Coming-of-Age in Sal Si Puedes – The Feminist Wire

Coming-of-Age in Sal Si Puedes

By Rosebud Ben-Oni

Baghdad Beach, Matamoros, Mexico


Even the gulls scuttled from the surf:

a grey arm erect and bit of shoulder

wrapped in electrical wire—


Workers hanging from scaffolds of a patiobar

spotted the waves scattering the next body.

This one a Brownsville journalist


tied up in a metal drum and doused

with slow-burning gasoline.

We lit our sparkles and sang:


Do not fall out of the panga,

when the coyote asks you to make room—

The waters are cold and the guns carry


more weight than you.

Wind chipped a glare

in the carrousels, its scalloped mirrors


full of bloodless faces and fists,

matted hair in the combers.

The police let their man


submerge into a carnival scene.

Only we are not afraid and watch him

watching us in that endless circling:


Senoritas kissing between lights spark

carnivorous noises of animal rhymes,

to have, to hunt, yawning lion


a sack of burlap

to the once-bitten lamb

with the succubus grin.


Undying is spinning backwards,

sand in my rubberbanded hair,

bitter traces of five-star pool.


At dawn he drips wax to preserve me.

Rawboned, delicate angles

bent by our heat.


Razors graze my hollows

for his perfect line. I sear

until I’m rosy as a daiquiri.


Tonight I fish-hook the eyes of other men.

Our son will come-of-age as Corinthian leather

and shoes and starched and the Sunday edition.


I awaken on a mound of sand


and demand a manenough to bring

shaved ice and a shot glass.


He jumps from the railing as my sandals

come off, the jellyfish outlining beer bottles.


The surf slides toward our briar mound.

His boots are wet, my bare feet fall away.


Shells gather like cemetery flowers.

A warning from where mermaids

siesta in the shark’s atrium.


“Coming-of-Age in Sal Si Puedes” was originally published in The Tidal Basin Review.

Sal Si Puedes means “Leave if you can” and is not an uncommon name for colonias and other neighborhoods found in the United States and Latin America.


A former Rackham Merit Scholar and Leopold Schepp Scholar, Rosebud Ben-Oni is a playwright at New Perspectives Theater, and at work on a new play. Her work appears in Arts & Letters, B O D Y, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review and Puerto del Sol. My first books of poems SOLECISM is forthcoming from Virtual Artists’ Collective in 2013. She’s co-editor of HER KIND, the official blog of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. Find out more about her at