Jasminne Mendez

Jasminne Mendez is a best-selling Dominican-American poet, educator, translator, playwright and award winning author of several books for children and adults. She has had poetry and essays published in numerous journals and anthologies and she is the author of two multi-genre collections including Island of Dreams(Floricanto Press, 2013) which won an International Latino Book Award. Her debut poetry collection City Without Altar was a finalist for the Noemi Press poetry prize and was released in August 2022(Noemi Press) and her debut middle grade novel in verse Aniana del Mar Jumps In (Dial) is forthcoming in 2023.

I’m Almost 40
after Diannely Antigua & Camille Dungy

and I hold my right hip when I walk
because my therapist says this is where I carry
all my want and sorrow but maybe my hip aches
because I sleep on my side in order to watch
the baby monitor I still keep on until morning
even though my daughter is almost four
and has been sleeping through the night
since she was one
but I’m almost forty and I’ve watched
too many true crime documentaries to know what could be
on the other side of any door
so I watch her and memorize every mole on her
melanated skin
and I trace them with my good hand just in case
I can’t identify her face
at the morgue one day

I am almost 40 and
my daughter is almost four
and she was gone before I even had her
So I spend my days and nights walking
in circles trying to keep us both alive
just a little while longer
because my body remembers
the things my brain wants me to forget
and this is just one of the reasons I have two therapists
One for my pelvic floor and one for my feelings
And my therapist says that in order to heal one I have to heal
the other but at almost 40 I don’t know which one
is the chicken or the egg

And did you know, that according to a recent online poll
women over forty get to do what they want
without shame
And because I’m trying to practice being
who I want to become
I am now the kind of woman who washes the dishes
with gloves on
because unlike my grandmothers
I know it doesn’t make me any less
of a wife or a mother to do so

And it’s not because I care about my fingernails
but because I care about my fingertips
I only have seven of them left
Three were eaten away
at by angry gangrene and that isn’t a metaphor
for cleanliness or loss
I’m almost forty and my right hand
has gone missing
which means I drop things often and when I curse
at the floor for doing a better job of carrying what I can’t
my daughter asks me not to use bad words
but I’m almost 40
and in a house where even my lipstick and lounge wear
have become play time props
sometimes the words in my mouth
like a Goddammit, shit fuck son of a bitch
are the only thing I can still claim
as my own

And those were the exact words I used
when I stood in front of my daughter’s school
last Tuesday morning
and a car backfired
and I clutched her hand so hard she froze
and I flinched and almost ran into the street
because I thought it was
the thing that keeps me up at night
making itself known making itself heard
Until I saw the plume of smoke and knew
none of the children had been hurt
by the danger that could loom behind
those double doors

And this past year,
almost all of my almost forty friends
have been diagnosed with ADHD or anxiety
and the only thing I really know about either
is that they both change the way you think
about yourself
And when I asked my therapist if she thinks
I have ADHD because sometimes I flit
from one thing to the other
and lose my keys in the bathroom
and throw my wallet in the trash
she said Aren’t all women of this age
just wounded butterflies flocking
towards a field of flowers looking for a place
to rest their weary heads?

And I didn’t have answer
Because I don’t know anything
about flowers
except that I’m almost forty and in my twenties
I loved white roses best
but now I ask for tulips on my birthday
because I like the way they die
with a flare for the dramatic
the way a bouquet of restless roses could never
And even that phrase “could never”
feels awkward in my almost 40 poem

But dear God, please listen,
I’m almost forty and lost in the wilderness
of my to do list and all I want to do is lie
down but my meandering mind says
just one more thing day after day after
month after year while I wait for time
off that never comes until my body says
and I’m forced to make room for rest

But no matter how much
I lean into lying down
these cat naps aren’t recovery
and healing doesn’t follow the straight line
of my body so I practice yoga
and bend at the waist and twist my elbows
and legs into non linear shapes
in an effort to wring out the excess
waters of grief that heavy me into this hearth and home
I’ve built and now want to flee from

Because sometimes I’d like to
hop on the train that interrupts my daily drive
to my daughter’s school and speed off into another life
like that Cunningham character in The Hours
but then I remember how her son’s face
shattered before and then again after he flew
out of his high rise apartment window
and hit the pavement
All because he grew up with a wound
where his mother should have been

And these days Death
is always at some door or window
sounding off at the mouth with a gun or a blade
or one more to do I forgot to do and the guilt
that chases me because of it
All the guilt that I swore I wouldn’t
chew or choke on finds its way into my hips
and hands and so I lean
to one side hoping I can hide it all
somewhere in my body before it breaks me
before my daughter is old enough to notice
before she asks me why
I look so tired

Because right now I’m almost 40
and she’s almost 4 and she still believes
I’m beautiful
And sometimes I believe it too
Like when I lotion my hands and study
the lines and lives I have yet to live
and I’m reminded that I too am a flower

And isn’t that what all
almost forty women want?
To find just a little softness
to rub into the cracks of herself
To release just a little more breath
and beauty into the places of her
that wilt like tulips begging to hang on
just a little bit longer


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