Alirio Karina



i sit in a noisy room

sip late night coffee

a little too bitter

wait for a girl


in this strange town i wonder if i’ll bump into new old faces

be asked new old questions

have to breathe the news

exhale the fire

inhale the smoke


i burn my lips and tongue and palate on steaming foam

the roof of my mouth caves in and all of the rain from this storm could not beat this blaze



this seat, facing the city, backs to the walls, others above us

we fought for this seat every day but that day you let me have it


coffee, short; cappuccino; two small pasteis de nata; a glass of water

the waiter returns with cinammon, powdered, in a shaker

i insist you tip more and instead of fighting me

you knew what you owed

you relent


a stranger passes, though you always say i should remember them

we look so alike, they say


i grimace into my coffee



pastel de nata (n.)

a portuguese pastry

a pastry of the portuguese empire

flaky crust enclosing an egg custard, burnt on top

served dusted with cinammon



crisp flakes fall from your lips

a dot of cinammon on your nose

it is charming and you are beautiful

but how do i tell you we are eating my home?

that my childhood is in these four bites

– this something I should not return to

this memory I am not allowed


how do I tell you that when you eat and talk we are saying

let’s map the portuguese globe together

lets explore the messiness of our origins

the burnt and the cream and the flake and the hot cinammon

the bitter and alert

the sweet





pastel de nata (n.)

that last trip home where it becomes clear that everything is burning and catching only you, and you have to leave, but you want something good to remember this place by, something to carry, something to return to, and so you spend your last day in the city eating dozens of pastries, before you leave, for forever, for good.


you reimagine home

create a new one.


you tell yourself the heartache will ease if you just go eat some pasteis

but there are none nearby

so you’ll make some

but it is complicated


you never do.



i stop eating gluten eighteen months after good

at two years, to the day, I walk into a bakery

wait for her and wonder how I survived the fire


order a coffee


walk by the pastries

pasteis de nata (n.)

portuguese egg tarts



walk away


the girl comes

she buys one

a pretty one

with char and cream and crisp in perfect balance

the one I’d choose

and my lungs rise to my throat

I try to swallow them


how strange to know someone is holding your whole life without realizing

how strange to know there can be no room in the life you are beginning to build

for the beautiful kind stranger – the almost new friend – who took your heart

and ate it


Alirio Karina is a queer poet and scholar from Mozambique, currently based in Santa Cruz. They write poetry about living through and within an antagonistic world. Their work can be found in Blind Field Journal.

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