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CAS for Database

Carmina Andrade

Houston, TX, USA

Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts



i can’t open my eyes underwater. i tried once and it burned so i must not be able to.

on the first day of high school my diaphragm burst into tiny little pieces inside of me. i reached inside and pieced them back together, a jigsaw puzzle.

i’m still looking for the missing pieces.

rogelio de la vega from jane the virgin has a saying:

                                                                   inhala, exhala; breathe in, breathe out.

i call bullshit.

when you look up mexico in the search bar on


one of the top suggestions is

                                   “is not safe”

which is silly because

they never asked me what i thought

about the safety of mi pais, surrounded by

tias and tios and jarritos and bubu lubu and flowers and

tienditas and

sitting at a dirty cafeteria table, those hexagonal-shaped ones

with the loose-screw

seats, my friend

                                                                                     (with the loose-screw)

asked me if i was an anchor baby

there isn’t enough space in my mouth for another tongue to fit. the one time i tried french kissing with my girlfriend, my teeth smashed against her glasses.

every night my ribs unspool and slither outside of me. my gaping stomach flexes, my fisted hands bloom. my organs think i’m asleep but i’m wide awake so i don't miss it tonight, if my throat does open wide enough to let the breath trapped inside me go.

it’s illegal to take coins from a fountain.

i scraped my knee when they said you died. you

choked. grandma was in the bathroom. i was in class. it left a scab.

my tap teacher told me to stop tensing my feet. it keeps me from going faster, he said. 

i used to take one more antidepressant than i could, just to see what would happen.

in middle school i would pray to god to do well on tests, even though i was raised as an atheist and continue to not believe. i used religion for convenience.

the words breath and breathe are often confused, but the human body is never confused on whether to breathe. even if you want to cease


your lungs do not stop working.

i wish my handwriting was neater. that i didn’t have

                a ball

on the right side of my left ring finger that turns

purple when i write too much


i grip pencils like my

                breath will

be released through them.

the scab on my knee is almost healed, not quite. it might scar and that’s alright.


In "respire," there exists an ecosystem of pain, in which grief coincides with tap teachers and french kissing and Rogelio De La Vega and every sharp, beautiful dimension of this piece. The voice ranges from profound innocence to soaring lyricism to quiet contemplation, at once vulnerable and deflective. In short, it is concentrated life: touching, witty, visceral.


carmina andrade is a senior attending the Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, majoring in Creative Writing. She has previously been published in Kinder HSPVA’s literary journal “Octopus Ink” and is an executive editor at nationally-recognized Polyphony Literary Magazine. In her work, she strives to push the boundaries of form and spread awareness of Mexican-American culture and history. Besides writing, she enjoys dancing, playing the piano, and reading.

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