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Juanita Falls into Transformative Nouns

By Adela Najarro

I have learned to speak dementia
by looking straight into her eyes
smiling, laughing, then digging deep
to find those cells in my body
when the placenta tied us as one.

I can ignite our DNA and unravel
each nucleic strand.
We burn through sunlight and stars.

In her twisted arthritic pain
she says,

My life has been shit.
Nothing good ever happened.

I mix three cups of sugar
with hurt and betrayal

and say things like,

When I was a little girl
and you . . and you . . and you
worked so late . . .worked so hard. . .
wanted only for me to be safe.

I smile crows feet wrinkles.
I hold steady. I hold her hand.
We transform nouns
into adjectives so that pain
becomes painfully beautiful,

so that mental anguish
turns into a memory
about going to the beach,

how sand
tastes salty
in her mouth.



Listen as Adela Najarro reads this poem: “Juanita Falls into Transformative Nouns

Added: Tuesday, August 16, 2022  /  Used with Permission.
Adela Najarro
Photo by Portia Shao.

Adela Najarro is the author of three poetry collections: Split Geography, Twice Told Over and My Childrens, a chapbook that includes teaching resources. With My Childrens she hopes to bring poetry into the classroom so that students can explore creative writing, identity, and what it means to be Latinx in US society. She teaches creative writing, literature, and composition at Cabrillo College. Adela holds a doctorate in literature and creative writing from Western Michigan University, as well as an M.F.A. from Vermont College. She is widely published in numerous anthologies and literary magazines. More information about Adela can be found at her website.

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