The Acentos Review - Youth


Melissa Garcia Criscuolo


Melissa Garcia Criscuolo studied English and poetry at Florida International University and the University of Florida, respectively. She currently teaches writing at Florida Atlantic University. Her work has appeared in Alimentum: The Literature of Food, PALABRA: A Magazine of Chicano and Latino Literary Art, Nibble magazine, Subtropics, iARTistas, and The Acentos Review. Her chapbook, Things in My Backyard, was published in August 2012 with Finishing Line Press. She is married to her high school sweetheart.


My mother placed my sisters and I in a Cinderella pageant

when I was three. I didn’t understand stage directions

because I didn’t know English well (I spoke mostly Spanish),

so when it was my turn to walk onstage,

I wandered until fingers pointed

out to me where to walk.

They laughed.

When asked, I answered in slow English

that I wanted to be a teacher and a ballet dancer.

I also answered that I had sisters

who were neither older nor younger than I was,

but that Ali was nine and Daniella was seben.

They laughed.

After many hours, I was tired and hungry

and falling asleep on my mother’s lap

when she said,

Melissa, wake up! They might call your name!

so I began to yell

Call my name! And when they did,

I charged up to the stage

in my favorite purple dress with bells.

I nearly ran into the podium,

and when I smacked my forehead

with my hand,  Omigoodness!

they laughed and awarded me Miss Personality.

When we got home, my sisters took my crown

and broke my trophy.


It had been so long, I’d nearly forgotten the smell,

but I recognized it straight away—the patchouli,

the vanilla, the heady musk—as I opened

the soap bottle at my mother’s house

and poured the soap into my hands, lathering.

It seemed rather disconcerting, remembering

my grandfather as I bathed,

but the scent brought happy memories.

And it was as though every time I inhaled,

I could see him—standing in front

of the pink vanity in his undershirt

and suspenders, his belly bulging over his pants,

his cheeks white with shaving cream, and his hands

pulling his skin taut for a close shave, then afterwards,

pulling the slim, metal comb through his slate hair,

then pouring the aftershave in his hands

and rubbing them together, patting

them over his face and neck, and his cornflower eyes

watching me watch him in the mirror, smiling.

Tongues of Fire

Georgia, I never knew you, but I learned

about you, how you were the second

daughter of Wirt Bowman,

the great-great-grandfather

of my mother, and as I heard my mother’s voice,

I imagined you skipping outside, playing marbles

or jumping rope, and those boys

flicking matches, how they caught

the hem; I envisioned you in a blue dress

surrounded my open mouths,

a five-year-old girl smoldering,

smelling of honey.