Teo Mungaray

Sheep’s Brain


Teo Mungaray is a queer, chronically ill, latinx poet. He holds an MFA from Pacific University of Oregon and is pursuing his doctorate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is a co-founder and co-EIC of Cotton Xenomorph. His poems have recently appeared in or are forthcoming from Waxwing, The Shade Journal, Drunk Monkeys, Sycamore Review, and Birdfeast. He has a cat named Lysistrata.


In biology, we dissected a sheep’s brain

preserved in formaldehyde. The stench

of the chemical made me gag while,

scalpel in hand, I sliced through the cerebral fissure,

divided the brain into two hemispheres,

so we could identify the lobes, glands, places

of scientific inquiry. I remember plucking out

the pea-sized pituitary, being told my cuts

were clean, that I owed my skill to my skill

in the kitchen, as if the cuts I made were

for a meal, as if we were doing more

than playing a game of make-believe scientists.

I suppose that’s why I was handed the scalpel.

I was the one who curled my fingers

over the lobe like an onion, and made the long,

terrible lines through the bleach-white organ.

Despite the smell, I was one of the few

that could handle the task, not make a joke of it.

The other boys stabbed at the oddly firm tissue,

punching ragged holes with the dull side of the blade

and the girls turned away, squealing, acting out

their roles perfectly. I was humorless, as humorless

as I was when I peeled the membranes

from veal pancreases, soaked them overnight in milk,

fried them for dinner. It was all necessary work to me,

to make good the innards of the dead. So,

I suppose my teacher was right: I had many hours

over a cutting board, knife in hand, to thank

for such beautiful halves of a sheep’s brain,

two elegant halves torn apart by curiosity.




You can kneel anywhere

and make a shrine of it,

as long as there is room to kneel.


I don’t believe in god

but other forms of worship,

which are nothing more than dedication.


I have spent hours in the house of a man

who, like any benevolent god,

must mark his benevolence


by meting out punishment

on the Wicked. And I am the Wicked.

I have been the Wicked for so long


it has become my name.




Seven months ago, someone told me

I was unkind to myself, that I was touch-starved,

that it was ok to ask to be held. I know this is true,

just as I know how the moth feels about his light.

We both know what is light is not light alone – no light

without heat. This is not a poem about moths and flames

or ugly creatures fluttering around their fatalistic tendencies.

The moth knows what happens – bears witness to the others

dropping from the air like heavy feathers full of dust. The moth

isn’t here because of an attraction, but hunger,

unbearable lack of nectar, unbearable thirst for the pentecostal vision.

The moth burns his hands holding the light. The wicked

inherit light with pain – the wicked, with their capes of scales,

finally turning to a salvation that cuts across their eyes.

Listen, the moth isn’t turning to light for fascination,

for untamable curiosity. The moth is desperate

as I am desperate, burning: How do I ask you to touch me?

The Acentos Review 2019