
and skulls of the rest.

Kindly, he’ll see me out the south causeway
on the way to Xochicalco,
on the way to Monte Alban,
on the way to La Venta,
on the way to Usumacinta’s
mass graves in the jungle.



In America

In America, food is a shrimp without a head,
manicured tidbits, colored balloons and tap water.

In America hunger is a petroglyph quail
that ran through the mind of an artist.

In America hunger is at noon, with white
sheets on the clothesline, my mother
and Patti Page singing Mockingbird Hill.

In America the hottest spot under the sun
is a beet field with Rainbow Bread,
a can with four sardines and cuatro compañeros.

Hunger is the klinkity klink of the fork with
a speared chunk of tortilla, round and
round the bottom of the peanut butter jar.

In America it was Quail Girl’s sisters
in the year one thousand who
gave us the original cooking show,
ground out a likeness of their womanhood,
bashing with a phallic pestle ’til the sandstone  
gave way, one grain per month.

In America, he stole whole steers, but
it was a midnight snack
that felled Billy the Kid.



Mi Tierra

What would I give you my tierra
to watch you sweep
the hair from your morning face
standing paralyzed
tight in the golden aperture
of your iris.

What would I give you
under the New Mexican sun
to nap on the moss side of canyons,
lie on life, quietly enduring,
awaiting the next great catastrophe.

She laughs at me
who never strayed
beyond the rim of God’s
blue inverted bowl.

She says I go like a worried Spaniard
approaching the edge of the world.
My mother’s voice asks if I’m afraid of America;
keeping my place
with stakes on boundless prairies.

The crone’s kiss that comes from the lichen
tells me Mother Earth loves me
even as she grinds my bones with her gravity.

Now, ice that cracks away from her face
reveals the map of where we buried our troubles.
They come up suddenly, embarrass us,
like Loren Eisley’s dandelions
with the same purpose as the space shuttle
Surviving the napalm or re-entry.

Are these the flowers that make me dream?
Is my task to show we suffered here?



It Took a Day to Get to Anton Chico

My brothers and sisters send me pictures of food.
We trade pictures of creciente and giant pumpkins.
I still have the tough old negatives from
when it took a day’s ride to Anton Chico.

That black bridge was already old when my uncles
stood me like a bowling pin in those hay fields.
Old when the Brownie Box with a five cent lens brought
a million squinting kids into focus.

It used to take a day and two horses pulling
through the scent of ox eyes, cockle burrs and horse breath,
to get to Anton Chico. That’s what they got
for iron tires and draft animals.
They still carried Coronado’s 500 year old phobia,
riding onto the face of that vast, blank negative:
believing in the saints, half looking for old markers.

Over by the church cornerstone, someone’s
chapped lips and deeply calloused hands,
in one tobacco breath praise the abundance and long hours,
of times when men cut a thousand fence posts a day,
thankful they could pull at the brittle earth for lajas,
the local stone, then lay spent
like the blackened brass of buffalo guns.




Luis Montaño was raised in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. He attended Highlands University and Washington State University, where he received his master of fine arts degree in ceramics and jewelry design. He lives in Spokane, Washington, with his wife, Sandy, and two wiener dogs, Bullit and Frankie. These poems are from his first book, The Long Place, forthcoming from Ocote Press.

Photo of silhouetted Spanish mission bells courtesy Shutterstock.

Terrain.org is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.