Bushwick Bohemia

Para mi gente...
Bushwick on my mind
quinceañeras at the bodega
with their pretty pink dresses
luscious dark eyes
longing to cut the Valencia cakes
while Mr. Softee lingers
over coco helados y piragüeros
fighting for the last dollar

Across the street,
santeros dressed in white
with their collares
buying chickens at the poultry shop
for their next tambor
to be held this Sunday
in someone else’s crowded basement

Maggie cruisin’ back and forth
back and forth
keeping the dealers in check
as the sounds of beepers
Rottweiler fights
& chanting from the Pentecostal church
fill the air with the smells
of pernil, alcapurrias y empanadas
from La Claribel—
the best cuchifrito in town

Up on the roof,
Miguelito giving blowjobs
to gray-haired old men
so that he can get a fade
at Paul’s boutique
or buy mami that fake painting
she wanted for $5.99
down Knickerbocker Avenue

Malitza walking by
pregnant with her second baby
only 18 & already night manager at McDonald’s
She wasn’t gonna end up consumed
in the empty little crack bags
she counted
every morning
on her way to Grover Cleveland High School

Hector, her boyfriend,
home from playing handball all day
lying shirtless on the couch blunted out of his mind
staring at the roach on the ceiling
one single roach in a vast desert
or maybe an alien exploring a new world
the ceiling fan—
his spaceship

Doña Carmen sneezing so loud
the walls so thin
Hector says ‘Salud’
& she hears him from the second floor
over Walter Mercado
on Canal 41
Turning off the kitchen lights
so that the roaches can scurry into the darkness—
their freedom
like the children playing out all night

Waiting for the L train
‘Mira, Georgie...
Gimme a quarter!’
but cha betta pay me back tomorrow!’

Life in Bushwick,
Ain’t it a trip!
One day we’ll all be buried
beneath the ground we spit on






Copyright © 1997 by Emanuel Xavier. Originally published in Pier Queen, self-published.