These days, the sun lingers an hour longer. And with the coronavirus vaccines reaching more people every day, there is the hope that this pandemic is waning. And so I want to remember the love poem. The politics of holding someone close. I won’t pretend that the distance of these past months has reminded me of prison cells. But it has made me thankful for a little tenderness. Natalie Diaz can be fiercely political, but, oh, my, can she also remind us to love. As she says in “Grief Work,” the final poem of “Postcolonial Love Poem,” “Why not now go toward the things I love?” Selected by Reginald Dwayne Betts
If I Should Come Upon Your House Lonely in the West Texas Desert
By Natalie Diaz
I will swing my lasso of headlights
across your front porch,
let it drop like a rope of knotted light
at your feet.
While I put the car in park,
you will tie and tighten the loop
of light around your waist —
and I will be there with the other end
wrapped three times
around my hips horned with loneliness.
Reel me in across the glow-throbbing sea
of greenthread, bluestem prickly poppy,
the white inflorescence of yucca bells,
up the dust-lit stairs into your arms.
If you say to me, This is not your new house
but I am your new home,
I will enter the door of your throat,
hang my last lariat in the hallway,
build my altar of best books on your bedside table,
turn the lamp on and off, on and off, on and off.
I will lie down in you.
Eat my meals at the red table of your heart.
Each steaming bowl will be, Just right.
I will eat it all up,
break all your chairs to pieces.
If I try running off into the deep-purpling scrub brush,
you will remind me,
There is nowhere to go if you are already here,
and pat your hand on your lap lighted
by the topazion lux of the moon through the window,
say, Here, Love, sit here — when I do,
I will say, And here I still am.
Until then, Where are you? What is your address?
I am hurting. I am riding the night
on a full tank of gas and my headlights
are reaching out for something.
Illustration by R.O. Blechman
Reginald Dwayne Betts is a poet and lawyer. He created the Million Book Project, an initiative to curate microlibraries and install them in prisons across the country. His latest collection of poetry, “Felon,” explores the post-incarceration experience. In 2019, he won a National Magazine Award in Essays and Criticism for his article in The Times Magazine about his journey from teenage carjacker to aspiring lawyer. Natalie Diaz is the author of “Postcolonial Love Poem” (Graywolf Press, 2020). A recipient of a MacArthur fellowship, she is the director of the Center for Imagination in the Borderlands at Arizona State University.