Juana Turns to Sugar

by Vincent Antonio Rendoni

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Early in the twenty-first century, a disease spread all over the world

All hail the new emperor of maladies, we said

All hail the sweet death

It started at the toes, as a fine powder

then turned to jagged crystals

working its way up the body

If we could amputate early, lucky you

If not, well


I suppose the bright side is that

it didn’t hurt and you had time to say your goodbyes

though you lost a bit of yourself when it rained

and the less we talk about the flies the better


Don’t believe me? Look it up

See how those images sit in your stomach

Let them churn and turn over

See those people struggling to breathe

See how you feel, stupid


Juana came to my grandparents for help

She was young, a cousin from the fatherland

half-translucent from the waist down

the first person my abuelos,

the famed curanderos, failed to save


We summoned the sun, it came

We spread rice and confetti around her bed, she slept

We burned dandelions and mint, the fire spread

We laughed at Satan and his smoke, he stepped out for a quick five

Honestly, I don’t know where we went wrong


The morning of, we found her golden brown

shining like the dawn, smelling like home

a would-be forever fossil of this moment

But nothing goes to waste, not in this economy

Abuelo blessed a mallet

Abuela brought it down

Cracking Juana into shards and pieces


She made her way into our coffees, our bread, for months

Whenever I eat something sweet, I say a little thanks

and think of how she lives with us

and the lies our loved ones tell

and I think of how the world is on fire

and all we can think of is to eat each other