The Burial of a Woman Known as China Mary

by Grace H. Zhou

Tombstone, Arizona. December 1906

Take my bones, girl,
soak them in brandy,

and when they gleam like the pearled
vertebrae of some native creature—

coyote or her patient prey—wrap
me in a fine silk brocade

the color of our secret moon, 
of mutton fat jade nursing at my wrists,

of these side-sleeper hills at dawn 
(hills so close we might run 
           and be free in them).

Once, I offered pieces of myself to every
man—my hands, my coins, my words—

I traded my name for honor and they called
me Mary, like their placid goddess. 

Was she not matriarch to 
whores and wanted men too?

Now, flesh scrubbed bare, 
I let this land claim me, this land 

that has stripped me down
to my convictions: so

take my bones, girl, and feed 
my thousand sons and daughters.

Plant me here and here
and here, into this hard dirt

between the ocotillo and the creosote. 
When I burst into crop, 

gather my bounty.