Aged thirteen and whispers of spaghetti straps
and overalls cut at the thigh. Chlorine burned
skin. Our one-piece blue-gray
Venice Dolphins swimsuits hung up to dry
and the darkness swallowing the room.
Smacked girls at the window of a Culver City apartment.
On occasion people would say that I looked like them
like I was a part of their family
the third sister the middle sister
the boyish sister the harmless sister.
Something about our similar-looking
Guatemalan noses, crème sugar to my ears.
If you looked in on us you’d find
three pubescent jaguars
stretched out at eventide.
We’d stay up in darkness, More Bounce to the Ounce
or To Live and Die in L.A. playing in the background
and our bodies growing in the tongue
of darkness, smooth as suede. Laughing
and clawing each other’s legs as we danced
in darkness our silhouettes ripened like that of squeezed blackberries.
If you looked in on us in their shared room you’d see
flannel pajama bottoms, ripped T’s, chancletas,
period stained shorts and the taste of lip balm smeared across pillowcases.
Me gliding from one bed to the other, our heartbeats
chasing the tread of darkness and then down to the floor I’d drip
my body, purring against the carpet. They’d sketch
onto the walls the saliva and teeth from each first kiss
they took from Ritchie, Benny, Purple and Ulysses.
I wove the word nena onto our skins,
the ticklish feel of Manolo, the half Guatemalan
half Jamaican lifeguard’s breath rolling
over us as he tried to lick my ear.
The smell of vultures and wolves, us pussycats
blushing and giggling, the room growing darker
with each black pearl of laughter.
A Los Angeles native, Alessandra R. Castellanos writes poetry, fiction and memoir that draw upon her vibrant and tenacious ancestral heritage in Guatemala and California. Her conjured worlds encompass feral spirits, otherworldly legends, and the disconcerting realities of domestic workers in Hollywood celebrity homes. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Offing, Drunken Boat, Lunch Ticket, RipRap Journal, Chaparral, Duende, and The Round among others. Castellanos is a student of the Method Writing Approach taught by Jack Grapes, a member of the Los Angeles Poets and Writers Collective, and a graduate of California State University, Northridge. For more please visit alessandracastellanos.com.