After “Here I Am” by Martin Espada
She slides into the Hammerstein Ballroom,
gorgon at a monster’s bash, styling and profiling.
Brass hands like Isotoner gloves
clawed with brass tacks.
The vamps vaping vixen necks
ease off, mad scientists
mathing at stray ears ease off, the organ
stops grinding the way faith
dies in a Catholic church when the priest
reveals his true face: Stheno
smirks in red snakes and sunglasses
silver sequin gown, sharp
contrast to her bald copper scales, aching
as she steps off-kilter, nonplussed
after being just drafted into the Amazon order.
Her neckline does not hide the fresh mastectomy.
The hospital did not argue and got
the fuck out hell’s way
when she told the surgeon she’d
fly from Libya to New York.
Striding past the golems guarding the guacamole,
she’s a gal searching for a stiff drink as if to say
yo: sis numero uno been dead for thousands of dictators
and numero dos been incognito since
The Bikini Island incident but I represent, I soldier
in the name of ugliness. This is Stheno
slinging her gospel like baiju at Soi Cowboy and espresso
at the Louvre, until the girls slice their faces
with broken glass and the visitors spit on the paintings,
who married Gus from Hoboken, just to
divorce him one week later when the surgeon told her
the mastectomy wouldmake her prettier.
One year later, things are as they should be, she says
as tumors blossom in her other breast,
the symmetry a relief. She Skypes me from the surgical
theater. I see her crunch down
on the hand of a careless RN. Stheno wants
the surgery today, right now.
Anesthesia be damned, table circumscribed
by surgeons and sorcerers
smelling like latex, sweating bullets. Last update
to her wiki page reads Stheno:
Immortal with breast cancer, after every treatment
she laughs like a yogi. On the night she
enters the ballroom, starlit in silver sequins,
(her boa not made of feathers)
I hear a golem say, “How? Why?” I reply
Why? Because she’s not ashamed.
David Arroyo is a nerd and ex-Catholic. His Dungeons & Dragons alignment is Neutral Good. He holds an MA in English from Florida State University and a MFA in Creative Writing from Stonecoast. He’s published poetry in Coffin Bell, Nocturne, Stirring, Silver Blade, and The Chamber.