Dis·​mem·​ber | A. M. Rosales

Dis·mem·ber

It will never be known how this story ought to be told, in the first person or in
the second, using the third person plural or continually inventing modes that will serve for nothing. If one might say: I will see the moon rose, or: we hurt me at the back of our eyes, and especially: you the blond woman was the clouds that race before my your his hers their ours your faces. God damn.
Julio Cortázar, “The Devil’s Drool”

I

Shelly was nineteen years old, and she did her best to get by. Blond hair and a cherry vine tattoo; her family called her Treasure. It is unclear to us how long she had known Red or how they met. Red may or may not have been involved with a gang (this is still unclear). What we know for sure is that Shelly was involved in a police investigation. She had been busted for possession of a small amount of marihuana and was serving as a police informant, cooperating with an on-going investigation. We know that the attackers ambushed her, kidnapped her, beat her, and murdered her. We know this happened after an officer in the Police Department1 outed her to her neighbor.
Forensic reports indicate blunt trauma to the head. We also know for fact that Shelly tried to fight off her attackers because her hands were severed and disposed of separately in order to hide any DNA evidence. Shelly kept secrets under her fingernails. The attackers used a screwdriver and a hatchet to dispose of her body.
Her burnt torso was found days after her murder, in October.
Her arms were not discovered until March.
It took four years for the police to charge her murder.

II

You used to be afraid of syringes and needles. Of sharp objects piercing your flesh and depositing foreign substances in your body. You were a sickly child, coming down with one respiratory infection after another. The most accessible solution for your family was a penicillin injection. Each sore throat, each earache, each runny nose lead to an eventual antibiotic shot. You were eight years old when you learned the word: AMOXICILINA. But it was not until you were ten, that you learned words like:
Bronquitis.
Amigdalitis.
Bronquitis Crónica.
These visits were a family affair, late in the day, when your father was home from work, or in the middle of the night, after your fever got so bad, you could swear that you were seeing stars. Each episode went something like this. First, your parents took you to a nearby clinic (a primary care practice ran by a German nunnery). You waited with all the other patients and their maladies, and other times you were the only patient. Eventually, the doctor saw you, examined you, and diagnosed you. You stuck out your tongue. A light was shined in your eyes, an instrument inserted in your ear, statoscope pressed against your chest. You breathed in. And out. Then your back. You breathed in. And out. The doctor inspected your lymph nodes with his index and middle finger. One of your parents, usually your father, delivered the bad news. If you wanted to not be sick anymore, you had to get an injection.
Un pinchaso, he said.
Un pinchaso? You said.
Just a pinch. Then used his most reassuring voice to tell you that he would take you to get ice cream2 once you got better.
Two scoops. Coconut. Dulce de Leche. On a waffle cone.
Your fathered brokered these arrangements calmly. Are you going to be strong?
Si papi, voy a ser fuerte.
Getting you to consent to the injection was easy. Your parents never participated in the administration of these shots. Having accepted your fate, you nodded, and three or four nurses, all of them nuns, entered the examination room. Your muscles tensed up. Your heart rate accelerated. Your adrenalin kicked in. But the nurses held you down. Then, the head nurse carried out the task. Unlike your siblings, you were made to take daily spoonfuls of cod liver oil, thick, and salty. Your parents worried daily about you developing:
Neumonía Ambulante.

It was also around this time that my parents divorced, and my father began to express his affection by buying me whatever I wanted. I asked for a fish tank. He made me start small. A globe of thick glass. Sixteen fistfuls of gravel. Five pitchers of water. A plant. An air pump and an air stone. Once it was filled, I could barely lift the thing. I kept two Guppies at first. For several months. My dad was encouraging. He bought me books. Magazines. I learned about filters and the nitrogen cycle, about ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. My father encouraged my learning, but he never became interested himself. He couldn’t tell a Molly from a Platy, or a Neon Tetra from a Cardinal Tetra. He was a stranger to this underwater world.

III

Corals are marine invertebrates. A coral colony3 is made of many individual polyps living in clusters, attached to the seabed. Although related to anemones and jellyfish, corals are different because they produce a mineral skeleton, a basal plate of calcium carbonate, called calicle. Corals build their own environments: coral reefs. Some corals grow into asymmetrical plates, others sprout caps and domes, yet others form lobes like mushrooms on trees. Shallow water corals need sunlight. These corals grow on limestone needles. The photosynthetic algae living in the gastrodermal cells of these corals provide the host with food as well as the green, brown, and reddish colors we associate with them. But corals come in many colors4. The purple, blue, and mauve colors found in some coral species are present in the polyp’s tissue itself. Corals are among the most long-lived species on the planet; some deep-sea clusters have been alive for more than 4,000 years. Reefs are home to twenty five percent of all marine life. Rabbitfish, for example, with their hare-like mouths and dark eyes, school together in unison, staying close to each other to avoid predators. When predators break their ranks, the remaining shoals become easy prey. Individual rabbits being chased by themselves don’t fare well. Corals have natural predators. Crown-of-thorns Starfish are well-known killers of coral reefs. The process is slow. They eat the polyps one by one and strip the coral down to their bones.

IV

La Unión de Estudiantes Secundarios de La Plata in Buenos Aires, a group of high school students advocating for reduced transit fare plans to carry out a strike. Leaders of the union are identified as students from El Colegio Nacional de Bellas Artes and from La Escuela Normal Nº 3. Meanwhile, in Paris, surveillance units sent by the Military Junta monitor the exiled writer. He has been labeled a Marxist. His literary work is now banned in his native country. He is not alone. La Cantante de Tucumán is also in Paris. In the loneliness of exile, La Cantante records one of her most successful albums. But it’s not until her return, that her voice takes hold as an instrument of mourning and resilience. She sings:
Es mi destino
Piedra y Camino
De un sueño lejano y bello
Soy peregrino5
Back at home, a group of grandmothers are protesting the disappearance of their children. Las Locas, the newspapers call them. But Las Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo are resilient. Every Thursday they march in circles around the plaza demanding information on the location of their grandchildren. They tie their hair down with handkerchiefs and ignore instructions from the military police. As they walk by a transistor radio plays songs by La Cantante. Even though her music is being censored, her voice still finds a way to emerge in barrios and high-rises alike. Her voice comes through, and not just in her hometown, but everywhere Spanish is spoken.

V

When they arrived in Abya Yala in the year 5,031, Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo6 came with them. Like so many, he supported the practice of human sacrifice. There are estimates of the number of people he sacrificed to his god. But that number does not exist in our language. We do have words for death and pestilence, but no words like sodomy or crimes against natures. But since they did not speak our words or understand our symbols; they could not know our ways or understand our science. Deluded by their sense of supremacy, he called this land Tierra Firme. Even though, we later learned that the name just meant mainland (in their colonizer speech). They ridiculed our nations because we only had farming tools and no weapons. They despised that we chose grandmothers as elders and leaders. Pyromania and death lurked in their eyes. The colonizers did not understand the way we braided our hair or marked our bodies with ink. When they looked at us, they called us evil. We had no word for evil. Some of us were killed because of who we shared a bed with. Some of were killed because of how we dressed. Most of us were killed for worshipping the wrong god. The truth is that we worshipped many Gods, but they would not understand this. The colonizers who were headmen or principals were revered by their disciples based on the number of lives they had taken. Our lives were just another trophy.

VI

Dee was twenty-five years old and a registered nurse. She was on vacation in St. Martin, Mississippi, when she decided to hook up with Dwanya. Dwanya was a sailor in the US Navy stationed at Keesler Air Force Base for training. We don’t know much about what happened, but we do know that Dwanya had sex with Dee. This was confirmed by the sailor himself. How? Why? When exactly did he decide to kill her? That remains unclear. What we know for sure is that he didn’t stab her once, or twice, or even three times. He didn’t stab her five, or six, or ten times. He didn’t stab her fifteen, or twenty, or thirty times. We know he stabbed her with a ten- inch, fixed-blade Gerber knife7. He didn’t stab her forty, or fifty, or even seventy times. He didn’t stab her one-hundred times. Forensic reports indicate that the victim was stabbed one hundred and nineteen times. We know he abandoned Dee’s body in a hotel room. We know Dwanya took a shower after the murder. We know he left the water running after he was done, and that Dee’s body was discovered by her friends.
Months later, the prosecutor made a plea deal with the sailor because he felt the evidence was too slim for a jury to convict him. Heat-of-the-moment killings are often reduced to manslaughter in Mississippi.

VII

Some corals have the ability to self-fragment; each poly can clone zirself. Other polyps produce larvae. When the larvae emerge, each individual must swim in the open reef to find an exposed portion of the coral exoskeleton in order to survive. During this time, the larva is vulnerable to small fish in search of an easy meal. If successful, the larva will anchor zirself on the basal plate, grow into a polyp, and begin zir work adding to the coral’s skeleton. The reef is always growing. A polyp can grow to be no bigger than a pinhead or up to a foot in diameter. Shallow-water polyps have a symbiotic relationship with the algae in zir gastrodermal cells. So long as the polyps remain where there is enough sunlight, the algae will photosynthesize and generate enough nutrients for itself and its host. Other polyps feed on a variety of small organisms, from microscopic zooplankton to small fish. Some polyps have six tentacles while others have eight. Some polyps possess a stinging apparatus. Contact with palytoxin, a highly toxic, naturally-occurring and potentially lethal substance occurring in some corals, can bring about flu-like symptoms such as coughing, fever, chills, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, chest pain, shortness of breath, runny nose, fatigue, dizziness, speech disturbance, muscle weakness, cramps, spasms, and a bitter metallic taste in the mouth.
A flap in the polyp’s body opens up. A barb fires into the unsuspecting prey. Polyps use their tentacles to immobilize and eat prey. It is unclear how long polyps can live, but the Great Barrier Reef along the coast of Australia, has been growing for at least 20,000 years. Changes to our environment are more of a threat to polyps than natural predators. The systematic warming of the ocean impacts the zooplankton on which corals feed; it also affects the algae in the corals’ gastrodermal cells. When this happens, the corals expel the algae and begin to lose color. With a diminished food source, the bleached coral weakens and begins to die. The increased temperature also makes the coral more susceptible to viruses.

VIII

Injections manifested in your adolescence as cold hands in latex gloves pinching your deltoid; stretching your skin flat between thumb and forefinger; needle at a ninety-degree angle.
Ouch.
Measles, Mumps, and Rubella.
Tetanus, Diptheria, and Pertussis.
Varicella.
Hepatitis B.
Meningitis.
Needles followed you onto your professional life in the form of tithers and tuberculosis tests. One quarter-inch needle under the skin.
Tuberculin.
You learned English and practiced how to pronounce the word: PHLEBOTOMIST. But needles were only an occasional necessity until you discovered tattoos and piercing needles.
The lobes (first).
Upper ear cartilage (later).
Nose ring.
An industrial.
An industrial piercing has two entry points.
Piercing needles are hollow with a sharp point to create a clean hole. As the needle passes through your body it removes a small amount of your skin and tissue in the immediate area of the piercing wound. This allows for your wound to drain and heal. Tattoo needles are different. They range in a variety of size and groupings:
Magnums.
Tights.
Flats.
Liners.
Shaders.
Round liners and round shaders are pretty straightforward. They line and they shade.
Flats, Magnums, and Turbo Needles are more complex. Flat needles (shaders) are arranged in a straight line and can be used to shade in geometric areas. Stacked Magnums are made of two layers of needles that are mostly used to shade, color-pack, and fill-in larger areas. Curved Magnums achieve the same effect, but they are softer on the skin because they are rounded at the edges. Tattoo artists are trained to keep the needle at a consistent depth of about one sixteenth of an inch. Turbo needles are hollow point needles. This does not mean that the pins themselves are hollow, but rather that the pins are arranged in a circle, with a hollow spot in the middle. The pins at the center are pulled back, so they don’t penetrate the skin at all. Turbo needles reduce trauma and hold significantly more ink than other needle groupings.
Scratching.
Burning.
Stinging.
These are the words associated with getting a tattoo. The sensation varies on the person and the body part although the techniques remain largely the same. Did it hurt? Sure, but you wouldn’t assign this pain a number or even a word. When it got bad, you bit your lip.
The artist asked you, Are you okay?
You mumbled in agreement.
The closer you are to the bone the more it hurts.
You mumbled in agreement.
The pain eventually ends. And when the artist finally wipes the blood off your body, you feel relief. Eventually you heal. But you’ll carry these markings for the rest of your life:
On your right forearm: Abstract8 (of two flocks of birds clashing).
On the inside of your arm: ADN & Estrógeno9 (a drawing of a double helix structure crossing a chemical-bond illustration of estrogen).
On your left forearm: Moneda de Ocho Reales10 (a silver coin minted by colonial powers that went onto become the first world currency).
On your left calf: Hello Kitty Bow11.

After I had proven to my father that I could sustain life, he allowed me to get a fifty-liter tank. Then another. A cold-water tank where I kept a Black Moore12 with protruding eyes, a high dorsal fin, and a long quadruple caudal fin. I also kept a Fantail, with metallic orange scales, and double anal and tail fins. A tropical tank where I kept two silver Cory Catfish that would waddle with their whiskers on the gravel and occasionally shoot to the surface to gulp for air. I kept a pair of Swordtails that dashed from one side of the tank to the other, chasing after one another. I kept a Hatchet Fish that stayed directly below the surface of the water and occasionally jumped when panicked (this prompted me to get a lid). I got a pair of neon tetras and within days, the color went out of them. They both died. We went to the aquarium shop13 and we bought another pair. Then another. They both died. Finally, I read in a book (or a magazine, I don’t remember) that Neon Tetras need to live in groups. With this new knowledge, I convinced my dad to get ten of them! And a week later one of them had white spots near the gills. Then two more. Later that day one of them died. Then the rest of them. These fish, no matter what I did, kept dying on me.

IX

Kelly was thirty-six years old and a dancer. She was well known in the ballroom scene in Detroit. She hoped that one day she could be a designer and a buyer in the world of fashion. It is unclear to us when she began seeing Albert. Reports show that Albert was routinely in contact with many sex workers in the area, but he kept going back to Kelly. Records indicate that Kelly and Albert met several times for sex. Kelly had tried to stop seeing Albert because of his ongoing burst of anger, but Albert continued to contact Kelly and offered her more money. The medical examiner’s office ruled that Kelly died from a single shot to her left underarm. Albert was the pastor of Logos Baptist Church. He worked in downtown Detroit as a security guard for the Great Lakes Water Authority. After Albert shot Kelly, he drove in to work and waited an hour to call 91114. He abandoned her body in the Six Mile and Woodward area where it was found by police.

X

The Earth’s oceanic and atmospheric phenomena predate modern humans by millions of years. Currently, the temperatures near the surface around the equator are very warm in the western Pacific yet cool in the eastern Pacific. This pattern is interrupted periodically by changes first noticed along the continental coast by early settlers of present-day South America, like the Moche people15. This phenomena aids in generating heavy rains over southeastern Asia and northern Australia but keeps parts of the South American pacific coast relatively dry. When this pattern is interrupted, rainstorms follow the warm water to the central and eastern Pacific, dry conditions affect northern Australia and southeast Asia, droughts manifest in northern Brazil along with soggy winters in North America. While the patterns can be predicted, no two cycles are alike or have the same duration. When scientists created a model to track and predict these patterns, they called it El Niño16 and later its opposite La Niña17.

XI

You were twenty-nine years old when you consented to Hormone Replacement Therapy.
A nurse practitioner taught you how to self-administer the injections.
Wash your hands with soap and water for twenty seconds.
Dry thoroughly.
Put on gloves (optional).
Use an alcohol pad to disinfect the top of the vial.
Attach drawing needle to the syringe.
Remove cap.
Draw.
Use alcohol pad to disinfect the injection site.
Remove and dispose the needle (in a sharps container)
. Attach injection needle.
Remove the cap.
Grasp three or four inches of the muscle between thumb and first finger.
Insert needle at a ninety-degree angle.
Pull back on the plunger (if blood enters the syringe, do not give the injection).
Inject by and pushing down on the plunger.
Leave the needle in the flesh for a few seconds after the plunger is all the way down.
Remove needle from the injection site.
Apply bandage (if necessary).
Dispose of needle and syringe (in a sharps container).
The preferred location of these injections is the front of your thighs, alternating weekly between your left and your right thigh.
You told your father about the first injection. He couldn’t wait to tell you how your childhood was. You used to be afraid of needles, he said.
Papi, that was twenty years ago.
Your brother said that you will never look like a woman.
(You’re entirely okay with this. You know how he looks at women).
He stayed quiet for a moment.
You know dad, estrógeno18 is a masculine noun and testosterona19 a feminine one.
You always notice these things.
Yes, dad. Always.
Remember when you wanted to be a scientist? your dad said.
A marine scientist, you reminded him.
Yes, you wanted to be a marine scientist20.
Papi, that was twenty years ago. I also wanted to be a helicopter pilot21.
Bolivia is a small, landlocked, and underdeveloped country, your childhood dreams were as audacious as they were impractical. Your father always wanted you to become a lawyer, like him. But you are who you are22.

The truth is that I didn’t tell my father about HRT right away. In fact, that didn’t happen until three years later. We were sitting in a bench, at La Plaza Abaroa, in La Paz when I told him.
“A mí me vale un rábano.” He said. “Yo soy tu papá, y siempre voy a ser tu papá. Tu eres mi wawa23 y siempre vas a ser mi wawa24.”
While it’s important for my own personal narrative that my dad loves and accepts me, I find it more important to state the obvious—his opinion doesn’t matter. The reality is that there are millions of things my father is not able to understand. What does my dad, who has never lived in the US, know American Gay Culture? What does my dad know about wild parties and gay clubs? What does my dad know about wearing high-heels and miniskirts, and kneeling down at gloryholes, high on ecstasy and cocaine? What does my dad know about the straight man who show up in my DMs late at night, to see if I’m down to fuck, but would never been seen in public with me? What does my dad know about asking a man to wear a condom? What does my dad know about getting tested for HIV?
He knows nothing.

XII

When they arrived in Abya Yala in the year 5,008, Pedro Gutiérrez de Santa Clara25 came with them. He was convinced that we worshipped giants. He did not understand our language, our rituals, or our icons. He did not understand our cosmology. We had never even seen a giant. We did not know what giants were. Many of us died. His uniformed slaves were especially skilled at the art of harming others. He ordered us to be cut to pieces, so we could be fed to his beasts for refusing to hear the voice of his god. Our matriarch took the shells from the sea and pressed them against her ear. She heard the voice of life speak to her. She then took the book the colonizers claimed to be the voice of god and pressed it against her ear. She could not hear a thing. His butchers used a short knife to flail her. First her forearms. Thin strips of skin coming off of them. Then her knees. Her neck was next. To skin her thighs, he had his slaves slice us just a few inches at the hip, then pull her skin like you pull a hide from an animal. She was still alive.
None of us ever saw a giant.

XIII

On International Women’s Day, Bolivian women take to the streets to protest. Bolivia has the highest rate of feminicidios of any country in Latin America. A judge has recently ordered the release of a group of five suspects known as La Manada who are accused of gangraping a young woman in Santa Cruz. The parents of the boys have a hired a law firm to give a press conference. On the streets, women covering their faces with green handkerchiefs, clash with police. Molotov cocktails are thrown. Tear gas is deployed. On the wall there is graffiti written in English: MOTHERFUCKERS26.
A Young woman holds that sign that reads: NI UNA MENOS.
Another holds one that says: LA POLICÍA NO ME CUIDA; ME CUIDAN MIS AMIGAS.
Another sign reads: NI LA TIERRA, NI LAS MUJERES SOMOS TERRITORIO DE CONQUISTA.
La Escritora writes on her column: machos, by being heirs to their nature, feel that they must one way or another fulfill some transcendental task, they think that they are in some way predestined for a purpose or set to become the bearers of some deep truth. She encourages machitos27 to do better.

XIV

Some coral skeletons are known to be at least forty-thousand years old. But during a recent global bleaching event, the Great Barrier Reef of Australia experienced almost a ninety- percent rate of mortality in some locations. Similar events have been documented in Hawaii, Indonesia, the Caribbean, and elsewhere. Because of climate change and global warming, corals remain under imminent risk of destruction. Coral reefs constitute an oasis of biodiversity in what would otherwise be inhospitable, nutrient-poor waters. Although reefs make up for less than one percent of the ocean floor, they are home to more than twenty-five percent of marine life. As the coral begins to die, other animals lose their habitat. In the past forty years, coral abundance has declined eighty percent in the Caribbean Sea, and approximately one-third of all corals around the world are under threat. Eventually, the reef will collapse, and the coral skeletons will become ghost towns.

XV

There’s a plethora of sizes when it comes to needles and syringes. Different measurements. Different gages (the inner measurement or opening of the needle). Different lengths (intramuscular injections require extended needle lengths). Learning how to self- administer injections wasn’t smooth. At first, you often forgot to leave the needle in after pushing the plunger down and a small amount of liquid pooled on the injection site. On those days, oil oozed out of your flesh and pooled on your skin, the bandage did not help. You have since learned to first warm up the vial of ESTRADIOL by rolling it back and forth along the palms of your (sanitized) hands. VALERATE oil is easier to inject when its warm. When it’s cold, it forms crystals and becomes thick and syrupy. It wasn’t easy at first, but over time you became better at it. You learned to leave a little bubble in the syringe to prevent the oil from tracking out. You also learned the z-track technique. This is when you pull the skin and tissue before the injection causing the needle track to take the shape of the letter “Z”. This zigzag track line prevents medication from leaking from the muscle. After a while, you began to notice changes. Your skin got softer. Your hair, too. Your breasts became sore. You learned that you bruised more easily. You began to crave canned sardines and herring. After a long while, you found the formula that you were most comfortable with.
Three milliliter syringes
Eighteen-gage needles for drawing (one inch long).
Twenty-three gage needles for injecting (one inch-and-a-half long)
Hello Kitty Band-Aid (optional).
But progress is not linear. Along the way there was bruising, and more than one spot of blood. Along the way you noticed how your nipples began to point upwards. One time, you pulled the needle out too soon while you were still pressing down on the plunger and your blood squirted all over your thigh. Your breasts began to grow. You still get panic attacks somedays. If your heartrate shoots up and your adrenaline clicks in, your hand will shake, and you will end up with a bruise the size of your thumb. After about sixty injections. You noticed how your nipples got darker and your areolas had grown twice in size. It took you two years and three months to fill your first sharps container.
One-hundred and nineteen syringes.
Two-hundred and thirty-eight needles

XVI

Nikki never had a Sweet Sixteen party. But she was very glamorous by the time she started high school. She wanted to be a make-up artist. Her favorite rapper was Nicki Minaj. She liked to modify and design her own clothes. Her mother keeps a picture of Nikki from she was five years old; she’s wearing a blonde wig. Nicki usually stayed at friends’ houses. Her parents were divorced. It was one of those nights, at friend’s house, that she met David. David was twenty-five years old. They began messaging over snapchat. We don’t know the exact details, but we do know that Nikki went missing on June 6th. She was reported as a missing person by her mother on June 10th. We also know that Nikki and David had sex. This was admitted by David himself. It was not until a hiker came upon her skull, that a murder investigation opened.
Clark County Search and Rescue located other evidence, including Nikki’s clothing, jewelry, and her hair extensions. A forensic analysis confirmed the remains were Nikki’s. She was strangled to death. David said that he had met her, but he had gone to work that following morning. Police indicated his phone data showed he had been at an adult store early that morning, making numerous calls to escort ads.
Nikki’s remains had been scattered along a wooded embankment near Larch Mountain.
For six months, her body went unfound.
David posted bail and is currently awaiting trial.
He lives in Vancouver, Washington.
He works in Portland, Oregon.

In Remembrance of:


Shelly Hilliard (19) Detroit, Michigan.
Dee Whigham (25), St. Martin, Mississippi.
Keanna Mattel “Kelly Stough” (36) Detroit, Michigan.
Nikki Kuhnhausen (17), Vancouver, Washington.


[1] A member of the Drug Unit at Maddison Heights P.D. gave enough details to the drug dealer’s housemate to reveal that Shelly had provided critical information that led to his arrest. On a witness deposition, after being asked why he outed the victim, the police officer simply stated, “I don’t know.”

[2] Just one block away from Cochabamba’s Main Square (la Plaza de Armas 14 de Septiembre) was the confectionery of my childhood. Thirty-six flavors of ice creams, fourteen different types of cakes, plus other deserts, and food for adults.

[3] From late Middle English “ˈkälənē,” meaning a settlement of retired soldiers acting as a garrison.

[4] The first written use of coral as the name for a color (in English) was in 1513.

[5] “Piedra Y Camino” by Atahualpa Yupanqui

[6] In this motherfucker’s notebook, Natural Historia de las Indias (1526), he describes members of our indigenous nations as effete men who cover themselves from the waist to the knees and wear strings of beads and bracelets and the other things used by women as adornment. He ridiculed how we did not engage in the use of weapons, nor what he called, “anything proper to men.” He is one of the first colonizers to document how gender did not conform to European cultural norms on this continent.

[7] A combat knife designed by a former US Marine (and Currently a Director at the United States Military Academy at West Point) for Gerber Legendary Blades in Tigard, Oregon.

[8] A reminder that all dichotomies are false dichotomies.

[9] A reminder that (as a linguistically conscious collection of bacteria, 200 different types of cells arranged in the shape of a featherless, two-legged ape in search of a little meaning, value, and care, while facing inevitable, unavoidable, and inescapable oblivion) it’s okay to feel a little anxiety. 

[10] A reminder that my ancestors are not abstractions, but bodies that were sacrificed over and over again in order to amass treasure for the colonizers.

[11] A reminder of the child I was once, and the person I have committed to being until the day that my body fails.

[12] In Spanish, these fish are called “telescopios,” but in English their name is reference to the black North African Muslim inhabitants of Al-Andalus.

[13] Just two blocks away from Cochabamba’s Main Square (la Plaza de Armas 14 de Septiembre) was the aquarium shop of my childhood. Six rows of fifty-liter tanks divided by type of fish. At the entrance they had a humongous tank that contained eight Discus Fish and a shoal of Cardinal Tetras.

[14] In the recording of the 911 call, Albert described the crime by saying, “I pulled my weapon out … it appeared to be a female, but when the voice came through it was a male.”

[15] Between 560 BCE and 590 BCE, the Moche capital was flooded, rebuilt, then overrun by sand dunes. The Moche moved their capital sixty-five kilometers north because atmospheric phenomena and coastal weather led to a sustained period of torrential rains and flooding, which caused the river that fed their irrigation system to change direction.

[16] The warm·ing of the surface waters in the Pacific along the equator. 

[17] The cool·ing of the surface waters in the Pacific along the equator.

[18] From Greek “oîstros,” meaning passion, frenzy, madness, bite, sting.

[19] From Latin “ˈt̪ɛs.t̪ɪs,” meaning witness, one who testifies or attests.

[20] I am not a marine scientist.

[21] I am not a helicopter pilot.

[22] I am a transgender person.

[23] From Quechua, “wa·wa” meaning infant, baby, or child.

[24] From Quechua, “wa·wa” meaning kid, offspring (gender-neutral for son/daughter).

[25] In this motherfucker’s notebook, Quinquenarios o Historia de las guerras civiles del Perú (1580), he proposes the idea that indigenous people learned sodomy from evil giants who were sent by Satan and who the natives worshipped as gods. The thing is, he really believed that giants existed. His transculturated European magical thinking shaped his views of our people.   

[26] Those who desecrate that which is fierce, loving, tender, nurturing, caring, protective, and truthful.

[27] Young motherfuckers need to realize that now is the time to self-actualize.



A.M. Rosales is a multidisciplinary artist, writer, and translator originally from Cochabamba, Bolivia. They hold a literature degree from George Mason University and their favorite rodent is the capybara. A Pride Foundation scholar; a collaborating artist at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art; Artistic Co-director of Acción Poética Portland (a collective project at the intersection of poetry, visual art, and social practice). Their work has been supported by the Precipice Fund and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. They study creative writing at Portland State University.


Image: “Medicine Wheel” by Lukas Soto