Flowers and Bullets
Cuba and Puerto Rico
are two wings of the same bird:
they receive flowers and bullets
in the same heart.
—Lola Rodríguez de Tió, 1889
Tattoo the Puerto Rican flag on my shoulder.
Stain the skin red, white and blue, not the colors
that snap over holiday parades or sag over the graves
of veterans in the States, but the colors of Cuba reversed:
a flag for the rebels in the hills of Puerto Rico, dreamt up
by Puerto Ricans exiles in the Cuban Revolutionary Party,
bearded and bespectacled in the sleet of New York.
Wise Men lost on their way to Bethlehem. That
was 1895, the same year José Martí would die,
poet shot from a white horse in his first battle.
Tattoo the Puerto Rican flag on my shoulder,
so if I close my eyes forever in the cold
and the doctors cannot tell the cause of death,
you will know that I died like José Martí,
with flowers and bullets in my heart.
Reprinted from Vivas to Those Who Have Failed. Copyright © 2016 by Martín Espada. Used with permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. and Frances Goldin Literary Agency.