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by Sophia Modica


In the basement

My grandfather offers me

Nana’s muumuus

Printed with hibiscus flowers

They smell, like stale plastic

From the discolored bin they are kept in

I accept

One step closer to her

My grandfather tells me a story

About his grandmother’s funeral

About uncles playing large drums
Sticky when slapped from humidity

Hair slicked back, dark like wet charcoal

Her brothers beating leather
With their hands

While his aunties danced,

And she was celebrated

He asks me,

If I want to see my great great grandfather

Walks to a pile of photos

Pulls out, my drawing from kindergarten

Stick figure,

Depiction unknown

From beneath, lifts a bulky frame

A faded 5x7 photo

My great great grandfather,
His depiction

To me,


I did not ask his name

My grandfather tells my mother

Not to speak Spanish

I fail high school Spanish
Stumbling over pronunciations
An earthquake of shame erupting
On the inside of my throat

My ancestors,
Don’t understand my speech

I am given my father’s last name

So that every trace of history

Is undetectable from the surface

When I ask my grandfather
Where we came from

He doesn’t reply to my message,

At least in no direct answer

My aunt tells my mother

“If we had been born in this year

We would be proud”

Of being Puerto Rican

Turns to the backseat of the car,

Tells me the lineage rests in my hands

I think of how my children
(who I may not have)

Won’t hold our history

As I can barely grasp it

Making sense of only fragments

Pieced together

As my grandfather


And with him
We wither


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