Serena Agusto-Cox

Agoraphobia, Mannequin, Dear Vovo: Serena Agusto-Cox


A hideaway in homes, back streets
guided by fear of touching
or breathing. The moment of joy
rare. Squabbles and tension
around family too long in company.
Pressure builds, to leave,
hop on a bus to the store, not
outside these four walls
but inside the worry walls
I want shelter from worry, contagion
attracting, inheriting neurosis.


Light cream shines,
rubbed between two fingers,
spread across cheeks and nose,
under eyes, over forehead
each pass of my fingers smooth
imperfections, creation of alabaster
with dark eyelashes curled up
light rose covered lips.
I step out from the mirror,
walk into boots and stride out.

Dear Vovó,*

She grows every day, changes,
learns more. Tells me why
the bees buzz.
Would you see me in her?

She’s louder than I was;
I thought I was quiet,
a spy hidden in your Victorian.

She’s my shadow who follows—
one that lingers from ago,
a shadow that began with me—

Tagging along apron corners
peeping around screened porch doors
waiting for the smell of acrid smoke
to transform into fresh sweet bread.

If your home were still family,
she’d uncover its secrets,
hide in the roped-off parlor.
An unspoken game of hide-and-seek
with a shadow touching velvet wallpaper
pushing secret buttons and waiting by your chair
to play cards near your house slippers.

*Vovó is the Portuguese word for grandmother

Serena Agusto-Cox was one of the first featured poets of the DiVerse Gaithersburg reading series in Maryland. Her poems appear in Live Encounters, Halfway Down the Stairs, The Magnolia Review, MacQueen's Quinterly, Dissonance Magazine, Bourgeon, and elsewhere. Her work also appears in the anthologies The Great World of Days, This Is What America Looks Like, Mom Egg Review’s Pandemic Parenting, The Plague Papers, H.L. Hix’s Made Priceless, Love_Is_Love: An Anthology for LGBTQIA+ Teens, and Midge Raymond’s Everyday Book Marketing. She also runs the book review blog, Savvy Verse & Wit, and founded Poetic Book Tours to help poets market their books.