115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017


Yasmine Romero, University of Hawaii, West Oahu

Yasmine Romero is an Assistant Professor of English in the Humanities at the University of Hawai'i-West O'ahu.  She teaches composition and rhetoric, language studies, and gender and sexuality courses.  Her research includes mapping intersectionality onto language and composition classrooms and the sexual and cultural politics of virtual communities of practice.


In the deepest part of the world

Is an inky labyrinth

Her chaotic dim light

Her hands in the current

Her voice if you

press your ear to the freezing


Marianna runs the forked shell through the length of her dark, black hair.  From where it banks on the crown of her head to its sunburned ends, she surveys the pool of water before her.

And there are ripples, sudden and sharp, from the farthest edge of the pool.  Marianna tilts her head up to see a toothless grin.  The squat, sexless creature holds their weapon for her to see.

—Seashells are good enough, she murmurs and continues to comb her hair.

High-pitched voices push against the jalousie windows.  They mourn the loss of another: a great aunt of Agana’s.  She stares at the candles burning near the front of the room, slightly frowning.  She can only remember her great aunt’s sour breath.  Her mother and grandma seem to remember her more in their shaken cries, their uneven tones. 

The wails of the women in her family rise tide-high.  

Agana shrinks back into her wooden seat, which is smooth underneath her palms.  She does not understand their grieving.  Death is in the sea to her, ever since those kids brought out the bloody corpse of a small shark.  Look, they said, look what we found.  But whatever animal soul had been in that pair of black eyes was gone.  It no longer interested her.

As they start the second round of prayers, Agana slips out into her grandma’s garden.  It is thick with the smell of the day’s heat.  She inhales it, the tinges of hibiscus almost too sweet in her lungs.  Soon enough, she is touching mottled and vibrantly colored ferns that line the center.  She stops to pat the faded elephant statue that plays watchman, a poor imitation of Ganesha.  Her fingers move to the aloe.  Their tiny, harmless spines tickle her palms.  She grins.

Behind her is an orchestra of voices.  In front of her, there is simply quiet.  Slowly, she approaches her favorite part of the garden.

The goldfish pond reflects everything and nothing.  Agana approaches the edge in tiptoe.  It is made of walls of stone licked by some kind of ivy.  When she lifts her head to scan the surface, however, her reflection is scattered by the evening.  The bright street lamp that shines against the line of hibiscus bushes creeps in, giving her childish appearance a severity. 

“It’s your eyes,” an unfamiliar voice says coolly.  Agana freezes.  Someone is there, above her, a hand curled into the windy branches that make up the largest tree in the garden.  Her reply is raw: “What?”

“Your eyes.”  Someone behind her, sliding down the rough branches.  A strong smell of decaying leaves and wet limestone fills her nostrils.  She blinks. 

“What about them?”

“They say you’re too curious, child.”

“Not a child.”

“Yes,” he laughs, this raucous, trembling sound.  Someone crouches on the rocky edge of the pond.  Their shoulders are bent forward.  “Yes, you are.”  They sound as though they are chewing betel nut.  Agana imagines the stains across their teeth, and slowly backs away.  “What do you want,” she almost whispers.  The voices of the women in her family return like ghosts.  They grapple with death in wavering cries.  Agana slips against the chalky white bench her great grandpa used as a sort of retreat.  She remembers him smoking, and how that cigarette brought out his eyes: an unapologetic red.

 But the pair in front of her is not her great grandpa’s.