Poetry Archive

I Feel Such a Kernel Within Myself

<span>Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@alenrojnicphotography?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Alen Rojnic</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/snake-woman?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a></span>

I Feel Such a Kernel Within Myself
          For Audre Lorde

I shed layers of myself in the bathroom, my bus seat,
When I arrive home, on my huipil, the woven fabric
The colors of the rainbow, it falls in the sink
When I am washing dishes, when I walk
Between the fig tree with its rotting fruit
And the orange trees with its green spheres
That will turn sweet soon. I am afraid to wash
My hair. I am afraid to lose all my hair. Audre
Lorde wrote that the erotic is such a kernel within
Herself. And it explodes. I am afraid of exploding. What happens
When I release the vibrations of my scalp and hair and everywhere?
The doctor told me it is called ophiasis. A Greek word.
It means “snake.” The baldness near my neck
And ears that slinks itself around like a snake. I am a
Snakewoman. I am shapeshifting before your very eyes
But no one can tell, yet. Audre Lorde says we’ve been
Taught to fear the yes within ourselves. I am afraid to say yes
To the snake on my scalp, slithering back and back and back.
Handfuls of curls that clog the shower drain at my heels, feet, toes.
The snakewoman isn’t afraid. She sheds while she wears a necklace of beating hearts.

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Filed under: Poetry Archive


Cecilia Caballero  is an Afro-Chicana single mother, poet, essayist, scholar, and lover of all things spooky. Her writing stretches from the scholarly to social justice to the speculative. Born and raised in Northern California to immigrant parents from Michoacan, Mexico, she currently lives with her son in Boyle Heights, LA among an abundance of oranges trees with strange insects of all kinds. Cecilia holds BAs in English and Chicanx Studies from UC Berkeley and she is currently a PhD Candidate in the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. Aside from her academic work, she facilitates poetry workshops for BIWOC and non-binary people of color. In addition, she is co-founder of the Chicana M(other)work collective and co-editor of The Chicana Motherwork Anthology: Porque Sin Madres No Hay Revolución (University of Arizona Press 2019). Her creative work has been published in Chicana/Latina Studies: The Journal of Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social, Third Woman Press, The Acentos Review, among others. Follow her on Twitter @la_sangre_llama or Instagram @bookworm_por_vida.