Angela Narciso Torres


Angela Narciso Torres was born in Brooklyn and raised in Manila. Her poems are available or forthcoming in Cimarron Review, Crab Orchard Review, Cream City Review, North American Review, Rattle, and other publications. She holds an MFA from Warren Wilson College and co-edits RHINO. She lives in Chicago.

Waiting for My Father at the University Hospital Lab

On his desk, coiled against a fragment
of uterine wall, the fetus floated
in a mason jar, pale thumb raised
to its voiceless straw of neck.
Shaken from moth-balled sleep,
my father’s lab coat—starched, pressed,
lily-white—sloped across his shoulders
behind the Underwood. A blank
sheet waited for letters to pound
through carbon: malignant, benign,
malignant, malignant, benign.

Pipette-thin, barely nine,
I crossed the doorway. No sound
but the shuffle of patent shoes on tile.
Clicking against the microscope,
his ice-cube lenses magnified
that other universe—berry-stained

cells congealed into rocks, ringlets,
ferns unfurled, moon craters.
Curled amidst books and paper,
I became infinitesimal, a tight fist
of fire and constellations, no larger
than a dust mote on the camera lens
he polished with a scrap of chamois
before peering into the deep
rivers of a heart pinned open.

Growing up, I spent hours waiting at the laboratory where my father, a pathologist, worked. Bored, I often wandered the halls to see the display of human organs preserved in large jars of formalin lining the walls of the College of Medicine. But I loved best when my father would let me peek into his microscope. His dedication to deciphering the cellular world taught me the importance of looking closely. This poem inhabits the intersection of father and daughter’s worlds as seen through a child’s developing consciousness—that liminal space between her inner and outer lives.