Stephanie Adams-Santos







On the train. All night, a clamor of parts. The chain on the door rattles softly by my head. I am covered in a silk sheet, but want even less. I sense the thin layer separating me from my nakedness and how it chafes me!




There was a mutt smelling the path. Its fur was dry as straw, the same color. The same color, nearly, as the earth. I watched it go on, thinking how handsome a thing it was to be a dog. Years down, the grass still gives us something. The air between its blades is corrugated, folded with auras. I wanted to lie down on my belly and smell the earth, too. P. walked ahead of me, and the dog disappeared. His shoulders glistened. The back of his neck reminded me of an ox, and I thought of their big, soft eyes. I was content to walk behind him.




Every day I saw a man walking along the road with a nest of plastic bags balanced on the top of his head. He carried it for miles and miles, going one way and then turning around and going back to start again. As he walked he stared down at the dust, which consumed his feet, and he sang in a language nobody knew. He didn’t want help.


There are people in this world who appear as holograms of something else. Whatever you think it is they carry, it’s not. Whatever you think it is they need, it’s not. If you really knew, I think your eyes would melt from your head, or you would bow down to the mantle and cry over the stones.







P. is cutting down a young tree with a machete. He will lift it over his shoulder when he is finished and carry it up the mountain. I’m useless. My head is a block of concrete. I take half-notes in the shade.


But there is a torch beneath our looking.




P. took me to the red baths, where I found a beetle. It was the most singular creature I have ever laid eyes on—it had a glimmering bodice of metallic purples and blues, colors that shifted at every curve so the eye could never settle. I could hardly bear to look at it. It spoke in the steel language that only soft things have. Underneath is a guarded silence.


Steam undulated in gentle clouds around me, and the smell of the herbs wove with the smells of the forest and the nearby limestone cave (that deep cold odor) and the spell cast me into a stupor that lasted for days.







As I made the steep climb to P.’s home, I heard someone say “…strangled in a  cucumber vine…” The beginning of the story and the end were lost to me, but I repeated those words over and over in my mind, all through the awful heat of the day, through the soreness of my limbs, through everything. I held those words like a rope in my hands, meditating on the coolness of the cucumber, coupled with death.




Ginger, lemongrass, shallots, turmeric dug up behind the house.


Rice. Chiles. Fire.


An old flank hung over the fire.


Rain. Thunder. The house shakes.


I wake up wet.




His name means “ring”







Children are everywhere. As I make my way from house to house, I remember what I don’t have. Next year I will bring: blankets, ribbons, magnets, scissors, motorcycle gloves, wallets, watches, reading glasses, books. 




BOM!BOM! Two thuds and the snake was dead. It fell limply down the embankment and two men ran after its corpse.


I cried quietly on the back of a motorbike. And later, when the wind was moving my hair and the earth rattled me, I wept again and felt something inside of me growing older and denser, like a tree.


So many eyes to weep from.




We went somewhere alone, just the two of us.


On the back of his motorbike I was overtaken with an awareness of water. I felt great discomfort, as though the water had somehow entered me. I could feel the torrents move between my ribs. Deeper down, I could hear the echo of fossils. It seemed the very tectonics of the earth were quivering against every surface of my body and nothing could dull the intake of my senses, such that every vibration pricked me like a pin pushed in with slow and deliberate intention.


At the end of it, we stopped. It was the site of a flood. Houses, people, buffaloes, pigs—many had drowned. There was nothing left but mud.







In the house.


I look up at you in the dark. The shadows carve out the shapes of your face as if from stone. Though you are only inches away, I can’t tell if you are looking at me or not. A bead of water trickles down from your forehead and onto my cheek. You grunt softly. I remember how quietly you cleared away my dish after I had finished. Your hand brushed mine and you blushed.




Water shook from a leaf.


I did not want to be heard. I wanted to hear myself in the beat of

another blood




At the house I forget who I am. The whole of my senses is splayed and assaulted.


I bury my eyes. Who will find me now?







The leaves on a branch touch only when shook from their rest.


A storm tousles the head of the forest.


When you leave you don’t say a word.


I smell the empty room you have left behind.








Stephanie Adams-Santos is a multidisciplinary Guatemalan-American writer whose work spans poetry, prose, screenwriting, and hybrid genres.  Her full-length poetry collection, Swarm Queen’s Crown (Fathom Books, 2016) was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Awards.