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I didn’t mean to drown

it, the spider, rising

out of the kitchen drain.

Its many-legged spasms

denounce the drained

tuna can water and I,

the drainer, watch

until it finds stillness.

Then I hurl into

action, chop onions

until tears refuse

to dislodge themselves

from my eyes. Grief

for something that could

not live through a flood

is ridiculous. The sting

is in the onions. Only

the onions.



As I stepped into the sunset

by the lake, my eyes were drawn

to the silliest sight in the splendor:

two ducks swimming side by side,

nearly obscured by the magnificent

hues reflected in the water.

My thoughts sauntered to

the first place they go whenever

ducks are involved - Tony Soprano

and those goddamn ducks in his pool.

Naturally, I started thinking about

how much you’d love The Sopranos.

How five minutes into the first episode

you’d start talking in an accent

that could be Exhibit A in the case for

the existence of racism against modern-day

Italian-Americans. You’d call me a wise guy

and make equally stereotypical

hand gestures. A couple episodes later,

you’d find a way to work Nietzsche into

your analysis of the show, and worse of all,

I’d want to hear every word. You’d worship

Tony, obviously, defend him vehemently.

Of course he’s a bad guy, but he’s not a bad guy, y’know?

He loves his family so much. He doesn’t treat women

as well as he should but, c’mon he’s trying.

He’s just doing the best he can.

He’s a product of his environment, y’know?

You wouldn’t really be wrong, of course,

but that’s not the point. Tony really did take care

of those ducks though, I couldn’t argue with that.

Fed them, built them a little ramp, and wanted them

to stay so badly that he collapsed in a panic

upon their flight. Those goddamn ducks.

You’d treat them very differently, of course.

Make yourself loud and big and strong and

run them off as the first twinge of tenderness

warmed you up. You simply wouldn’t

be able to resist the urge - and that’s why

I know you’d adore Tony. The idea,

no matter how fictional, of someone so cruel

being capable of love is intoxicating.

Those goddamn ducks, though, they

always make it South, on or off the screen.



The back of a lovely flower delivery van:

splashes of purple, pink, red, yellow petals,

shop name printed in delicate green calligraphy,

a painstaking sign warning DELIVERING FLOWERS

on a strip of yellow and black lines like caution tape,

and a whopping dent below the right taillight, crushing

the word FLOWERS - the inevitable result of a rear-ending.

What series of events unfolded into such pointed destruction?

A jilted lover, perhaps, sent into a rage by the romance

of flower delivery services? A spouse scorned by

their partner’s infidelity signaled in flowers sent?

An anti-love industrial complex protester delivering

a righteous message? Or, in perhaps the most absurd of

twists, a collision of no special circumstance? Vehicles

meeting mostly by chance, with some distracted driving

at play? Who is to say? But, no matter the forces that led to

that dent, it is almost certain that the rear-ending driver left

with a decent story to tell at parties, armed with the perfect hook

“You won’t BELIEVE what I ran into once!”



Before I was born, my mother read my zodiac

to prepare herself for my approaching existence

She was told I would be a bit of a hoarder, a lover

of mementos, little dragon guarding her treasure trove

From then she started a memory box documenting

my being - hospital bracelets, dried up umbilical cord,

tufts of hair from a first haircut, baptism candle,

baby teeth, preschool art projects, cherished plushies -

and as was written in the stars, I took up the near

obsessive collection of all manifestations of memory

As a stockpiler of sentimentality, I’ve stored all

birthday cards, movie ticket stubs, deflated balloons,

free pins, seashells, field trip t-shirts, rubber bracelets,

journals half-written, blank, chock-full of doodles,

ramblings, dried-up leaves given in lieu of flowers, on

and on, every trinket imaginable that crossed my path

My prized trophies of personhood, irresistible

embodiments of keepsakes that cannot be kept,

tangible tokens engraved with every person I’ve ever

loved, every moment I’ve ever been alive.




When I was fifteen, my father finally gave in

to my pleading, agreed to get us a puppy for Christmas.

As we drove home with a shaking two-month old Maltese-Poodle mix in tow,

our car’s check engine light flashed on. He stopped

at the nearest parking lot to weigh our options - should

the car break down such that we would require assistance, the police

would almost certainly be involved. My father’s license, then expired

for over seven years, would immediately signal our alien

status, his deportation inexorably unspooling from car trouble. He decided

to go into the grocery store we were moored by, hopeful that in his absence

the car would recover. He returned with a chew toy the size of the puppy’s head,

took a deep breath, and turned on the car. That day was cemented as

one of happiest of my life when the check engine light disappeared

upon reignition and we arrived home without incident. For most

of my childhood I feared his involuntary removal, rejoiced at its every

obstruction. A fear that filled me turgid as a water balloon, filled me so

I couldn’t foresee the needle that would cause my bursting - his

voluntary uprooting, up and out of my life.


On a good month, we exchange words over the phone once,

mostly business - no one is sick, my job is okay, I can afford food. He is

fine. Money is always bad. In addition to backbreaking labor

for the company that made his life’s work obsolete, he recently

started driving for Uber. The part that is less business -

he always asks about the then-puppy, now nine-year old dog. That,

and the silences that prolong what passes as conversation between us.

On our latest call, after a particularly long pause, he throws out

a story: he picked up a customer who brought in a little poodle not

unlike mine, and it wouldn’t stop rowdily jumping around

in the back seat. He hadn’t realized that he accidentally

turned on a setting that indicated he was friendly to riders with pets. Though

he liked the little poodle, he turned off the setting, refusing

the possibility that a German Shepherd or, imagine, a snake could enter

his vehicle. A story so rooted in my dad that it got a giggle out of me, as it would

have years ago. What we have is the dog.


Leticia Priebe Rocha received her bachelor’s from Tufts University, where she was awarded the 2020 Academy of American Poets University & College Poetry Prize. Born in São Paulo, Brazil, she immigrated to Miami, FL at the age of 9 and resides in the Greater Boston area. Her work has been published in Rattle, Roi Fainéant Press, Arkana, Apricity Press, and elsewhere. She can be found on Twitter @LetiPriebeRocha and on Instagram @letiprieberochapoems.

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