Alexandra Alessandri

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Alexandra Peñaloza Alessandri is a Colombian-American poet, children’s author, and professor at Broward College, where she teaches composition, creative writing, and U.S. Hispanic/Latino Literature. She received her BA and MA degrees in English Literature from FIU and a Certificate of Fiction from UCLA Extension. Her poetry has appeared in Vox. She lives in South Florida with her husband and son, dreaming of Colombia. For more about Alexandra, visit

When You Died: An Abecedarian


Already your skin has cooled, taken on a

bluish hue, like that time your grandson

choked on Dots candy—only he lived, while you

died. I refuse to stare at your face,

even though perhaps I should, lest I

forget your eyes, small and dark like the

glow of night. Did you know I could

hear your labored breathing slowing

in the room with the white walls, while wires

jumbled in undecipherable mazes,

keeping track of how much

life was left inside you?

Mami stayed while I went home to rest,

numbness settling around me because

Oh, ¡Dios mío! After so many years of almost dying,

Papi, after so many times of you saying,

Quiero morirme, here you were in a hospital

room, an internal hemorrhage spreading hot,

sticky blood through your brain. I still remember being

tethered to sleep and receiving Mami’s call, her voice

urgent, lingering a step behind hysteria:

Ven rápido. Está muriendo. And then again, amidst sobs, Murió.

When I stumbled back into the sterility of the hospital, I saw your

xanthous skin losing what little life remained in your veins.

Your weathered hands lay still, no longer twitching, and you? Probably

zooming across the heavens, finally free.



Conversaciones With my Late Father


No one notices when my father

ambles into the café with a slow,

steady gait, much like he did

when I was seven on our walks

to school. He’s no longer in a

wheelchair, his missing limb a ghost

within the space of his pant leg.

Now, he slips into a seat facing me

and smiles, his cigarillo dangling from his lips.


Hola querido, I say.

Mija, says he.


It’s been eight years too long.

There’s so much I want to ask.

Where are you now—heaven or hell

or in some version of purgatory?

How do you feel? Is the pain gone?

Do you see Mamá Adela or Papá Roberto?

How about my tíos and tía? I’m sure

my primos would want to know.

Instead I settle on the mundane:

¿Cómo estás?


Papi throws his head back,

laughing a carcajada

full and rich and never ending.

His teeth are solid, white—not

the yellowed dentures I remember.

His round face holds an unfamiliar peace

There’s nothing to fear in the crinkling

of his eyes. Is this the same father

who spurred the wrath

of his adolescent daughter? 


Bien, muy bien, he says. Pero cuéntame. ¿Y tu salúd?

I shrug. Ahí. Could be better.


I want to say, I understand now, Papi.

Those headaches and body aches, how they

tapped at your nerves until you couldn’t stand it

and then you’d snap, scattering broken glass and

ceramic shards over our linoleum floors.

How any noise and disobedience on my part

would send you spiraling toward an anger

you couldn’t control. I, too, have felt the

hum of fear and anguish at losing myself

to disease, but I’m trying to be better,

to reign in my emotions before they break

my son. Like you broke me. But I understand

the ineptitude that overwhelmed you

at not even being able to provide for your family,

relying on disability and cracked dreams.


But I don’t say anything. Instead, I settle

on sitting across a man I barely knew, sipping a

café con leche, while everyone around us

eats and laughs and moves on,

oblivious to our silent conversation.

© The Acentos Review 2016