Hibiscus Depths by Alleliah Nuguid

My grandmother’s dress washes up on the shore. Which shore? Not sure. I never saw her near water while she and I were at the same time alive. Yet coast wanes cleanly into sea, and gulls barrel through clouds, bellowing from the gutters of their throats. And there, the floral garment sashays in on a wave. Water stains the flowers darker: hibiscuses on fuchsia deepen from white to grey. The dress docks on the shoreline, vessel holding only itself.

These footprints in the sand—are they mine? I forgot where I’m going, forgot where I’ve been. I always suspected I was born with the wrong feet. That or the right feet screwed into the wrong ankles, their gaits bearing them perennially apart.

I call you mother in my mother’s mother tongue. I call you into me and you come in archipelago echo.

I wear your dress. Hibiscus seeps in and patterns my skin with petals. The petals fall off. Wind’s hands ferry them away, leaving me a shiver of stigma and stamen. I wear your dress. It dangles off your shoulder blades. Your ankles, your angles. I wear your dress. I put on your wrists and they soundlessly twist. I wear your dress. I wear your fists.


Alleliah Nuguid holds degrees in creative writing from Northwestern University, Boston University, and the University of Utah. A native Californian, she now lives in Tucson, Arizona. Her debut poetry collection, A Human Moon, won the 2022 Dynamo Verlag Book Prize and will be published in fall 2023.