Bird Atlas

When Our Lady of Guadalupe arrived, she was heartbroken. At her feet, a pigeon crushed under the weight of a Ford 4×4, its wingspan outstretched, preserved in its own feathers & blood. She couldn’t discern a skull, just a small boundary between where death was stamped onto concrete & where it wasn’t.
After 600 years, this wasn’t the first thing she wanted to see. Of course, she expected loss, but not its bones like Galveston seashells—you can barely find a lightning whelk or moon snail in one piece on those shores. Texas carelessness.
           In the chapel built for her, there was cookware with intricate paintings on them. Juan Diego worked eight hours decorating a stone plate with roses, before there was a word for “art.” Another plate was adorned with Cuitlacoche comun’s delicacy, gray & arched like a wave. Her tilma wasn’t art. It wasn’t a sign or even a map. It was the future in bright red echoes.
Humanity, Guadalupe thought, was more like the stubborn laughing chihuahuas, not like Mexico City canaries & their stupid wistfulness. She crouched closer to the ground to examine the bird atlas, wept in ribbons & tributaries.

Iliana Rocha earned her PhD in English Literature and Creative Writing from Western Michigan University. Her work has been featured in the Best New Poets 2014 anthology, as well as Bennington Review, Blackbird, and West Branch. Karankawa, her debut collection, won the 2014 AWP Donald Hall Prize for Poetry and is available through the University of Pittsburgh Press. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Central Oklahoma and lives with her two chihuahuas Nilla and Beans.