The Lower East Side of Manhattan
By the East River of Manhattan Island Where once the Iroquois canoed in style— A clear liquid caressing another name for rock, Now the jumping Stretch of Avenue D housing projects Where Ricans and Afros Johnny Pacheco / Wilson Pickett The portable radio night— Across the Domino sugar Neon lights of the Brooklyn shore Window carnival of megalopolis lights From Houston Street Twenty kids take off On summer bikes Across the Williamsburg Bridge Their hair flying With bodega bean protein Below the working class jumping like frogs— Parrots with new raincoats swinging canes of bamboo Like third legs Down diddy-bop 6th Street of the roaring Dragons Strollers of cool flow When winter comes they fly In capes down Delancey Past the bites of pastrami Sandwiches in Katz’s Marching through red bricks aglow dragging hind leg Swinging arms Defying in simalcas Hebrew prayers inside metallic containers Rolled into walls Tenement relic Roofs of pigeon airports Horse-driven carts arrive with the morning Slicing through the venetian blinds Along with a Polish English Barking peaches and melons Later the ice man a-cometh Selling his hard water cut into blocks The afternoon a metallic slide intercourses buildings which start to swallow coals down their basement Mouths. Where did the mountains go The immigrants ask The place where houses and objects went back Into history which guided Them into nature Entering the roots of plants The molasses of fruit To become eternal again, Now the plaster of Paris Are the ears of the walls The first utterances in Spanish Recall what was left behind. People kept arriving as the cane fields dried Flying bushes from another planet Which had a pineapple for a moon Vegetables and tree bark popping out of luggage The singers of lament into the soul of Jacob Riis Where the prayers Santa Maria Through remaining fibers of the Torah Eldridge Street lelolai A Spanish never before seen Inside gypsies. Once Cordova the cabala Haberdasheries of Orchard Street Hecklers riddling bargains Like in gone bazaars of Some Warsaw ghetto. Upward into the economy Migration continues— Out of the workers’ quarters Pieces of accents On the ascending escalator. The red Avenue B bus disappearing down the Needle holes of the garment factories— The drain of a city The final sewers Where the waste became antique The icy winds Of the river’s edge Stinging lower Broadway As hot dogs Sauerkraut and all Gush down the pipes of Canal After Forsyth Park is the beginning of Italy Florence inside Mott Street windows— Palermo eyes of Angie Flipping the big hole of a 45 record The Duprees dusting Like white sugar onto Fluffed dough— Crisscrossing The fire escapes To arrive at Lourdes’ railroad flat With knishes she threw next to Red beans. Broome Street Hasidics with Martian fur hats With those ultimatum brims Puerto Ricans supporting pra-pras Atop faces with features Thrown out of some bag Of universal race stew— Mississippi rural slang With Avenue D park view All in exile from broken Souths The horses the cows the chickens The daisies of the rural road All past tense in the urbanity that remembers The pace of mountains The moods of the fields. From the guayaba bushels outside of a town With an Arowak name I hear the flute shells With the I that saw Andalusian boats Wash up on the beach To distribute Moorish eyes. The Lower East Side was faster than the speed Of light A tornado of bricks and fire escapes In which you had to grab on to something or take Off with the wayward winds— The proletariat stoop voices Took off like Spauldine rubber balls Hit by blue broomsticks on 12th Street— Wintertime summertime Seasons of hallways and roofs Between pachanga and doo-wop A generation left The screaming streets of passage Gone from the temporary station of desire and disaster I knew Anthony’s and Carmen Butchy Little Man Eddie Andrew Tiny Pichon Vigo Wandy Juanito Where are they? The windows sucked them up The pavement had mouths that ate them Urban vanishment Illusion I too Henry Roth “Call It Sleep.”
From Maraca: New and Selected Poems 1965–2000 by Victor Hernández Cruz. Copyright © 2001 by Victor Hernández Cruz. Published by Coffee House Press. Used by permission of the publisher.