The Golden Ox Winner – The river is too wet. by Dr. Bunny McFadden

You might think I’m finding things to complain about, and maybe you’re right, but the river here is too wet. I’m used to silt, mud, chunky water. Here in the Alps it runs runny instead of viscous, clear instead of flavored. Burqueños will know what I’m talking about. 

And the mountains are too pointed, like they’re wearing formal hats in a crowd waiting for an execution. Nothing like my Sandias, who know how to lay across the land like thick slices of watermelon. 

And on a microscopic level, the ticks have nothing on home’s cockroaches. I doubt they’d ever leap into the air and fly at my face. They’re cowards who can’t dance.

The cows look like poor cousins of the skulls we keep at home on the walls. Even counting their ribs, I am suspicious. They moo with an accent. I can hear it when I walk in the Swiss grass. Foriegn, a tone of imperialism and helvetic judgement. 

I miss the mesa, even if it hides corpses and coyotes. I miss the Three Sisters, volcanic beauties hunched over the edge of the city. I miss the goatheads sticking deep into the flesh of my heels.

We built an adobe mountain range with our bare hands one summer. We mixed the earth and straw and mud like witches hovering over cauldrons, and we stacked them against the heat. The taller we built, the more soothing shade the wall cast on our scalded skin. I’d hide from the sun with the tailless lizards that bore wounds from battles with the neighborhood tomcat. The tails grow back, I’m told, but I don’t know how many times.

I’ve left the dust that settled in the thick black hair of seven generations before me. Here in Zürich, we got caught in a windstorm colored orange by the Sahara. It tasted familiar, but like eating an auntie’s version of enchiladas. Stacked, not rolled.

When you are homesick, your brays sound spoiled. Your kicks look like tantrums. They inspect your teeth to age you when you laugh, measuring how long you’ve been away and how well you’ve adjusted.

When they want me to feel better, they tell me the moon is the same, but I think she has changed. I don’t recognize her here. She’s lost herself somewhere in her monthly moulting. I wonder if I’ll find her again, when I return to the land of enchantment. 

Dr. Bunny McFadden tinkers with words for a living. She’s written widely in academia & hosted workshops on storytelling with UNICEF and the Royal Centre School. She’s the assistant editor of a magazine for incarcerated folks. After a stint in Switzerland, she found her way home. Her website is