by Alanah C. Mendes Andrade


i am envious of the children in my hallway
laughing, running, hiding
from their grandfather.

for a moment, i giggle too.
i see the little girl run to the elevators,
her grandfather just seconds behind her,
his arms spread, reaching
his back broad, crouching,
his voice stern, amusing.

i see the little boy enter the mailroom and
sit on a big brown cardboard box,
kicking his feet, waiting.
there is childlike innocence, joy, across his face.

the little girl’s hand is captured, and
she skips along to the mailroom with her grandfather.

and i must leave, alone,
my keys dangling by my fingertips.
and for a moment,
im laughing, shaking my head,
thinking still of the small children.
of the childlike innocence, the joy, the spread arms.

what am i to do without you?
without gatherings on sundays,
without the laughter in the kitchen,
without the wooden porch,
without the shrub i used to pick tiny green leaves off of.

i am without you. without you. without you. without you.

i heard if you say something enough times, it’ll lose its meaning. without you. without you. without you. without you. without you. without you. without you. see, it’s working.




i have a million memories of us. you would get me from the bus stop. you would feed me rice and give extra to the birds outside and put on portuguese dramas and i would sit and listen to the words that made no sense. you would bless me before i left the house. deus ba ku bo. faithful. you would eat, silently, with a glass of vinho and your ring on your left hand. there were pots of food everywhere. tia carmen did the dishes at the sink. the walls are green. the sun is hot and the door is open and the breeze is warm and there’s a fly buzzing in my ear at the kitchen table. there are placemats and yet there are still crumbs of food on the white tablecloth. im crunching on watermelon and mandioca with my bare hands. there is vanilla ice cream melting on the table, dripping slowly off the scooper. the radio is on and there is music in that language i am still grasping to understand. the tv is playing a soccer game in portuguese. i can hear gael running upstairs, his tiny feet stomping above our heads. i am on the red worn stairs and we are sharing secrets. we were friends, almost, then. we were almost friends more than we were cousins. but we shared those secrets and my heart is aching just remembering these things. all of a sudden it’s christmas and the tree is lit, full of ornaments, full with presents that stretch across the small sala. and all of us are in pajamas and we are laughing and watching this video catia made. and we are a family. and we eat and gossip and play cards and laugh and charge our phones on the one working outlet, the one behind the chair that someone is definitely sitting on. the outlet is loose but it works when the kitchen is full. the kitchen is always full. i have a million memories of us. the sundays at church. the droning of the choir in the languages we cannot understand. sunday school class and learning about the word of god. we are playing tic-tac-toe and hangman and MASH and whispering when we are not supposed to. we are playing with dolls and string and anything we can find because we are bored and with imagination anything is a game. and we are friends before we are cousins. i have a million memories of us and i hope i never forget them. even though they are painful. even though we do not exist anymore. even though everything has changed and will stay changed forever. even though there is no going back. i hope i never forget what that love was. sharing space. sharing food. sleepovers. cookouts. soccer games. nova alianca. vovo’s house. i know this is love because i never cry this much unless i am writing about us. i never cry this much until i am forced to remember what i can never go back to. until i am forced to remember who we once were. who i was. who i am. who you are. where you are.
and where are you? and when can i see you again?

my love is stretching across space and time and light and sound; it is reaching, with arms outstretched, back crouching, hands spread open, grasping for the thread, grasping for the moment at the very beginning. where i am with you.


back to University & College Poetry Prizes