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POETRY / Disaster Triptych / Teo Mungaray / Writer of the Month


CW: Abuse


Sarah squirrelled away Tupperware. She stashed
food between the bookshelf and wall. Hid Gladware
in the closet under sweaters and laundry. Our dog
bit through her door. He tore the corner-wood free.
He always found the ripe containers. Once,
Mom slapped Sarah. No food in your room. Didn’t you see
the rats? I killed one under the fridge. 
Sarah’s fault for tempting
the rats from the golf course restaurant that shut down.
There was a maggoty sandwich sandwiched behind the dresser.
We tore it down: tore down the wall, the bed,
ripped the mattress, lit up the dark closet.
Thank god you can’t hide from this, Sarah.
You can’t hide from our disgust, even though
I’m the one with gloves on, cleaning up your messes. 



The word “squalor” has always reminded me
of Sarah’s bedroom. not just the food she let rot.
The clothes, the papers, the toys and wrappers and bags.
All manner of debris, putrid, oozing blankets,
pillows of crust, dull crowns of dust.
Puzzle-piece portrait of dolls, frozen in frame,
their porcelain counterparts lining the walls.
Doll after doll, blank glass eyes. One, a nun,
patron of this disaster. Dog hair, sticky notes,
Lip Smacker chapsticks, a broken ballerina music box.
The snapped blinds, the window screen ripped out
from breaking in after a lost key. A computer
as virus-riddled as me now from downloading porn–
and always the scary kind. An erotic novel
saved on the desktop, harlequin romances under the bed.
There was a whale poster in the closet, the sweater
mom knit with angora hot air balloons.
Oh, and the smell. When I told mom I was writing this,
she said Don’t forget the smell. Don’t forget how bad it was.
The worst of it all was the sweet-sick odor of her body-spray
trying to cover up the rot. Now, look into her heart.



Grandma, I see you in Sarah, Sarah
in you: the clutter, the compulsions,
the hoarding, the lies and twisted fantasies,
the hypochondria, the manipulation,
the roundness of your faces, terrible cooking,
forwarding chain emails, the loneliness. I see
the way you ruined my father reflected in Sarah
ruining Mom. Your anger, the silence I treat you with.
Someone told me seeing is a kind of love. I don’t want
to love you, when all I see is your ugliness. Someone told me
looking away is a kind of hatred, apathy as the ultimate cruelty.
I try to look away. I try to rid myself of you both, but
I have no good reason to turn away from you. Then,
I see Sarah. I keep seeing Sarah in you. I see your heart rotting
there, right there, on the outside of your skin.

Teo Mungaray is a queer, chronically ill, latinx poet. He holds an MFA from Pacific University of Oregon and is pursuing his doctorate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is a co-founder and co-EIC of Cotton Xenomorph. His poems have recently appeared in or are forthcoming from Sycamore Review, Five:2:One Magazine, Drunk Monkeys, Birdfeast, Cosmonauts Avenue andGlass: A Journal of Poetry. He has a cat named Lysistrata.