Pastoral

The smell of the powder they release in a pouf on our faces starts the alchemy, my third favorite scent. While getting our makeup done, Dave and I usually talk about our kids. He was such a kind man and his priorities were clear. His family came first and fucking came second.

Show Off

I grow boobs, I get my period, and I dump my boyfriend Christopher because he’s not a football player. My new boyfriend Sean has big muscles and I show him my boobs because he puts his hands around my waist in just the right way.

Bearproof

The game fit Texas rancher country: count cows, and whoever has the most at the final destination wins—but if a cemetery passes on your side, you start back at zero. Molly’d wanted to know whether a little graveyard in the side grounds of a church counted and I said of course and blew all the air out of my lungs through my nose.

knitting instructions for war work

I went through puberty twice. Late each time, each time assisted by medically prescribed hormones of various quantities and various kinds. Just as my doctors were finally satisfied that my voice was low enough, we set upon the task of raising it again. And again, like the first time, I found myself unwillingly, unpleasantly subjected to the endocrinal whims of the teenaged body.

The Serpent’s Daughter

Every human being, like every machine, was created to do something. Trains carry people over land, under sea; a fan moves air; an iron presses cloth; a mug holds tea. Likewise, a nursing mother makes milk, a doctor sews skin, a tailor sews clothes, a spy watches people, a philosopher thinks, a judge makes decisions, and Sister Mah prays. She prays all day the way some people hum while they knit or chew gum while they’re taking your order.

The Husband Doll

Arnie totally freaks. “It’s insane what women have to deal with these days,” he says, and rushes into our basement with a plan to fix it. He’s down there for two days straight. I know he’s busy because I can hear ’90s rock through the heater vent. His getting-shit-done music.

NIÑAS DEL FUEGO

My sister Amma used to say the borderlands is the place brown girls go to die when they have no reason left to live. They give themselves up to the fence like a burnt offering, body crumpled at its teeth, and await capture. I read somewhere that some animals will commit suicide—suffocate themselves or stop eating altogether—to escape captivity. I think it’s like that.

Basil

When I lived in the swamplands, rowing from one place to the next, I met the devil. The locals swear if you stick around there long enough, you see him. They say he’s tall, dark, red, with claws, with teeth; that one day you’ll feel him tapping your shoulder or tickling your ankle. So, you start to look for him in every toad that croaks, every crane that lands softly on a mossy shore beside you, every mosquito that buzzes past your ear.

Sins of Omission

On sábados you go to the playa in San Juan wearing only your underwear. You are a girl, but one with closely cropped short hair, and your chest has not yet discovered puberty, so going topless still proves to be socially acceptable. Or so you and your immigrant parents think.

And Then I Cursed This Motherfucker

This Motherfucker, he turned his face toward me, with his slightly receding hairline and his upper-lip sweat, and he sneered at me. His face melted from well-to-do into feral beast. “Listen lady,” he said, “I have as much right—”

“They’re not a lady,” my daughter interrupted.

Good Girls

—they had long blonde hair I found it everywhere—on the porch or in the yard or on the sidewalks or buried in the grass—I rolled in it and it stuck to me—

—it better not shit on the lawn one of them said—that was the first thing they said about me when they saw me squatting near the front door—I didn’t shit but I did piss on it when they weren’t looking—

Dangerous Man

I say, You are a very dangerous man, and he nods and says, It’s true. I am.

I say, Only you can’t be that dangerous, because you wear that cap. And you have eyeliner dripping down your face like black tears and your jeans are so ripped it looks as if your legs are sharp. And if you were a dangerous man, you would attempt to look less dangerous, in order to better do dangerous things.

The Instruction

There is not much to say about the building. Two stories. Shaped like an L. Siding painted Atlantic Ocean gray and each identical apartment door painted a dour winter blue. I was eighteen. He was twenty-four. We held hands. We were in the kind of love people only are when they just don’t know any better.

The Briefest Recess

Despite good-faith efforts of both parties (Elliot Suarez and Misha Suarez [nee Jackson]), the Agreement of Legal Separation made on January 3rd of this year has proven nonviable. By mutual covenant, it is hereby dissolved. 

Unmentionables

We arrived at the gilded department store, quiet on a mid-week morning. We darted around bored salesladies contouring shiny noses. Tested mists of oxygen-activated serum. Examined rose gold sunglasses stacked in rows. Smelled exotic candles in ambers jars, scents like Thistle Tundra and Whisper Noir, scents we couldn’t distinguish, sweet, spicy, hints of burnt orange, dashes of sage.