ROSA ALCALÁ.February 2017


Photo by Jeff Sirkin




Boys in basketball jerseys


from the sneaker sale

and elbow

each other.

They walk away

& come back.

The breast drawn into

public view

by a good


All those hormones


the horde

pull them


to find a tiny mouth


to their desire


my belly

whose ancient scrolls


Is this not

what they

bargained for?



What other animals

are awake

with us?

The cats hide beneath

their paws. The neighbor’s

five dogs peaceful

at this opaque

and formless


A lizard’s white underbelly

strobes across

the bathroom window.

Our bed

wild kingdom

our burrow.

You suckle me

into the dream of the tiger

running after the baby


My brothers yell, GO! GO!

and I turn from the TV set

as wobbly-legged

he collapses into brush.



The breast pump buzzes

& beeps at intervals

through my office door.

Their professor


madonna & machine

if suddenly they entered

with camera.

My body is penmanship


to their poems.

Why alarm them?

My rushed sign reads:

Do Not





The cacophony of mating season

on NPR.

Could a male penguin thaw

this bag of breast milk

between fat and fur?

I cannot imagine sex in Antarctica.

(I’m not to imagine sex

at all)



Halo of milk inside the bra cup.

The afterimage, the olfactoid.

A shroud

for the faithful. Who

is just one.

O, ye

of little faith.



In the playground no one smells

on me the cumulative trace

of lovers. My milk, my ilk

as alibi.

But I want to confess

to fantasies filthier

than the baby pool.

Then a phobia,

a strange moral


The bra flap clicks

back into place.



At the baby shower

she unwraps

and holds in the air

a Hooter Hider.


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*** ** ***



Look, I may be no Meryl Streep, but unlike that Daughter of the Revolution, I do my own stunts. Wig or no wig, I’m gonna play the hell out this part. For example, in the first scene, they wanted grandma to break a hip, so I gave them a broken hip: I careened from kitchen counter, over stools, and fell precisely on my mark. People know when they are fooled, they want the real thing. Do you know what I told the director when the “firemen” chopped down the door to save poor old granny? I cannot work like this. They are too pretty to put out fires. I’ll just lie here until you find the right type to carry me off screen. The child actors—like my very own children!—grew tired of the delays and shoved the food stylist’s props into their mouths. It’s the same thing for this extended nursing home scene. I told the director, look the lighting in here is terrible, and there are so many characters at different hours, I’m not sure we even know what the story is anymore. I’ll have to review my contract when my son comes in for his cameo. Did I mention my daughter-in-law wrote the script? She keeps revising it, but the ending’s the same. Sure, I’ve heard the gossip that I’m being replaced by someone younger. One day, I’ll just walk out the door and into a location with better exposure.


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Rosa Alcalá
is the author of three books of poetry, Undocumentaries and The Lust of Unsentimental Waters, both from Shearsman Books (2010 & 2011), and M(y)Other Tongue (forthcoming 2017, Futurepoem Books). Her poetry has also appeared in a number of anthologies, including Stephen Burt’s The Poem is You: 60 Contemporary American Poems and How to Read Them (Harvard UP, 2016) and Angels of the Americlypse: An Anthology of New Latin@ Writing (Counterpath, 2014). The recipient of an NEA Translation Fellowship, she has translated poetry by Lila Zemborain, Lourdes Vázquez, and others, and her translations appear in The Oxford Book of Latin American Poetry. Spit Temple: The Selected Performances of Cecilia Vicuña (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2012), which she edited, was runner-up for a PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. Born and raised in Paterson, NJ, she now lives in El Paso, TX, where she teaches in the Department of Creative Writing and Bilingual MFA Program at the University of Texas-El Paso.​


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Note: The Photo “Girl with Shark Girl,” by Jeff Sirkin, depicts a girl interacting with the installation Come Follow Me, entrance by Casey Riordan Millard. Come Follow Me, entrance is a mixed media installation created for the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center’s UnMuseum, 2012.


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February 2017.ROSA ALCALÁ