Poetry: Transformation Sequence & Unbecoming Extraterrestrial by Aline Dolinh

Aline Dolinh’s writing physically invigorates—all that imagery of teeth and blood and mouths over-full. It’s a powerful invitation: to lean your reader body through the mirror of the poem and into its luminous space, dark and bloody as it is. What better way to represent the angst of pubescent transfiguration? Or the unimaginable physical generosity of our mothers?



Here’s a secret: my favorite part of orthodontia
is always the ache. I’m already too old

for the toybox in the waiting room,
the cartoon savanna plastering the walls –

I want to see that pastel zebra disemboweled. To make
the grinning lion’s jaws drip crimson. For someone

to be honest about the inevitable butchery. Adults
are supposed to have thirty-two teeth and I have

four too many, so I’m losing one-eighth
of my mouth today –

but I’m ready for it, really – I laughed when they offered
the local anesthesia and I can’t stop

thinking about the symmetry
they’ll carve into me, the edges

they’ll file down smooth. I wonder
if you can excise other unwanted parts –

if I could shed the jellied, extraterrestrial swell
of my new breasts, wrench the puffs of fat

from my hips to find their hidden sharpness.
I’d give anything for that power

of correction. All my friends tell me
they get nightmares about this moment,

but I’ve always had the same dream:
I’m leaning back in the chair, my eyes

drowning absolutely in that overhead light,
and my blood is getting everywhere

but still the dentist tells me
I’ve got the most beautiful teeth.




after Isamu Noguchi’s Lunar (1943-44)

At fifteen, my mother looks more like me
than I ever will. In the Polaroid, she’s mostly hidden
by younger brothers and a shingled church,
but her face is distinctly moon-shaped –

all rounded edges half-drowned in shadow,
her neatly parted bob dark enough to blend
into the foliage and still glossed bright
forty years later. When I blink,

I see her body set ablaze
in white – the kind of radiance
that bursts her blue printed jumper
into a vessel for something luminous

that’s eating her alive. She was only
two years removed from Saigon here,
and for a moment I almost see myself
coiled gelatinous inside her, peering

through her newly gleaming wounds. I want
to ask her everything – like did you ever feel
like a girl here? Like anything other than
a stolen ship all yolk-soft and lunar invaded

with alien tongues, commandeered
with shinier skin? When did you learn
how to translate your flesh into orchestral
swells and acts of creation,

the endings with blue-eyed babies
and indoor pools? Does ascension
always hurt this much? That slice of light
sings yes, so high and sharp it hurts to hear –

that shimmering girl broke oceans
so I could be my own butcher. Yes, America,
I’ll be your sweetest mouth if you let me –
watch me reach down my throat, cut my teeth

on a new name. If you open wide
and swallow deep, you can even forget
the taste of all that blood.



Aline Dolinh

Aline Dolinh is a writer and student at the University of Virginia. In the past, she has served as a poetry reader for The Adroit Journal, and her pop culture writing can be found at Film School Rejects and Vinyl Me, Please. She tweets @alinedolinh.

Close Menu