Self-Portrait at Thirty-Three – by Michelle Peñaloza

Christ-aged, I thought I’d have born a child by now.
I justify my empty wound by filling my belly,
watching myself grow fat with abundance—
the various joys of three decades and three years,
the fucks I have given and refuse to give.
Despite time, my reflection sun-kissed and bare.
My face, always my face—my mother’s thin eyebrows
and round arcs, my father’s exclamation-point chin.
Each grey hair earned and earned and earned.
This year bends toward its end, another lion, another sum
of circulations around the sun. I take inventory of this year’s
births: my children proliferated from my hands—
little letters, little seeds. I kiss your eyelids, perfume
my fingertips with your fragrant leaves. Bless me, bless you—
across the wind, scattered and ever hopeful for blooming.

Michelle Peñaloza is author of two chapbooks, landscape/heartbreak (Two Sylvias, 2015), and Last Night I Dreamt of Volcanoes (Organic Weapon Arts, 2015). Her full-length collection, Former Possessions of the Spanish Empire, won the 2018 Hillary Gravendyk National Poetry Prize and will be published in August 2019 by Inlandia Institute. Her poems can be found in Prairie Schooner, Pleiades, Third Coast, New England Review and elsewhere. A Kundiman fellow, Michelle was the winner of the 2019 Scotti Merrill Emerging Writer Award for Poetry from The Key West Literary Seminar. Michelle lives in rural Northern California.