Mosaic, by Gabriella Torres

Gabriella Torres is the author of two chapbooks, Sister (Lame House Press, 2005) and The Emergence of Brood III (Delere Press, 2014). Her poems have recently appeared in Josephine Quarterly or are forthcoming in The Equalizer: Third Series. Her work is largely informed by her experience of growing up Latinx in the rural Midwest. She currently lives in Iowa and co-edits the tiny with Gina Myers. You can find her at

Excerpts from “Mosaic”


This is me with the layers peeled back.

This is me as a child.

This is my wholeheartedness coming at you live.

I am arriving.

I am untying the knots.

I am getting to the center.

I am walking through the fire.

I am carving up the ashes.

Into wildernesses.

In the wildernesses I will roam free.

I will allow myself to dissolve into the landscape.

I will be a new narrative.

I will use my hero’s voice.

These are my plans for the future.

I am always making future plans.

I am an in the midst of a reckoning.

I am reckoning with myself.

I am the rusty truck in the driveway.

Overgrown with mold.

In the hollowed out parts.


This morning I wake up out of breath.

This morning I am out of words.

I have nothing to stitch into my skin.

My skin is a trauma.

My skin is testament and witness.

By body goes through all of this.

My body is an undertaking.

My body inevitably gets tired.

I think my body keeps waking up to hopefully find itself in the right place.

Let’s just say that my body is often disappointed.

I try to help keep my body’s spirits up.

We exercise.

We eat right.

We’ve stopped drinking whiskey every night.

My body’s not ungrateful.

My body is overall pleased.

But I can’t shake the feeling that my body is wandering half of the time.

That it’s looking for something better.

That it’s not quite where it wants to be.


We drive through country roads that are empty. On either side of us are fields.

We see the occasional red-tailed hawk on a fence pole, a sentinel on guard for a sign of life to kill.

Cows like monoliths dot the pastures.

And I feel like someone is sitting on my chest.

All this space and not enough room to breathe.

Not enough room to face yourself or your neighbor.

I feel responsible for everyone.

I can’t look anyone in the eye.


There may have been a time when we felt like multitudes.

But I would hazard a guess that’s long since passed.

Now we are silent on street corners.

Now we keep our eyes on our screens.

Now we have become careful editors.

We live in duplicity.

We are fragmented into parts.


I sit in silence so I can hear my second voice.

My creature comfort.

My wilderness on fire.

Spring is finally coming.

And the body sings.

A long winter dries out your skin.

It’s difficult to move without cracking.

Excerpts from “Like Fireworks”


I sit down to write a poem, and the only word I can type is Iowa.

Iowa comes out of my body like a poem.

In many ways, Iowa is like a poem. If you’ve ever driven down a county highway and have seen the wildflowers waving in the ditch, you’ll know what I mean.

For a long time, I lived far away from Iowa. As far away as it was possible to get. 6,000 miles. Maybe more.

I lived in a cadaver of concrete.

There were vast bodies of waters and hidden cities between myself and Iowa.

It was the way it had to be.

But no matter what I did or which part of the horizon I was looking at, no matter how many cuts I made in my skin, Iowa wouldn’t go away.

There were no leeches to bleed me out.

They would only get bloated and turn into milkweed anyway.

Then they would be food for the monarchs.

Then we would all be at peace.


I have woken up in Iowa every day of my life.

Even while I was living in Seoul.

This is what happens when it’s underneath the skin.

I try to peel it back and peel it off but it grows back thicker and stronger.

Like bark over a wound on a tree.


In Iowa the sunsets last for days. This is true.

And goldfinches eat dried thistle.

And the garden phlox blooms in late June or early July.

And the deer haunt the backyard like ghosts.


Here are some facts about Iowa:

Wooly mammoth bones are abundant.

The name in some tellings means “beautiful.”

We are home to one island city.

The Driftless Area in Northeast Iowa is the result of having escaped glaciation.

Also in Northeast Iowa you will find Effigy Mounds that date back as far as 350 CE. Sculptures of birds and bears are the most dominant. One to three people are buried in each mound. It is speculated that, due to the complete lack of artifacts accompanying the dead, that the mound builders were an egalitarian people.

Iowa is the only state whose east and west borders are entirely formed by water.

In winter, bald eagles migrate from the north to mate and nest and dance.


On Thursdays we wear Iowa like a skin and parade down the main street like fools. We drink music and feast on our fears in the frenzy of a Bacchanalian-like rite.

And for a moment, we feel we could be saved.

The heat has a way of reigniting hope and for a few weeks we throw our hearts up into the air like fireworks. They explode into a shower of color and light and burn up the darkness before crumbling into ash.