Published on Academy of American Poets (

One Geography of Belonging

            After Ocean Vuong’s “Prayer for the Newly Damned”

Dearest Mother, what becomes of the girl
no longer a girl?

The stretch marks from my once breasts
have migrated 

to their new tectonic 
flats. But you can always find 

hints of what used to be. 
Trust me, it is more beautiful 

this way, to look closely 
at my body and name it things like: 

	   Pangea & history & so, so warm. 

Look at me now 
and you’ll see how blood 

faithfully takes 
the shape of its body, 

never asking 
too many questions. 

Dearest Mother, how many rivers
did I run across your belly? 

Do you love
that they will never dry up? 

Dearest Mother, I’ll make all 
this water worth it. 


Copyright © 2018 by Kayleb Rae Candrilli. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 18, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“This poem was written in the immediate period of healing after my double mastectomy. My mother has been an incredible support system through all phases of my life, and this poem is written as a promise of returns on that support, no matter what forms they take. This poem is also in conversation with Ocean Vuong’s ‘Prayer for the Newly Damned.’”
—Kayleb Rae Candrilli


Kayleb Rae Candrilli

Kayleb Rae Candrilli is the author of All the Gay Saints, winner of the Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize and forthcoming in the spring of 2020, and What Runs Over (YesYes Books, 2017), a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in transgender poetry.

Date Published: 2019-01-18

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