Con Miel

words by Reina Davis • photography by Daniel Allegretti



As I peel the first layer of skin off of my calloused hands with my teeth/I spit/and my eyes wander across now broken pads thinking/how could something that feels so much/take so much time to build a shell of skin/out of the fear/of pain/sacrificing the sensation of/ sweaty palms on first dates/and/the twisted finger nail entanglement/of /my hands in/your hair.

I’ll admit I think about myself this way.

Of the efforts I have taken to resurrect my ribcage/as a force/(not)/to be reckoned with./Of the clenching of my jaw/fearing the gateway it becomes/when love letters leave my tongue/like/I speak and it leaves ink stains/Rorschach-style/across my palette leaving /wordsmith love bites/on you/and/(I)/ as our lips leave cautiously/but/always returning eagerly. 

I am learning 

to brush off the eraser shavings/from/my shoulders./Not because of any mistake I made/but because/it makes more room for your fingers/to dance./They are always tracing ballads into my back./My spine/becomes instrument and/(I)/am a victim of/exhale./

The body’s quietest song.

I am stubbornly taping my bruised knuckles./Shadow boxer woman that I am/there is no room  left in the ring/for/me vs. myself/anymore./I am tapping out /fist on the ground on my bedroom floor/rhythmically/1, 2, 3/as if I had any semblance of control over the tapping of/my heart against /my breastbone./I am learning/this is not a sign of a losing battle./Feeling your body/does not have to equate/to fearing it./The way it speaks/or/the day it doesn’t/.

I am learning 

taking off the boxing gloves/is not the same as/performing an amputation on/ a piece of /myself./Blood after the exfoliation/is not a sign of violence but/of rebirth./Just a reminder that/the act of letting go/can be

a messy one. 

You grab my hand as I peel the last/clumsy hangnail/from its resting place./You run your thumbover its surface/smiling/always going on about/how smooth my hands/always are./I realize/ although the calloused part of me has/collapsed/I find comfort seeing that/my skin/now foreign /and/tender/has already

grown back. 



You said I looked like your 1980’s dream girl and I wondered if I looked as beautiful/comfortable as the day your parents fell in love. When they were teenagers sneaking out the window of their parents’ houses. When your father’s mom was passed out with an empty bottle of wine & a cigarette butt laying between her fingers. game show lullabies coursing through the living room/no life to be had there/volume at 13/. The day your father vowed to never become his father and vowed to never love a woman so hard she became nothing but empty filters & a box of wine corks./laugh track/. Did I act as coy as your mother did the moment she told your father it was the first time she had ever smoked weed then wrapped her lips so naturally around that joint it made your father’s palms sweat. The day your father did not equate misconception=failure=pain. I will admit I am still learning these things. heart racing ≠ fear ≠ imminent death. I am learning to sit comfortably in this iphone photograph fitting nicely within this rule of thirds leaving room for you/me/my enamorment of you/ (double tap). The way your mother folded herself so sweetly/effortlessly into the window of your father’s wallet. back pocket romance. gas station roses. polaroid flash. She did not fear the way her love took up space leaving room for hidden pleasures tucked in his Levi jeans next to a/condom wrapper/stick of gum/new-found vulnerability/(reblog). I admit I revel in past generational romance yet fear the speed with which time moves. I fear I will speak so fast I will choke on my words and cough up a year or two. I will look at my hands angry that I am vomiting blood and still can’t predict the future. I am waiting for the day the unknown ≠ failure ≠ pain. I am practicing looking at you slow like the long exposure of a photograph (f/32) so I will be able to record you in my memory and exist in front of you simultaneously. dance in duality. (click). I am finding a new-found vulnerability in sharing both my trepidation/exhilaration with you. here/now. I am learning to look as beautiful/comfortable folded up within you in this present moment as you do blanketed in my poetry. kids will see us hand in hand and they will pay no mind but they will listen to their parents’ favorite song and they will think of us. (click). They will find my self-rejected love poem crumpled in the street along with a /broken nail/crushed soda can/pigeon feather/ and they will know I am discontented with the words I gave you. words not worthy enough to span across generations. but they will know. 

that I am happy. (retweet). 



Skin like dirt 
You knew as people 
We would grow 
Perhaps crooked
But upward

Heels like roots
Our bodies knew home
Just as 
The earth made it so
It’s why our feet feel so familiar with the ground when we dance 

Our words 
plant seeds 
Germinate teachings 
You can hear it in our
heart beat 
In our
Black magic sorcery
When winter passes
And my grandparents
Resurrect the dead
Creating life infinitely  
With the dirt 
From under
Their fingernails 

Don’t tell me
My people don’t know transformation
When mi abuelita
Tills the earth with her breath 
Until her lungs 

She shows me

My legacy
Is perennial 
Grows tall and strong 
But does not stay where it is planted 
she shows me
It was never meant to

My legacy 
Blooms transformation 
With the slight flick of rib cage
Tongue como Tierra
i spit soil nutrient and
I build homes in my mouth to create poems as a garden 

I feed people with the metaphors I cultivated with the dirt I was fed somedays 

It’s all I’ve ever known how to do

My survival
Is rooted in 
Getting my hands dirty 
Pushing seeds so far between my teeth
I have no choice but to 
Uproot the roses in my throat
That have outgrown me 
Transformation means removing things that do not serve you 
Even if they
Are beautiful 
It means making room 
For yourself to grow
I learned that by seeing my mother 
Cough up thorns 
I learned that by seeing my homegirl take up so much space 
On the dance floor
Marigolds bloomed 
From her hips 
And she made no apologies
She told me
It’s how you get rid of weeds 

My grandpa 
Pulls weeds in our front yard 
He knows we seldom have visitors
But he always wants to make sure
Our bare feet have a place to rest
To make sure
We have room to grow