- Mujer, noun. A lady, woman, female. My soft exterior, dip dyed in rotten mango fruit. Flesh torn apart, processed through the system, and given back to me like I’m lucky enough to receive it. I’m lucky to have what is left. See: Nina.
- Nina, noun. A girl, waif, sweetheart, cracking shell, take away what makes me strong to watch the collapse that follows. I’m a body fighting retrograde, an exploding planet, a latent atom bomb. Stuck in a wise child’s body, growing and growing and curling in on herself without enough room to grow. See: Navaja.
- Navaja, noun. A weapon used for cutting. To knife something, to find my parts scattered across this country labelled with different words. Erotic when a differentiation. Thief, alien, ugly, brown every other time. See: Trabajadora.
- Trabajadora, noun. The work it takes to keep the knives lining the inside of my mouth in the cupboard so no one sees them. My working hands. The way I keep biting my tongue. Broken teeth. The way we all have worked to scream loud enough, to ask for pity, to think of refuge as home. See: Egoista.
- Egoísta, adjective. My skin is red, white, and selfish. I am opening my mouth and swallowing whole. I am a wraith in the hot sun. I am taking, taking, taking. See: Mujer
the promise of upholding
such a fearful matriarchy is
written in gold against my feet.
the painting ‘the gleaners’ is
a self portrait of three generations
picking up the bone fragments of men
we have been tied down to.
huesos que no funcionan pa’ na’.
i lay stake & seek & destroy;
there is so much learning
held in the birthmark beneath my breast.
i came out of the well of the womb soaking
in such a feminine bloodline & that is
the blessing my mother has given me,
to craft myself into rope & guayaba.
to be prince & woman in the same body.
a folktale: my mother’s great grandmother
grew out of the ground bearing strange fruit.
her husband took one on a rainy afternoon
& was dead by morning. when asked about his death
she laughed. she made tea. she visited his grave
everyday to spill honey on the headstone. they were
not buried together. some say there is a tree in
the dominican republic all the difficult girls eat from.
i cough up dust at every man who looks at me. i have
such strong hands. ‘niña, where will you put all your
smallness? there is a hawk in your throat. they will
call you hammer. tranquila, tranquila, tranquila,‘
i tell myself this. i still have such strong hands. mírame,
i have spent a lifetime crafting this picture frame.
the bottoms of my boots are still chalk white and dry.
i promise my mother i will not clean them.
POEM FOR THE BROKEN HORSE
it sucks in
honey & turmeric
into bones that will
never feel clean again
or be worth their weight
in salt. an animal never
thinks about death,
only relishes the moment
when feeling ends. it counts
each small blessing: air that
smells like cinnamon, dust in
its holy places,
the traveler, naked, with
palms like blunt knives,
& the will to use them.
this is a traditional breaking:
first, the mercy. then,
an eternity asking for cruelty instead.
Alexa Lemoine is a poet and student studying at the University of Central Florida. She has work forthcoming in The Blood Orange Review. When not writing, she is traveling, capturing photos, and learning how to navigate the world through her art.