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Image by Matt Bennett

Three Year Drought

The field and the cloud are lovers and between them I am a messenger of mercy.
(Kahlil Gibran, Song of the Rain)

Yesterday Josefa gave me a chicken bone with hard rice.
If my teeth were strong, I’d bite bone into two
and suck the marrow out; instead, I dig
with my fingernails and taste
dried marrow from its splintered ends.
How is it that the rain still hasn’t come after all this time?
Where are the new rivers? The growing fields?
The water that creates new paths on this patchy skin of mine?

Outside, the sand is pricked by rain but left intact.
Please rain, burst that cherry. We are tired of virgin sand.
My pores have become little mouths with white gums
and tongues that scrape designs into teeth.


I used to play a song about the rain on the piano.
It went pitter patter and had quarter notes.
Now, the aluminum roof bangs
with the promise of fat raindrops
that trigger home memories
of running in puddles at college,
skin slick from moisture.
During summers, I would sit pressed
to boyfriends in backseats or inside buildings.
It was the rain, we said, that kept us there.

I want rain so much that I imagine
the trees pulling out their roots
and hitching a ride on the highway to the mountains.
They would sit up front next to the truck driver
who would try not to fondle their legs.


Once I got a hotel room in the regional city
just for a hot shower.
I invited my then boyfriend up to my hotel room.
I bought fragrant soap for me and cigarettes for him.
He cited the law forbidding cigarettes in hotels.
I wished it was raining
as I scribbled down his words
for my body in my notebook.
Espera, espera, I said when he reached for me.
To wait is close to hope in Spanish.
Esperar—it is the same verb.
The verb for rain in Spanish is llover,
take out one letter, and it is the English lover.


In high school, my first love’s poem got chopped
to the most essential lines—
smoking in the rain, drenched
while waiting for the girl.
I thought the lines were beautiful.
He was upset at being amputated.

Could I be an amputee in this land?
A branch of mint that grows roots
once it’s watered?
An African violet leaf that only needs
moisture to create filmy claws?
Or am I a sunflower seed
salted dry and ready to chew?


Rain, lluvia, to rain, llover,
no matter how much I chant your name
still you stall your coming.
Fill my eyes until they turn neon.
Linger your vocabulary all over my body.
Teach me new words for old feelings.

Siempre estoy esperando por algo más.
(I am always waiting for something more.)
La lluvia, por favor, llega
desde puedo crecer
algo más que memorias.
(Rain, please, come
so that I am able to grow
something more than memories).

Los Buenos Recuerdos

It’s not that I own you—
but I own—we—
and we own that memory of us
dancing to a song we called ours
as if we could own it.

Me in the tight shoes
that pinched at the toes
and you with a single cigarette
in your back pocket
for later.

Our bodies danced
in a rhythm
that they didn’t have
when we first met
or even weeks later
when I practiced saying
I was yours and you were mine
on my unfamiliar tongue
not used to forming such
tight and definite relations

It’s not that I own you—
but this memory
of a dark dance floor and
cheap tables and chairs and
the beginning notes
of our favorite song and
my sudden joy
at hearing it, grabbing
your hand before
you had a chance
to sit down
to catch your breath
you who feign tiredness
but this song provokes no argument
because it’s we in this song,
and we are dancing.

I don’t know if I have ever
had a song like this with a person before
a love song that makes me think
of a crowded dance floor
not mattering
because we—
are in a world of two
and it’s beautiful
in this world.

We stay in this world
even when we walk
back to the seats
to sit our tired bodies down
and chat with our friends
who we can not hear
because the music
is too loud.

You look across to me, smiling,
eyes saying—there will be
more songs that are special
enough to be called
ours, right?

And we own this memory
this future tense
placed in the past.
In the future tense you and I become
you and I think of the past and wonder
why did we ever leave it?

Out of Focus: Leaving My Peace Corps Village

On the second floor of the bus—a dusty window
pressing fingertips to it, trying to hold
the image in place.
I ask the steward to ask the bus driver
to drive slower on this stretch of the highway
mas despacio por favor, I ask,
so I can say one last good-bye to my village—
the tree where I often waited
for the combis, my host family’s
new adobe front room I saw them build,
my friend, Esther’s, children waiting outside
as she promised me—so that they could
wave good-bye to me in this big bus
its tinted windows hiding passengers
like sunglasses hiding eyes.

And maybe, he did slow
down—just a little—
I see children I taught
talking by their bikes,
people sitting outside
underneath the trees
to drink chicha,
the tiny white flags
that announce chicha for sale
tousle in the wind
from the tin roofs
where they are anchored.
And Esther’s kids are sitting outside
waiting, watching, arranged
like a group photograph
the toddler on big sister’s lap, the two brothers
book-end her sides—
I can imagine how the sand must feel
cool underneath their hands
as it often does during a sunset
but they don’t see me
the bus travelling too fast.

Farther away—
Algarroba trees
and the next village
where two of my jovenes
man the restaurant their mother owns;
their bottled algarrobina and honey
catch sunlight as we speed
away on this highway,
and then it is just
desert and desert and desert
dunes and expanses
small trees and scrubs.

I know this place
isn’t special
to the man driving the bus
or the steward giving me
a glass of Inca Kola
or the man sitting next me—who tries
so hard to engage me in conversation
even after I tell him I can’t talk
even after I tell him I need to focus
on my village out the window.

I know he doesn’t believe me, a gringa,
or if he believes me—that means
more conversation, explanation of why
I am here, explanation of why
I love this scattering of reed and adobe
these houses and corrales
this black smoke coming from kitchen stoves
these children bringing yerba for the horse and burros.

He will never understand
and I will never be here again
like this, the same way;
my eye isn’t the camera
I hoped for but still
the images, are developed, developing
twisting in time and memory,
details smearing between takes
specifics beginning to evaporate.
Even if the sun burns some of the film
like time loses some names,
I grab what I can before it fades away,
trying, hoping, and doubting
that I can ever grab enough.

Heather D. Frankland holds an MFA and a MPH from New Mexico State University. She was a Peace Corps and Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Peru and Panama. In 2022, she was among 12 poets selected to attend the Marge Piercy Poetry Intensive Workshop. Her poetry chapbook, “Midwest Musings,” was published in Fall 2023 by Finishing Line Press, and she has been published in Sweet Lit, Sin Fronteras Press, and others. Originally from Indiana, she currently lives in Silver City, NM where she teaches at Western New Mexico University and serves as the new poet laureate of Silver City and Grant County.


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