Back to Issue Twenty-Eight.

Special Period in a Time of Peace

2019 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry

Anticipating Christ, Abuela brings a basket
of sour oranges. The night is good.
Oil dizzies in the skillet before falling
on father’s t-shirt, coloring the breast
like wound-leak. From the island
where children are buried only in white,
no news. But here, iguanas freeze
and petrify before dropping out of trees,
so it’s as good a time as any to learn
that waiting to die is not the same as looking
like death.          Ay, no hay que llorar.
Everyone in the room steps their right foot
forward before lifting it back, shifting
side to side. I’ve been wrong before,
but I suspect we don’t hear the same music.
Wasp wings drag on the windows, the trouble
of picking up after ourselves. At midnight
we turn our attention to the listing of miracles:
pig legs, godspeed, the two-ply of a diagnosis.
Ribbons and wrapping left out to reanimate,
none of us stay up to watch the dark level
its scales. Instead, the women in the house
sleep facing the wall, all of us more widow
than virgin, now.



Sonnet with Orula

2019 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry

Orisha of divination

At my fourth consulta the Babalawo says he will recover
and she will not. My eyeline greens. I lean like a shovel,
lower as a handprint. This is a daughter’s future—plural,
legible only in the script of another. The back of my neck
peeling in sheets thin enough to dissolve on a tongue.
I am to spend more time in tall grass, watching the cycle
of bugs. I am to spend more time cradling weight in
my palms, especially fruit that hides its rot. White smoke
waves the room. I say thank you in a language I used to
cover my mouth before speaking. Blessings and energy. Iré
and aché. On the drive home, a cast of pregnant land crabs
scuttle across the road at the request of the moon. I know
the moon does not think me important. The stars could be
showing me their backs, and I couldn’t do a thing about it.



Sierra del Escambray

2019 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry
Previously appeared in the Florida Review

Loud, verdant. The musculature of hanging
palm, sugar-air damp on the shoulders.

A trogon sings in even cuts of yarn.

El guía says: Red belly, white throat.
El guía says: They nest in what’s leftover.

The sun behind the clouds twitches like a goat tail.

I have the dream about helicopters,
about symmetry—heads

not unlike mine split down the middle
as if for sharing.

Los rebeldes said look when they meant listen.
Los rebeldes crouched at the waters fall,

Now, in the off-season, men and women
with pink hands, backpacks.

El guía shoos a foraging pig
to widen the path, or

the same sun choking.

What have you been offered? What did you take?

Leslie Sainz is a first-generation Cuban-American, born and raised in Miami, Florida. A CantoMundo Fellow, she received her MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she was the editor-in-chief of Devil’s Lake. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Narrative, Black Warrior Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Ninth Letter, the Journal, the Florida Review, and others. She was the Fall 2017 Writer-in-Residence at the Hub City Writers Project, and is a 2018-2019 Stadler Fellow at Bucknell University.


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