Jenise Miller


Jenise Miller is the daughter of Panamanian immigrants and great-granddaughter of workers who built the Panama Canal. She is inspired to write poetry about growing up in Watts and Compton and in the small community of Black Panamanians in Los Angeles. She holds a B.A. in Sociology and Black Studies and an M.A. in Urban Planning and has participated in the South Central Los Angeles-based DSTL Arts community writing workshops. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Compton. 

Twitter @janicepalante

The Machete 

When I was a child I found a machete
wrapped in a towel
in the back of my mother’s closet.
Gray nails pierced
through the black and rough handle,
its blade glistened, silver and smooth. 

My mother said she used it to chop young
coconut and sugar cane back home,
peeled rippled skin from hard flesh,
gnawed it with sharp blades of
teeth, draining limited sweetness.
She loved sugar like sharp objects
I found all over the apartment— 

Machete in the closet
scissors under my mattress
Ruben Blades in the tape deck
knives by the stove
she used to cut open silver
cans of guandú and slice
platano once sweet and bruised. 

When my father left her
a loose mouth for a sharp tongue
she swallowed knives
in the heart, she became them,
words cut harsh and deep,
peeled away love like bark,  
drained its limited sweetness. 

I don’t know what happened
to the machete or my mother I found
wrapped in a towel
in the back of her closet
gray nails piercing
from her black and rough hands,
her mouth glistening, silver and smooth.

© The Acentos Review 2018