Eileen Tabios

I Forgot the Song Inside the Stone

I forgot how much I treasured your nightingale blood, infinite ink for composing my our songs.

I forgot I love you, nightingale. Every millimeter of you!

I forgot a red-breasted bluebird cawing from my mirror.

I forgot a bird cawed as my mirror spat bloodied feathers.

I forgot I thought it was a story and the story was mine. I forgot the story was about the bird who cracked a stone, then swallowed its sharp splinters.

I forgot Juana taught me, there is no madness—there is only a woman feral in love. Hear me sing to you the A.
The E. The
I. The

The U. The
You. The

I forgot Juana the Mad.

I forgot to live like Lorca and Loca: “at evening’s / end, I wanted / to be my / voice. A / nightingale.”

I forgot I once wielded a nightstick—an obscenely fat baton from the French who observed then tediously observed once more, Seeing is suffering.

Ole! Verdad! I forgot the true flamenco can shatter stone. That one only needs to strengthen shoe tips with six extra nails for drumming into a floor imagined as the naked chests of drunk soldiers looking up one’s skirts.

I forgot I composed this song that would turn you into ice, so you will know with my next note what it means to shatter into tiny pieces the universe will ignore.

I forgot I learned to stamp my heels to sound a machine gun blast. I forgot I didn’t need a man to bring me fire so I can forge a song.

I forgot the Singer learned fires are hot from being burned.

I forgot the Singer learned knives are sharp from being cut.

I forgot how, when they heard the male Singer, they heard his cante come from him like a rusty nail pulled from an old board. La voz afilla—sandpaper voice. Good Gitano voice. Muy rajo, very rough.

I forgot how, when they heard the Singer, they heard the stars, then the wolves, fall into bleak silence.

I forgot how, when they heard the Singer, they heard a shivering woman in ripped clothes as soldiers did what they did to her and her still virgin daughters and sons.

I forgot how, when they heard the Singer, they heard a man jailed for stealing a bunch of grapes, then the ugly grunts of his starving children.

I forgot how, when they heard the Singer, they heard the whips over his ancestors as they were cast out of India.

I forgot one does not need to age into frailty to be a sugar sculpture in a garden ever threatened by storms.

I forgot how a nightingale blossomed to song before we lost desire for mercy. I forgot how a nightingale blossomed to song after we ceased relying on prayer. I forgot how I didn’t need nightingales to sing for me.

I forgot how I cannot forget Lorca wanting to greet each morning as purely “A Heart.”

I forgot blood is flamenco is blood is … and one knock suffices for announcing the palo.

I forgot ocean mirrors nothing but ocean.


I forgot I once danced—en compas!—into a story I thought belonged to me. I became a character in it, giving its narrative all the years demanded from my life. But the story began long before I entered it. I forgot I was only dancing flamenco.

I forgot how a stairway muffled but still sang our song.

I forgot constellations don’t sing when they want to emphasize your joy.

I forgot it was impossible to avoid the rain of black crows plummeting from the bullets of hidden hunters with soft hands.

I forgot that, once, I was woken by a whisper to see a red chair tipped on its side upon a white shag carpet—when they finally found you, it was the heart of winter and the only witnesses were stripped trees bent by old winds, their muteness ancient and forever.

I forgot I refused to smash a bagpipe. I anticipated and was afraid of the image of a discarded lung atop the asphalt of your aborted road.

I forgot the mental is a muscle.

I forgot how stars became asterisks to matters best left in the dark. I forgot the tirelessness of shame.

I forgot the wave—how its singularity is easily fractured by sunlight’s blades.

I forgot a reflection can manifest loneliness or holiness but never both at the same time.

I forgot the artist commissioned with the order, “Don’t make it abstract.” I forgot the artist’s iron soldiers erupting amidst Midwestern wheat.

I forgot the chill of kissing the wrong man. O lifetime of pearls!

I forgot the outcome of “Matte vs. Glass.”

I forgot a body drowning in light as a hand wrote. I forgot eyes leaking flames.

I forgot the ziggurat tattooed on an inner thigh, an area where inscription must have surfaced with anguish, then desperation, then a hymn long-forgotten as I’d forgotten how to attend anyone’s church.

I forgot how the sun’s stare becomes tolerable through the cotton eyelets of another generation’s apron.

I forgot a long-haired woman exists, but outside the frame as has been reality for centuries.

I forgot flying fish are always wide-eyed always breathless always look unbelieving.

I forgot a mirrored face only partially owns its reflection.

I forgot the absence of green as my bandaged wing swung to break stalactites. I forgot that after ice falls, they merely lie on ground, evaporating.

I forgot we agreed to toss away the blindfold so that our ears can become more than holes for burning stones tossed our way by a cruel race.

Or stones tossed our way by a venal dictatorship.

Or stones tossed our way by an incompetent health care system.

Or stones tossed our way by a passive bureaucrat wielding power over the education of the child we will never have.

Or stones tossed our way by that obscene combination of trust fund baby and hedge fund billionaire.

Or stones tossed our way by the demands of poverty: how poverty paradoxically narrows the impoverished focus into the small, then petty, then brutish.

I forgot paint can transform canvas to skin. I forgot when the paint can is empty, only then will innocence reveal itself.

I forgot sunsets call for wine.

I forgot the moving prop of clouds can fail to soften the edges of dark architecture.

I forgot a woman shrouded herself in white linen—a poem invisible but stubbornly transparent until flesh became stone.

I forgot I was left with a stone watching itself like a poem in a forest, covered fretfully by ancient moss, its legacy only a stone toe with its orange paint long faded (though it lingers in someone’s memory).

I forgot we were swollen underground with rain as certain elements erased their absence:

I forgot that thing unidentifiable, though it evoked pink pearls luminescent among a gutted goat’s entrails.

I forgot the maddened sunlight into which hostages emptied long-held fears as they erupted from a robbed bank.

I forgot crackle of light, dream of icicles and the unpredictability of angles cut by any creature chased for its nutritious heart.

I forgot how effectively pain obviates abstractions.

I forgot a roof tile flew and slate sliced my cheek. Blood on fingers after brushing against cheek’s glimmer of bone.

I forgot that when a stone hand cracks, its pieces will not be caught.

I forgot that stone was the compromise defining the absence of void.

I forgot the interior, from the beginning, was stone.

Eileen R. Tabios loves books and has released about 40 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers in nine countries and cyberspace. Her most recent are The Connoisseur of Alleys (Marsh Hawk Press, 2016) and Invent(St)ory: Selected Catalog Poems and New 1996-1915 (Dos Madres Press, 2015). With poems translated into eight languages, she also has edited, co-edited or conceptualized ten anthologies of poetry, fiction and essays in addition to serving as editor or guest editor for various literary journals. More information is available at eileenrtabios.com
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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis (susanlewis.net) is the Editor-in-chief and founder of Posit (positjournal.com) and the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom (winner of the Washington Prize), Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her poetry has appeared in anthologies such as Walkers in the City (Rain Taxi), They Said (Black Lawrence Press), and Resist Much, Obey Little (Dispatches/Spuyten Duyvil), as well as in journals such as Agni, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Conjunctions online, Diode, Interim, New American Writing, and VOLT.