— Christine Larusso

                                     I see my grandmother

                                                      growing up in Watts.

                 She would be subjected to the

           torture of the box,                  I see her

                      with the sparrow hair my grandmother     did not comb,

                      I see

           owl-eye 80s glasses she squints through. I hear

language, a Jackson Pollock-painting of Spanish/of English/of
       Los Angeles-isms and

                                                             I see

                                                the States

                                                    my grandmother wanted, believed in,

       the histories she shed in order to be American, North American,

       I see all her loss in Dolores, who I have never seen.


in solitary confinement, Dolores
                                          after solitary confinement, trying to navigate

                             Anaheim but always                                 getting lost,

       each street a new street, an old street.

           Who can remember when the walls were the same for so long?

                             My grandmother worked the cash register
                                                   of my grandfather’s                   bodega—

                                       her fingers

smelled like one-dollar bills,                  she knew the names
                                                                       of the entire city of Downey,
                                                                       each proud citizen

           in a city made entirely of factory and concrete

       she wanted to know
                                           and                       uplift.

              She believed in this, Chicana,

                                   she believed she could be uplifted. To what?

       “The brain is comprised of 100 billion cells, 500 trillion connections,”
       a neuroscientist reports. “It is an organ of social function.
       The brain needs to interact in the world.”

The neuroscientist would say my grandmother was stimulated by a

                                                            Dolores, I wish you were not—
                                                            I can barely finish—
                                                            I am ashamed—

       the stress of being alone can cause the brain
       to malfunction, release hormones that
       affect the hippocampus, which narrows our view
       of the world forever.

                                                            The boxes are 6 × 9 feet.
                                                            Usually have no windows.
                                                            The inmates must stay in the boxes
                                                            for over 20 hours a day. Usually 22.
                                                            Sometimes 23.

In order to test
                                  the effects
                                        of the box on mice, one must receive
                                              special permission from animal care orgs.

                                      There is no special permission granted to humans.

My grandmother

                        sits in the back room of the bodega,
                        writing checks, counting checks,
                        signing her name the same:

                                                                             a checking account,
                                                                             beef for dinners,

                                                                             knew the birthdays
                                                                             of everyone on her street.

                                             Graduate students sat alone
                                             in small chambers, being studied.
                                             They dropped out due to hallucinations.

I talk to myself again.
I see stars on the concrete floor,

                                 searching for an attic in the big
                                        house my grandmother
                                        raised her children in, finding


                                 eggs she hid on the roof.
                                        Doing the drugs
                                        the teenagers did in her backyard.

“The neurons stop connecting.”

                          It occurs to me that I am American.

                                 What would she

                                                                        say, what would either
of these women who I—am I—hallucinating are one woman

           what would they say?
                    If it wasn’t on an old Western or pinned to the bulletin
           board in the back office it’s possible she would say nothing.

                    Luxury, check-writing, histories to burn and burn and burn.

           This shame is a small thing I can swallow,
                    something to keep private in the morning.
    I want a pill, a small and silver pill. A slow dissolve to make it go away.
                    The histories won’t stop calling from the grave.

Read more from Issue No. 21 or share on Twitter.