This week in the PEN Poetry Series, guest editor Dawn Lundy Martin features six poems by Lucas de Lima. About de Lima’s work, Martin writes: “When reading Lucas de Lima, I cannot help but think of Nathaniel Mackey’s interest in the Kaluli myth of the boy who, in lament, turns into a muni bird and half cries half sings a song mourning the annihilation of kinship. De Lima’s poetry vibrates a necessary dark song of cultural reclamation that presupposes its legitimacy, its rights as having come first. Because I am only excited by poems that have duende, I am tremendously excited by this work—duende in the black sounds that pierce through so much performative violence, so much nothingness.”

“all i wanna say is that they don’t really care about us”

tree we imagine in memory of the slave who preferred
200 lashes instead of fulmination
live blood running down the trunk instead of latex in the thorax
in pelourinho nothing grows & a child spirit offers popcorn
sky not ablaze today but muffled
with clouds steered by irokô
a handicapped beggar observes with us the batucada
in the square they whipped the slave who would not cut down
the tree whose name fabricates thunder
kernel of africa
where jchrist was filmed as mj 

irokô exploded

his light skin off the drum


our foremothers
absorbed by empire
like crystals intact in our guts
the open pustule
from which our plumes extend
so we layer our voice with another voice
so we wrap our song with another song
our structure organized as a flower forever petaling
in the assassin wind
the choppers of death here
are not clandestine
unlike the rivers under são paulo
where we barely breathe
where we barely breathe is where me & pinto
put our beaks to the ground & suck out a scorpion
crying night & day
remembering a time when there was no night
remembering the kayapó myth
when there were no stars
no horses but stories about horses
we unsaddled ourselves inside


a savage melody airily repeating pinto pinto pinto
until he never fades in a demon-packed world
until he orders me about with the chicken essence
of a medium beheading a rooster & smearing
its blood on his seropositive body
for a fee of 100 reais
anchoring spirit society
in a stronghold of whirlpooling clouds
daubing pinto’s flightless body black white red in spirals
of permanent welts scars scrofulous inflammations



be immune to the sky pivoted against you


come back to our eyes when you die


i penetrate the depths of my race while amazons curse
spectral flicker as the smoke of my blood
my arms shackled by loggers who see me
as the transparent, colorless wings of my friendship with pinto
the way we love each other tho
a bird batters against the cavity
trying to break off
forced to break out of the continental cage
eggs of devastation we lay because


when pinto took a knife for me

his gash gave birth to feathers.



now pinto teaches me that inside time,
there is more time


now pinto teaches me that inside me,
there are more feathers



to believe him without falling into a pit of white fathers

to believe him while mothering my feathers

to believe in native mothers who gave birth to so many mongrels

in the mottled bloodbath of brazil


lava of reptiles

lava of birds

on my wing the larva of

cut-off tongues sparked

in the bundle of flames

a kaleidoscope

where mother jaguar’s rope fuming orange forged

the open mouth of mundo where

my feather struck out

pinto fucked the heart of sky

broken clods the bloodletting of

deep-throated sacrifice 


pinto’s dream of going blind

i run across the basin to my mother the mare
our ligament invisibly fisted
bleeding from my forehead in a thick stream
lashes from the torrid zone blast my eyes
crack my forehead
sisters yelling goodbye
shaking rattles singing at night
fires kindled inside longhouses
at the point where frontiers are at once
in the air & in the light
to stomp & beat the ground
with my hoofhand
means nada when mamãe whispers


“you are my blood-soaked floating child


the eurotrash anchor”


Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the PEN Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they are published (no spam, no news, just poems).