by Esteban Rodríguez

August. The plains sacrifice themselves 
to a humid sunset. The sky nibbles the edges
of evening, and all that glitters glitters

from the white and wrinkled folds of a rented
dress; my barefoot, fifteen-year-old cousin
standing like a mannequin in the middle

of the driveway, heels in hand, tiara planted
on her head, clouds of caliche hugging
her skin, because there is no runway here

made of marble or cement, no post-reception
view better than the picnic table where I sit.
I watch beads of expired hairspray fade

down her neck, seep through the cracked
and clay-colored pores of blush curdled
into sweat. And as the patterns on my cousin’s

face begin to melt, I know I’m witnessing
the same rite my aunts and mother once endured,
a chapter I’ll never reach, since all traditions

are one-sided, and since the moon, yawning
into importance, grants permission for gnats
to swirl above me, to become the only crown

I’ll ever be allowed to keep.  


Esteban Rodríguez is the author of six poetry collections, most recently Ordinary Bodies (word west press 2022), and the essay collection Before the Earth Devours Us (Split/Lip Press 2021). He is the Interviews Editor for the EcoTheo Review, Senior Book Reviews Editor for Tupelo Quarterly, and Associate Poetry Editor for AGNI. He currently lives in south Texas. 

Image: Aron Visuals

Image description: a white moon is centered behind purple clouds. The sky is dark blue.