Something brutal but beautiful

I have just finished reading Natalie Diaz’ first book, My Brother Was an Aztec. The poems are powerful, the imagery lush and unusual, but the subject matter–addiction, pain, the struggle with family and poverty–is told in unsparing detail. So I thought I’d start of 2020, a year that itself promises to be harsh, with one of her poems from the book:

The Beauty of a Busted Fruit

When we were children, we traced our knees,
shins, and elbows for the slightest hint of wound,
searched them for any sad red-blue scab marking us
both victim and survivor.

All this before we knew that some wounds can’t heal,
before we knew the jagged scars of Great-Grandmother’s
amputated legs, the way a rock can split a man’s head
open to its red syrup, like a watermelon, the way a brother
can pick at his skin for snakes and spiders only he can see.

Maybe you have grown out of yours—
maybe you no longer haul those wounds with you
onto every bus, through the side streets of a new town,
maybe you have never set the rocking in the lamplight
on a nightstand beside a stranger’s bed, carrying your hurts
like two cracked pomegranates, because you haven’t learned
to see the beauty of a busted fruit, the bright stain it will leave
on your lips, the way it will make people want to kiss you.

Natalie Diaz

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