The Swagger

In high school,
I used to study the older girls,
those shameless lessons
in how to wiggle the hips,
dazzle and taunt the boys.
But I lacked the requisite
jelly-like bone structure.

Now I’m watching
this young woman I work with.
She’s mastered skills
I never could manage.
She swaggers and sways,
and men haven’t the heart
to look elsewhere.
I try the same
and I stumble.

But I’ve met this guy
who says he likes me for who I am.
He doesn’t know
I was who I’m not
until recently.


He shouts at me
through the window of his car.
He’s been in this country
five years longer than I have
but I speak more English than he does.
“Hola!” he shouts again.
He drives by slowly but he doesn’t stop.

I’m his chica, so he says.
I don’t like the word in any language.
It annoys me that I used to date the man.
Funny how a girl can take comfort
in everything she once wanted to escape from.

I work in a florist shop.
I take wild beauty
and cut it down to size,
make it palatable
for weddings and funerals.
There’s men who would do the same to me.
I swear to resist
the rape of my roots.

His “Hola!” still ringing in my ears,
I prick my finger on a rose thorn.
If those events aren’t connected,
then why do I hesitate
before wiping up the blood?

Dominican Robin

I’m in a motel in Rhode Island,
changing the sheets
in room 220.

I came to this country
to find work,
the way birds fly to
the guaranteed food supply.

Okay, so robins and orioles return home
when the weather changes
to have babies
and I can’t see me doing that.

So the reason I’m here
is part instinct,
part reality.

And there’s this guy I like
who comes from around here.
He never has a need
to clip his wings.

Juanita Rey is a Dominican poet who has been in this country five
years. Her work has been published in  Pennsylvania English, Harbinger
Asylum, Petrichor Machine, and Porter Gulch Review.