Letter to Myself From my Great Grandmother

Remember, when they took our portrait

they had not invented smiling for the camera.

Do not think we were other than stones

in boiling water, clapping together, making that steam.

Girl with mercury coursing your bird-bones.

Did you think it was you who invented this brittle strength?

Girl in the clothing of children and men.

Girl who cannot stop reading.

I laid the seed of you in a bed of cabbage.

Did you think we have not glowed in the dark somewhere before?

I chased the demons through the night rooms of the house

and when I caught them they started to pull branches

in for the funeral pyre. I told them your name

they grew quiet, said nothing.

Your peculiar name, burning a charm through my tongue. 

Girl with dozens of tiny electric hairs that light up when you’re afraid. 

I loved women and the pearls of their friendship. 

Wouldn’t you like to know how.

Wouldn’t you like to know how 

I preferred my potatoes.

Wouldn’t you like to taste now the salt

of the soil that gave me my body.

Girl, grow your nails, stop stripping them back

with your teeth. You’ll need your sharpest

bones for a demon much more serious

than your own doubt.

In my dreams I drank something other

than water and now you are drunk.


Mónica Gomery is a rabbi and poet, raised by her Venezuelan Jewish family in Boston and Caracas, and now living in Philadelphia. Her work explores queerness, diaspora, ancestry, theology, and cultivating courageous hearts. She is the author of Here is the Night and the Night on the Road (Cooper Dillon Books, 2018), and the chapbook Of Darkness and Tumbling (YesYes Books, 2017). Her poetry has been published in various journals, including most recently Frontier, Foglifter, Ninth Letter, and Plenitude Magazine. She has been a Pushcart Prize nominee and a finalist in the Cutthroat Journal Joy Harjo Poetry Contest.