One Poem by Jess Silfa

Preventative Measures, 1949

“Women in labor can’t be laborers.” – Capitalist Proverb

It takes me a moment to realize that the doctor thinks dolor is pronounced like dollar, piece together that his thick mouth isn’t asking me for money but assuring me I will feel no pain. When money is mentioned, it is the promise of post-procedure prosperity. There is a tray of tools in the room, and when the doctor steps out, I hold up a scalpel, see myself reflected in its silver, and wonder how cleanly it cuts. My sisters work in la fabrica. They have better hands than I do. Delicate: both the bones of their fingers and the things they sew. They make bras with little bows where the cups meet. How many American women have had their breasts indirectly fondled by my sisters’ Black hands? I work in the fields like my parents and brothers. When I cut caña, I use a big and curved machete. Grasp the woody stalk with one hand and slice with the other. There is no art to it. Don’t go too low, not too sloppy, and not too slow. I can knock down five stalks with a single swing, and each will grow back stronger. But this tiny blade knows what to sever and its single cut takes out the root that should have branched out from me.


Jess Silfa is an Afro-Latinx, disabled, nonbinary writer from the South Bronx currently living in Nashville. They have received a Displaced Artist Fellowship from Vermont Studio Center, a grant from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Ricardo Salinas Scholarship. They are working on a novel about a community rocked by the war on drugs and a chapbook about the sterilization of Puerto Rican women and infertility.