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POETRY / July Sickness / Teo Mungaray / Writer of the Month


On a plane to Ireland with my grandmother, I catch strep throat.
On my already broken ankle, I am almost too ill
to hobble to the doctor. But I do.
I spend an afternoon in a waiting room surrounded by fake-wood-vinyl walls
while Grandma Martha pours 3 fingers of Jack Daniels
(smuggled in a plastic flask from Florida), and catches up on Wimbledon.
Thank god for European healthcare. Thank god for antibiotics.
Thank god for a grandmother who doesn’t mind losing
a day of a trip for a sick boy. I am plagued the whole trip.
For days, I eat fruit or the occasional egg.
I down kettles of tea, and when I have to be polite, a sip of Guinness.
Only by the end of our 10-day jaunt around the country
can I eat the dark, meaty stews, braised in black beer. 

I thought it was just a poor coincidence of germs.
Come August, I am in a different waiting room during Chicago Pride.
A needle-prick of blood, 60 seconds, and a lab tech tell me I am positive.
The city is all around me: half naked, harnessed, jockstrapped and drunk.
And my mother – no, my mommy – is just steps away.
My last words still fresh in the air: “Don’t worry.
I get tested every three months. I just got tested in June.
This will be a breeze. Why not? It’s free. And then we’ll get a sangria.”

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.