Author: Jenn Givhan

The balloon animals wilting in the city’s

only zoo remind me. When I turn

circus, I wear more than costume. I wear


my sister, Nieve. White as snow.

Girl whose mama locks

herself inside for days. Girl


whose claustrophobic potions

fail her, fingers muddying

leaves & earthworms.


Mama out of focus

with her heft & weight

her cold tortillas.


She calls me cochina. Pig child.

I tug at my basalt-

black hair, woven


with ribbons like myth

Mama fixes each morning to soothe

her nerves, combing & brushing


me smooth. When she’s angry

she leaves on my cheeks

hand-shaped splotches redder


than the birthmark on my neck

where she says

I was kissed by God.


I wonder what ice-cream tastes like

in heaven. I wonder if the growl of

mountain lions is real (Why are you here, child?)


& the answer is Nieve.