La Operación

I will never know my abuela,
but I know her eyes.
She dug her mother's shoes out
from graying snowbanks, pulled

that black-shawled woman from glass.
Fingers, stained with banana leaves,
blistered under hard twine.
Men lined up outside her door,

dragging hungry wives and children.
One said, ella es la reina de Harlem.
One said, she's a beggar's filthy palm.
She never fed them all.

They groped the doorframe and pried
the lock, but all she could say was
duerme duerme duerme.
And she'd dream too, of fawns lying

by roads outside the city. That they leapt
towards her, their eyes black or missing;
she feared the impossible angle of their necks.
I know she woke from this dream

with a son in her arms and her womb
on a table. I know she did not ask for this.
And yet: her body, with its dimpled crags,
she admired. She even admired her son,

with his roped knuckles, and the daughter
who was not her daughter. But the space
between her belly and spine was still
empty: a discarded ring.

Paige Quiñones recently received her MFA from the Ohio State University, where she now teaches as a senior lecturer. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Muzzle Magazine, Winter Tangerine Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, McSweeney's, and elsewhere. Her poem "Summer, or Daughters I Haven't Met" was a finalist for Best of the Net 2015. You can follow her on Twitter at