No Longer Ode

                                                                      para mi abuela en la isla


A hurricane destroyed your sense of home 
and all you wanted was to pack your bags 
in dead of night, still waving mental flags, 
forgetting the nation is a syndrome. 
All that’s left of the sea in you is foam, 
the coastline's broken voice and all its crags. 
You hear the governor admit some snags 
were hit, nada, mere blips in the biome, 
nothing that private equity can’t fix 
once speculators pour into San Juan 
to harvest the bad seed of an idea. 
She tells you Santa Clara in ’56 
had nothing on the brutal San Ciprián, 
and yes, your abuela’s named María.

Thoughts of Katrina and the Superdome, 
el Caribe mapped with blood and sandbags, 
displaced, diasporic, Spanglish hashtags, 
a phantom tab you keep on Google Chrome, 
days of hunger and dreams of honeycomb. 
Are souls reborn or worn thin like old rags? 
The locust tree still stands although it sags, 
austere sharks sequence the island’s genome 
and parrots squawk survival politics 
whose only power grid is the damp dawn. 
There is no other way, no panacea. 
Throw stuff at empire’s walls and see what sticks 
or tear down the walls you were standing on? 
Why don’t you run that question by María?

Beyond the indigenous chromosome, 
your gut genealogy’s in chains and gags, 
paraded through the colonies’ main drags
and left to die. So when you write your tome 
please note: each word must be a catacomb, 
must be a sepulcher and must be a 
cradle in some sort of aporía 
where bodies draw on song as guns are drawn, 
resilient, silent h in huracán. 
Your ache-song booms ashore. Ashé, María.

Related Poems

Puerto Rico

Born on a turf
a medieval remnant
Owned by the United States
it was almost water
So minute the earthen formation,
barely rock,
a swift of natura intention
geologic lift forgot the mud load
as the rising slow, eruption
popped
peep there it is piedra Caribe,
world mapmakers save
on the ink,
what minuscule elaboration
bays, lakes,
hidden caves
landscape, chains of mountains
opening blue neck of sky
mounted glued
alongside other Hispano-Caribbean isles
Santo Domingo/embracing Haiti
Cuba bird snake long.
Spanish-African movement.
the Federation which
Betances the doctor clambered for
the Hispania Antilles,
intellectual political Independence.
Some letter bestowing Puerto Rico
sovereignty
from the Spanish Crown
the United States no desire
to open that envelope.
Betances visionary mestizo
Paris his doctors’ foot.
 
The epoch of gold
when on the island with my son
we made home,
in the neighborhood of
the tobacconists
Aguas Buenas
on a street called Antorcha
a socialist flame
of the independentistas
workers barrio of chichales.
My family there Generations.
The mornings waking my son
for school,
watching him become a man,
awakening sense to life,
his first girl kisses
that pretty brown girl
primer girlfriend
I spotted them once
wrapped round each other,
like two bacalaito fritters
tangled,
later my mother cooked
Red beans and plantain tostones
along with yellow rice sparked with corn,
The island was this sofrito flavor for me,
bolero music of my mother
she grew sadness with the lyrics
wondering of all the lost loves,
memories illusions making
efforts to materialize,
see them almost
like bridges hanging out
from her eyes.
Days were
found her in tears
lonely in her room
Fragrance of Florida water
circulating blue colcha,
picture of her mother
and father above bed,
nothing was ever coming,
the only future was the end.
 
The Caribbean is everywhere
lost within us,
trapped in kitsch glorious
rooms of plasticity jails,
so much grime ‘’tween
the beauty contra-la-danza,
René Marqués our writer
Belched out
“Condenao mar, tanta agua
Y no limpia nah”
 
Through the bullets
flying now in panoramic tropical
scenarios,
Mother kept singing,
as esperanza, gently vibrato
hope like a white 
Garza landing upon a cadaver.
 
Humming
songsforever
soothing.
convinced
she would meet
everyone she knew
in heaven again.
Singing boleros
café con leche,
Pastelillos de Guayaba.
 
To the bad times,
give a happy face,
place a red amapola
in your black dark hair.
Revive the mummies,
the dead,
burst the bodies
out of the coffins
let’s all walk to the plaza
this final time
paint with silver starlight
the ancient songs
in night sky,
Rain Again
What never commenced
Comes to a finale.