Maria Melendez

Feb 2011


for Quetzal, at 13

(—In the cave of the child’s self,

the mother’s light shines only so far.

After that,

we’re blindfolded, spun three times,

asked to pin animals together by guess and grope—)

I searched for my boy and everything he touched

became infused with light and verged on breaking.

A pitcher of darkness on my head,

another on my hip,

they sloshed on him,

I was a sloppy guardian.

A sloppy guardian,

I stippled my darkness

over him, heavy jars

on head and hip


Why look for happiness in relationship

to the child, now growing

past all that?

Because, that’s why. The entrance

to the cave sometimes appears

in the bramble and gorse—

He still sits near me any so often

and his too-tight squeeze says

“Thank you, Mom,” for so adventurly tending me—

for we crossed something both hard and scrabble,

we traveled ‘by night’ and slept ‘by day,’

crickets clearing the way

beneath each of our feet.

We were two yearling foxes

with tourmaline eyes,

stretching our heads to see above the grasses,

nuzzling unripened buffalo gourd,

hunting the perfect turtle nest

to raid.

When the sun went through

its seasonal failing, we’d curl

warmth into each other, dream off the short days,

and wake to test the hasty truth of spring.

after Brenda Hillman

Leaving the den

Maria Melendez publishes Pilgrimage in Pueblo, Colorado, a literary magazine serving a far-flung community of writers, artists, naturalists, activists, seekers, and other adventurers in and beyond the Greater Southwest ( University of Arizona Press has published two of her poetry collections: How Long She'll Last in This World (2006), and Flexible Bones (2010), and her essays appear in Sojourns Magazine: Natural & Cultural History of the Colorado Plateau and Isotope: A Journal of Literary Nature and Science Writing. She serves as Contributing Editor for Latino Poetry Review and Acquisitions Editor for Momotombo Press, a chapbook publisher featuring prose and poetry by emerging Latino writers.