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'A New Language,' a Poem by Casandra M. Lopez for National Poetry Month


My words are always

upon themselves, they feel too tight
in my mouth. I want a new
language. One with at least
50 words for grief

and 50 words for love, so I can offer
them to the living
who mourn the dead. I want

a language that understands
sister-pain and heart-hurt. So
when I tell you Brother

is my hook of heart, you will see

the needle threading me to
the others, numbered
men, women and children
of our grit spit city.

I want a language to tell you
about 2010's
37th homicide. The unsolved,
all I know about a man,

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my city turned to number,
always sparking memory,

back to longer days when:
Ocean is the mouth
of summer. Our shell fingers
drive into sand, searching–we find

tiny silver sand crabs we scoop
and scoop till we bore and go
in search of tangy seaweed.

We are salted sun. How we brown

to earth. Our warm flesh flowering,
reminding us of our desert and canyon

blood. In this new language our bones say
sun and sea, reminding us of an old
language our mouths have forgotten, but our
marrow remembers.

Casandra Lopez is a Chicana, Cahuilla, Luiseño and Tongva writer raised in Southern California’s Inland Empire. She has an MFA from the University of New Mexico and has been selected for residencies with the Santa Fe Art Institute as well as the School of Advanced Research where she was the Indigenous writer in residence for 2013. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in various literary journals such as Potomac Review, Hobart, Acentos Review, Weber, CURA, McNeese Review and Unmanned Press. She is a CantoMundo Fellow and is a founding editor of As/Us: A Space For Women Of The World.

The artwork at the top of this page is a detail from the mural "Against the Storm She Gathers Her Thoughts," painted by Nani Chacon, Navajo, and installed at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, AZ. To see more of Chacon's work, visit her Facebook page: