The frantic and incessant search for home, a necessary migration through pasts spread out over cities and countries in and across Latin America and the U.S. American South— the act of finding one's self demands the rupture of genre and the dissolution of borders. Drawing upon musicians that combine Afro-Cuban, jazz and bluegrass elements, Irène Mathieu creates a playlist that reflects a multilingual mix of restless craving and ecstatic joy.

eleventh attempt at going home

        after Jenny Xie

smell of city: exhaust pipes & overripe mango crammed into a butcher's shop.
I've been told I'm never satisfied.

days I've slept in hammocks surrounded by unknown flora.
days I've wandered the Old City, sun throwing itself from the white walls onto my skin.
whatever that violent light releases in me dancing itself into exhaustion.


smell of country (which?): equal parts wild onion, honeysuckle, & cow dung.
my privilege is that I rely on buses for time travel, can stare out a greasy window &
directly into the past.

nights I've been unable to describe the contours of my interior.
the power goes, the water shuts off – even my sweat has woken up, parched.
price of my desire: white coin of the moon, lavender-drenched bed sheets looking
for a piece of sleep, & my lover's peace.


smell of mountain: wood smoke folded into needling pine, spring mud, burnt tortilla.
in every face I look for resemblance.

an old story – somewhere in this market is a long lost quarter-sister or half-cousin.
somewhere here is the rest of me.


smell of sea: fish fried with lime, desiccating seaweed, great salt lick on the tongue
of this continent.

I hear waves & jet engines gunning skyward.
the salt water in me rises to meet the deep eye of the sea.

what does it mean that I feel this craving under my diaphragm?


something arrives on my shores every time I get there.
what is it that history has saved for me in this impossible leaving?

this is the consequence of several centuries' scattering and/or
a dissolution of my own borders, slow and deliberate as a drum.


bellyful of plantains and rice, passport pressed between palms,
in customs I declare my shadow self & the two hundred-year-old missing link.

officials don't know what to do with me. are you coming or going? they ask

I tell them I don't know yet.

Dr. Irène P. Mathieu is a pediatrician and writer. She is the author of Grand Marronage (Switchback Books, 2019), orogeny (Trembling Pillow Press, 2017), and the galaxy of origins (dancing girl press, 2014). Irène is on the editorial boards of Muzzle Magazine and the Journal of General Internal Medicine's humanities section. A member of Jack Jones Literary Arts’ speakers’ bureau, she has received Fulbright and Callaloo fellowships.