My Grandmother says
No one calls my daughter

a liyer, forgetting
I am the daughter

of her daughter,
each of us smaller.

I hoard the words.
I know what speech is,

lines where words go.     
I know the vertical line

down my throat.
I read telephone wires

dotted with birds.
I read stove rings

and slaps pink as roses.
I speak to the heat grate.

It whispers back.
A lady comes to make me

talk. I blink at her, bend
my knuckles in code.

I have a debt of words,
a flood. A little bit

is worse than none.
I am the child of liyers.

The lady writes
Self-selective mute

down on her paper.      
Grandmother says

We don’t know where
her words are           

though once I fit
inside her daughter.


Jessica Cuello is the author of Pricking (Tiger Bark Press, 2016) and Hunt (The Word Works, 2017). She has been awarded The 2017 CNY Book Award (for Pricking), The 2016 Washington Prize (for Hunt), The New Letters Poetry Prize, a Saltonstall Fellowship, and most recently, The New Ohio Review Poetry Prize. Her newest poems are forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, Transom, Cave Wall, Pleiades, Crab Creek Review, and Barrow Street.