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Upon Meeting My Father for the First Time, My Mother Thinks—

by Bailey Cohen

American. He might have been her first
use of the word in this way; in my mother’s language,

American sounds most like a verb, meaning,
although there is no direct translation, to

America. Because we can afford to, my mother flies
with me to show me where she lived and I

American my way into her country to try to make it
ours. In Riobamba, my cousin says Come, primo, watch me

American this woman against this wall. He tells me how he learned
to be fluent from desire, and I wonder if my mother made an

America of herself for my father. She’d say she did
it for herself. That trying to lose her accent was a mercy killing.

America, I don’t want to bury you. I want to burden you
with my stupid open mouth. I want to crawl inside and

American all my teeth. I dream of a woman fingering
my palate and ask her What parts of my body have never been

American? When splayed, pink & muscular, the brain
squalors. It spans the width of only a few small

America. This is at its most impressive. Inside the brain
is a boredom of folds, resembling a tired dirt path. The path leads to

America. The path moves like a river through the body. Inside the body
of my mother is a mountain range and inside my father’s is an

America. Together, they do something relatively unextraordinary,
and make something rugged from their ruined landscapes.

Bailey Cohen is the author of Self-Portraits as Yurico (forthcoming, Glass Poetry Press). An undergraduate student at New York University, he serves as the associate editor for Frontier Poetryand runs Alegrarse, an online journal of poetry and interviews with poets. Cohen’s work appears in publications such as [PANK]Raleigh Review, Boulevard, Longleaf Review, The Boiler Journal, and elsewhere. He can be found across most social media platforms @BaileyC213.