Rigorous
Volume Four, Issue 3



Lauren Padilla


Family Trees

Mrs. Smith meant well
when she ordered you
to complete a family tree.
Mrs. Smith didn’t think
anything of the template
she handed to your class:
a perfect evergreen seen
on classic Christmas cards,
with straight, neat needles
(each matched in pairs)
where you would write
the names of your parents
and theirs and theirs.
Mrs. Smith didn’t know
that you didn’t have a dad
or that you looked different
from everyone in your clan.
Mrs. Smith didn’t realize
that her benign exercise
would mean years of aches
and anguish, as you tried
to decide why your family,
with its broken branches
and tangled webs of twigs
didn’t match the standard
simplicity of her evergreen.
Maybe if Mrs. Smith had
ventured further in the forest,
she’d have learned that fig
trees, with their jagged leaves
and mismatched fruits, have
the deepest roots. Perhaps
she would have discovered
that mangled mangroves can
and stop storms; that Eucalyptus
deglupta
is made of uneven
layers of rainbow bark.




White Wonder

What began as mass of unknown
ingredients, a mixture of foreign
origin reshaped itself into the epitome
of patriotism – as white as the stars
in the banner that waved.

The process of its reconstruction was
classified, some preservatives here, a dash of
bleach there – but better overbleached
than overbrowned.

Don’t ask questions; just
consume. You tossed your family
recipes when you stepped off
the boat. Multigrain is not welcome
in the melting pot.

Its story can be yours, if
you just
trust the process. Ignore
how your stomach churns with each bite,
pleading you to stop
trying to eat your way to a seat
at their table.

One day you’ll realize
the bleach has blanched
your palate and you
no longer crave anything
but white.



Lauren Padilla: "My work has previously appeared in The Allegheny Review, The Nation, Baltimore STYLE, and other publications. I earned my undergraduate degree from Johns Hopkins University, where I studied creative writing and public health."




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