In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • My First Time Alone in Ritidian's Cave
  • Jacob l. Camacho (bio)

Have you seen my ancestors' paintings?Traced with your eyes their dark brown skin?It wasn't until I was older with these eyesthat I walked inside a cave of limestone.Their images of bodies, dark, like blood.Made me forget how to use my lips.

And no words seeped past these dry lips.I lost myself beside those paintings.Where the aquifer doesn't filter blood.They whispered to me to study my skin.Pass my flesh, pass the mud, through limestone.To gaze down at my feet with dark brown eyes.

You could see my soul dance within these eyes.From behind my teeth, whispered through these lips,spoke an old language that crumbles limestoneto unveil what my ancestors' paintingssay: Give thanks for your olive skin,give thanks for your blood.

Have you ever tasted your own blood?The way it plaques your teeth, glosses your eyes?I've lost it, pricked it, cut it, gashed it. Skin.Mine. My own. Elastic, soft, like these lips.This body crawled through mud and onto paintings—onto these walls made of limestone.

I've used it since grade school fights: Limestone.For reasons childish, foolish, drawn blood.The same aged color that lined these paintings.I've cried mosaic images through eyeswith white knuckles that hammered cut lips.Me. Against others with same colored skin. [End Page 3]

When was the last time you kissed skin?Instead of scratching, beating, with limestone?I wouldn't say a lie in that cave, with bland lips,these sweaty palms, with this—this blood.Ever. I remained in that cave until my eyesneeded the sun again—but—the paintings—

I wished to ink these paintings into my skinso my eyes know, confirm, that without limestone,I may pour my blood from behind these lips. [End Page 4]

Jacob l. Camacho

Born and raised in Guåhan, Islan Marianas, Jacob L. Camacho is a CHamoru writer, educator, and activist. He received his Creative Writing MFA from Rutgers University, Camden, and is an assistant professor in creative writing at Stockton University. Whether under a lemai tree or on a fire escape, he loves storytelling immensely.