Lauren Licona

genesis of the daughter isotope
“(note: in nuclear physics, a decay product (also known as a daughter product, daughter isotope, or daughter nuclide) is the remaining nuclide left over from radioactive decay often preceding a sequence of steps (see: decay chain). Decay stages are referred to by their relationship to previous or subsequent stages. A parent isotope is one that undergoes decay to form a daughter isotope. The daughter isotope may be stable or it may decay to form a daughter isotope of its own. The daughter of a daughter isotope is sometimes called a granddaughter isotope.”

when i was a girl,
my mother would sit me between her legs,
like her mother did.
take the curls in her hands, part
the dark matter. i can still remember
the dull thud of the comb on my scalp,
the pain so sharp and white hot, i could
see constellations behind the lids
of my eyes, squeezed together tight
like fists.

“don’t be difficult.” my mother says,
and I wonder if this is the reality of girlhood.
if this what it meant, the dividing of yourself
because the whole of you cannot be tamed
until they split the atom of you.

until they a dustpan containing
the fragments of the girl,
and make a woman out of her.
pass a broom to her daughter, then
her daughter…and, God,
what a strange infinity.

my mother is a celestial body who
holds her tongue in orbit. one time,
a plate was thrown at her head, and i watched
her wane in the presence of my father,
and, God, it terrified me.
to know how many
armageddons have taken place
after men tried to demand
what has never
belonged to them.

and i wonder if my inability
to say no is an inheritance,
even when i know i should
have, even when i wanted to.
i think about all the times
my mouth has failed me:

when a family friend
pinned me by my shoulders,
my neurons frayed,
firing off like flare guns.
i couldn’t conjure the ghost
of an interjection forgotten
by generations of women;
my mother, my mother’s mother,

how many of them
felt this finite, how much
of shame became kinetic,
did they move? or dismiss
this violence as rite,
or passage?

i left home a month
after turning eighteen,
untaught shame from my atoms,
released what was left
of the impact that came
from collision,

what words do i have
for this reclamation of light
formed in the nucleus of my body?
name this separation, or fission.

for so long, i wished
each letter from my mouth
to be the splitting
of an atom, each period
a dying star that fell
and scarred the earth
with a sound
louder than bombs.

i know now, that
healing can’t be measured
in the destruction
of my half-lives.

i mean, if all i am
is to end in departure,
let stain and rage
be raptured from my being.

let me be brazen and tender
in all this disparate,
through the decay,
and the release.



Lauren Licona is an indigenous Latinx poet based in Boston, MA by way of Sanford, FL. Her work has been featured in Prometheus Dreaming, Raiz Magazine, and Rookie Mag. She has performed on final stage at FEMSlam 2018 and represented Emerson College at CUPSI 2019. She is currently working towards her BA in Writing, Literature, & Publishing at Emerson College. She can usually be found procrastinating in a library or dancing with friends at odd hours, and wants you to know it is beneficial to be tender any time you have the chance. You can also catch her on twitter: @douxrose_