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  • Extraterrestre
  • Runner-up 2018 Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers

At the age of nine I was catapulted into the starsTo land, face down, on an alien planet.A planet so much like the one I had known—Capable of supporting life                (if the life had                blond hair and                blue eyes and                skin unbrowned by the sun)With an atmosphere just like Earth's                (but thicker                only the soundwaves of the English language                were allowed to pass through it).

I was lost, at first.The terrain was unfamiliar—it was filledWith red rocks                (they'll trip you if you aren't careful—                break your neck)I pledged with the wrong hand to a flag thatWasn't mineLearned to say ma'am and sirLearned to smile without my eyes                (it's a sign of status here—                the bigger the smile,                the more power you have).

My own words slipped off my tongueTo fall, in a puddle of oil, at my feet                (I can't roll my Rs anymore                ¿como se dice?) [End Page 8] I mopped up the oil with a rag and thenBecause the rag was dirty,I threw it away.                (English was easier anyway                it didn't get stuck in the air).

Cafecito became frappucinosPeople look at you funny when you say youEat rice and beans for breakfastSo I started eating oatmeal                (then cereal                then nothing at all)See me at sixteen pushing away a bowl of gallo pintono tía, no quiero comer                (Costa Rican women are all rounded edges                but I belong here now                home of the crash diet                land of size 00)Si quieres ser gringa, necesitas ser más pequeña.

Third-culture kid doesn't apply to me—I have only one.                (I still can't say if that first culture was                stripped from me                or if I gave it up willingly)The new planet devoured me and I let itWatching my own consumption from afarI belong only here                (or:                I belong nowhere                or:                I belong back in the stars).                                                        Costa Rica,                                                        Mi patria querida                                                        Perdoname                                                        The he olvidado. [End Page 9]

Emily Perez

Emily Perez attends high school in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She is the author of the young adult novel Yesterday She Was Tiffany (Word One Publishing, 2017), and her work has been recognized by the Apprentice Writer and Chattanooga's Center for the Creative Arts. When she's not writing, she's working with her high school's theater department, serving as the under-secretary-general of her regional model UN conference, and editing for the literary journal Polyphony H.S.



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