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by Serena Rodriguez


From Mississippi Delta to Blue Ridge Virginia & desert-soaked New Mexico—
this is return. This is fumble & fall. The summer of Lake Moomaw,
when pickles are the only sour she can swallow, the summer she spends curled up
in cargo, brown station wagon driving past morning dew, windshields hurling

bug soaked. The summer of hospital&hospital&another—
This is summer of ten, the summer ambulance headlights replace lightning bug glow.

Hard beds & fluorescent bulbs, sterile mime for sunrises & toes worming
in soft dirt. When ten feels like eighty, get better feels like a sentence.


This is an excavation, an examination of stories passed onto generations
of girls that did not fill the script— like falling

into silos, barren containers set against skies white from heavy rain,
wombs drown in hospital rooms painted yellow— distraction from

ghosts, news of shock & her kidneys won’t last past twenty,
says doctor who nods to mother who cries to God & the little girl who

searches for hidden pictures in Highlights magazines, swinging her feet,
doll baby in lap, before pausing before asking but will I be able to have babies?


She sits in stalls. Watches stretch marks climb her thighs. When she asks the camp counselor, when her voice betrays her, betrays the fear that rattles her throat, the tears that

pool in her swollen eyes, counselor laughs, pats her on the knee, tells her it’s normal. Except there’s nothing n o r m a l about hiding cracks in the skin with arts & crafts markers. Nothing

normal about a body rejecting the body— nothing about a mother insisting camp cooks create a special menu for her, one devoid of salt of protein— devoid of brown paper bags brimming

with come sit with us. Because (dis)ease doesn’t do hotdogs & Kool Aid. Doesn’t do kumbaya & boys don’t do girls with puffy eyes & tiny cups with tiny pills— girls who swim

in their skin, bellies protruding like a pillow stuffed in a shirt, like pretend house & doctors who tell her she’ll never have babies & mothers who say, what a shame.


An innocent act that causes ripples, skips in the prerecording of how
things should be. (Dis)ability. Noun. Her. I. A physical condition. A handicap.

A bottle with holes, sifting, shifting— a pink womb in a pockmarked body. A girl who hides in her mother’s clothes, covers her body, her (dis)embodiment of (dis)advantage.

definition weighs her down, beneath fluid encapsulating her bones, beneath
snickers & whispers that ring in her ear long after she steps off the school bus.

Beneath blankets where she will bury (her)self, where she will wipe
tears & snot & pretend to be asleep when her mother calls, it’s time for supper.


She holds her smile in crescent & when I ask, how did you make it through,
her moon shakes, turns earthquake with the heavy in knowing the unknown.

This is the opening & eclipse of dark hallways & not too pretty fairytales.
This is the funhouse of mirrors & her face turning at her face in reflection

shattered. & still the shock of this ending, an unexpected pause & halt,
erodes & i beg to cradle her, that little girl, plead her body into the palms of my hands.

Stars release rain & I lift my face & open my mouth & let the clean fall
through me & into her broken body a (dis)ease & this waning moon.


Serena Rodriguez’s work has been published in Inverted Syntax, Poetry, Santa Fe Literary Review, MindWell Poetry, was the winner of the Santa Fe Accolades Poetry Contest 2017 and The Roadrunner Review Poetry Prize 2022 and was a 2020 Loraine Williams Poetry Prize finalist for The Georgia Review. She graduated from the Institute of American Indian Arts with her MFA in Creative Writing in May 2022. Serena works as a Creative Writing Visiting Professor at IAIA. Born in Mississippi, she lives in New Mexico with her partner and kiddo, where they hike the Bosque and eat all the tacos.


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