My name is too hard

for you to pronounce

so I changed it.


My hair is too wild so I

tamed it.


My clothes are too

strange so

I wear yours.


My skin is

too dark

so I lightened it.


My tongue is wrong so I








I crawled to your door

                                 but I knocked

                                                           too loudly

so I must stay



I must take off

                      my shoes


before I can enter,

                            I must take off

                                                       my feet,


I must take off my face

                                    and every other part

that offends.


I must

        climb into the melting pot

                                                       and wait


until the marrow of me


into soup,


              until the bones

                                       of who I was

can be discarded,


while the simmering stock of

                                                who I must


cries out

             for salt and spice.


Valerie Valdes

Valerie Valdes is a co-editor of Escape Pod and the author of the Chilling Effect trilogy. Her next novel, Where Peace Is Lost, is forthcoming in 2023. Her short fiction and poetry have been featured in Uncanny Magazine, Nightmare Magazine, and several anthologies. In her spare time, she streams video games on Twitch and roleplays with the Strange Friends crew. She lives in Georgia with her husband, children and cats.

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