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Rachael Inciarte


When we moved, I missed the wasps in the eaves. During the home inspection, my eyes caught instead on rust pipes and water stains. I stayed too busy to notice them as we pulled our treasures across the plank of the truck’s tongue. So, they made their home inside ours—their mandibles chewing and spitting pulp while I painted color swatches on living room walls.


That summer, though, they chased the baby across the backyard. Then, I noticed. Here is how it happened: I saw one, and then I saw them all. Their paper nests spread fungus across the hundred-year wood of our ceilings. They ricocheted off the fireplace walls. They crawled onto plates left untouched, tasting our meals with their thorny feet while the dog snapped uselessly after them with his teeth.


An exterminator came with poison and a pole, and afterwards a hail of wasps hit the floor. For a week I kept vigil, swept the bodies into piles of fetal husks. In death they curled like fiddlehead ferns. I wondered if it was already too late in the season to plant a garden.


“Expect them back,” the exterminator said of the wasps. “A house like this? They just can’t help themselves.” Still living out of boxes, I thought how strange that would be, wanting to return to the same place again and again.



all over the house I find goats head thorns / thistles that sting and with every step I learn to be more cautious than the last / they’re carried in on the rubber soled of our shoes between our toes / picked up around the neighborhood with bits of block chisme / besos served like backhanded compliments / whose husband and hijos did what and / what kind of a mother / I envy the things I knew before my first was even a seed inside my belly / and when my children burst into bloom we pick this home the way a hermit crab chooses a larger shell because it is more / because there is need


each child is a different latitude and longitude / I have a sand child and a snow child / a wild child and a worried child / my children are honey and rose they have thorny tongues and claws too / both thrashed in my belly like fish before they tasted their beginning breaths / the first he came to me in a dream / as far as the second I waited for her as sand passes through the throat of an hourglass / one I raised beneath a white sky / I filled the furnace with wood from a cord made the pyre lit the match myself to keep his toes warm / the other cuts her teeth on dust whipping through the mountains / the Santa Ana winds blow her hair into curls / that do not come through my blood / both will see the sunrise in the morning under my care / who are these creatures made of such dissimilar stuff / a little bit mine and a little more all their own


once I lived inside a hundred-year home beside ghosts in the cold North / the land needed nothing from me to blossom / here I can’t get the lawn to do more than yellow and die / all I grow are weeds and thorns / so many thorns they are carried inside to fill cracks in the tile / my son asks for a bigger bedroom when we move and I tell him we won’t go / he says alright but maybe next time / I wonder if I have broken his compass / warped his true North so that he will never believe in any place he can call home / my daughter is not even two has had at least as many homes / three if you can count the cozy room of her birth


neither of my thumbs are green so how will I sow these babies raise them from seed / I know there are five things a plant need: water; sunlight; soil; air; and /      space   / but when is the right time to harvest a child / what kind of mother / I don’t know how to grow anything with effort / that won’t one day wither and become thorns

Rachael Inciarte lives and writes in the Southern California desert. She holds an MFA from Emerson College. Her poems and stories have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Figure 1, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and others. 

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