Alexandra Peñaloza Alessandri


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 work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Acentos Review, Rio Grande Review, YARN, and Atlanta Review. She lives in South Florida with her husband and son, dreaming of Colombia. For more about Alexandra, visit

The Room With the Espantos


The room with the espantos

stands at the end of the hall,


fourth door to the left. By all

accounts it’s the perfect room:


wide open windows covered

in mantillas; a four-poster


bed of hand-carved mahogany

passed down through three


generations; a bust of Christ

Jesus, crown of thorns impaled


on his head, tears and sweat and

blood painted on his face. But this


is where the espantos come. They

lie beside you, their weight creaking


the worn springs of the mattress, their

heavy breathing reminding you


you’re not alone. 





I was nine when wanderlust settled in

my lungs as fresh as the Andes’ air

rip with cacao from the eje cafetero.

The Río Magdalena curved toward

el estrecho, the inverted isthmus

between slippery rocks where the

river crescendos into an angry,

swirling current. It led me toward

towering banyan trees with thick

roots reaching across fincas with

crimson columns and fuchsia

bougainvillea, toward a cathedral

carved inside black salt rock, an altar

etched into the gut of the mountain.


Once I knew the scent of wanderlust,

I followed it to mountain-top medieval

castles carved alongside the Rhine River;

to mustard fields stretched into endless

yellow yawns; to London, where lazy rain

drizzled on black-paved roads; to the snow-

capped Alps; and to Mont Martre, where

artists sat at easels underneath the fire

of a setting sun.


And later, wanderlust tugged me through

British Columbia, with cold wind whipping

ice crusted cars, towering totem poles, fir

green pines, and sharp cliffs; through Quebec’s

red brick walls and narrow cobbled streets,

savoring warm wine and hot maple spread

on packed snow; through Cartagena’s

walled city, with its clock tower and

crumbling mustard yellow paint; through

street artists with fingers for paintbrushes

and old men in straw hats, lounging, waiting—


for wanderlust to wake them.


The Me in the Mirror


The me in the mirror is a liar—

skin lined with cobwebs,

eyes swollen with inflamed capillaries.

I don’t recognize the woman

standing before me, thick-legged and

protruding belly, with coal

half-moons beneath her eyes and

desperation in her breath.


The me in the mirror should be

collar-bone, hip-bone thin

laughing with the weightlessness

of the adolescent girl she left

behind, free from the aches snaking

through her joints, one connective

tissue through the next. But she’s

not.  She’s a liar—


taunting me, hiding behind the

shroud that envelops me, a barrier

between who I was and who

I’ve become, hiding the sludge

coursing through my veins

and the stench of fatigue.

Espresso eyes stare back at me.

I’m healthy, they say. But that

that, too, is a lie.


The me in the mirror sways

to the four-step beat of salsa

and I stand frozen,

unable to follow.

© The Acentos Review 2017