Christina Olivares   



abuela shouts

then ravages

an organic


her, realer than

that dole crap—

ay el sabor

she releases

like a riptide

a monsoon fills

the house until

her ghosts & i

are drowned, all for

taste: wind rushing


trees, green-black leaves

plastered to sky,

everything trembling

where fidel hid

& crept, her home

town, the wet womb

that bore out his


forced her into

exile.           she talks

guava pastries

naughty neighbor

boys, mango tree

bent by hailstorm,

old as a person,

yard circled by

bone-thin glistening

dogs, my baby

aunt sweet-blooded

mosquito swole fat

jewels for eyes.she’s

alive despite our

cheap coffee, our

plastic yellow

tablecloth. all

for taste


that night

or the next, deep

in a friend’s

mouth, then tongue wet

flattened against

her swollen clit


shock of body—

the body’s salt—

her, new, a burst

ruby, skin a slick

wide rainshe boss:

shhh, motions

touch me. i do.

something old here,

something i knew.

her spine, forest

of spines, black eyes

wetness brokered

in a hidden

gunfire sky—


bent over

orange juice i explain:

it’s a mortal fear,

this fear to shine.

we’re talking about

being the best

at mundane things:

writing, sex, getting a decent job.


from inside, you reply:

it’s gendered

and it’s raced. also, it’s my fear, too.

you say or i say

consequences stay with the earth

this consequence of death—old, yes,

and not imagined.


drowned in synchretic,

dual-lipped gods, the bodies

that perished in the passing & the same/other bodies

driven miles,

feet dusty, red with

dust, part of the treaded,

ground, rutted—

ground, ghost, body.

ground, ghost, body, the same.

what’s remembered: shine, be afraid to shine..

your people

survive better

when nobody’s shining, when nobody’s trying to lift the veil.

so many contrary bloods in my vein

i don’t remember who sings to me at night. wearying

and rich, ill karma, silted earth. and

over coffee, chicken sausage, our early-morning fingers

blotting grease

on soft white napkins, you are my old

friend. from the marble

windos, november glows morning. you confide

you like this hotel mostly

because reception is always kind

to you. they’re russian, i think.

your mixed black & white son,

who is both and neither,

who at four says about me, to you—

she’s a light brown.

she’s a light brown, like me.

it’s difficult

to end this poem.

so many voices

packed inside the few

that speak.

sidenote:  arriving in cuba

Editor’s note: 

In order to preserve the format of the this poem, a document has been linked to the title.  Please click to reveal the craft at play. 

Christina Olivares is a poet. She is currently a student in Brooklyn College's MFA program. Mermaid.