after Tyehimba Jess 

Freedom is what you can buy 
with a left jab & a right cross. 

You’ve got the uppercut of a champ.
On a sweaty August night, you watch 

Ramos v Ramos from the Olympic
on TV. You turn off the blaring AC, 

want to hear the fighters’ tssiiuu tssiiuu, exhaling
as they attempt to break each other’s skin. 

You’re light on your feet like Mando, 
got Sugar’s hand speed. Freedom 

is your girl by your side telling you to fight. 
She brings your boxing license 

in a lunch bag while you labor 
at Lockheed, roots for you in Rocky 

Lane’s garage on a Sunday 
as you spar any man who dares.
 
She wipes your burning face 
with a cool towel, the sinewed shape 

of your body surfacing quick 
after you trade in Budweiser for a jump
 
rope. Freedom is the rattle in your jaw 
the first time you take a hook 

to the gut, the way a glove slides 
across your nose slick with Vaseline 

as you size up the weary contender, 
know that look in his eyes that whispers 

across the canvas between rounds. Finish me 
already, body shriveling in the corner, you’ve won.

The Money

after Bobby Chacon
 

I don’t care about the title
I’m in this for the money

I care about the title
I care about the money

I’m in this for the title
I don’t care about the money

I’m for the money I don’t care
I don’t care I’m for the title

the title don’t care about I
the money don’t care about the title

I’m about the money
I’m about the title

I’m the money I care about in this

The Witch Reads Me My Birthchart

she says the planets & stars show that I’m too good at being alone
I have unresolved traumas from past lives it is true
there were difficulties during my delivery even in the womb
I had a bad feeling cord around my throat as I tried
to make passage forced into this world or rather out of another
by extraction the witch asks if I often feel guilty
asks if I try to heal those around me despite finding it difficult
to bond with anyone other than myself
she wants to know about my childhood memories
if I’m alone in them
& I admit I stop listening though I can still hear
the untroubled tone in her voice vowels elongated
mouth full of sounds like spandex bursting at the seams
I want to go back to the stars we’ve strayed so far from the planets
she says there’s much to learn about my sources of pain
the gaping wound I will try to alleviate for the rest of my life
I want to touch her long hair as if it were my hair
I want to convince her I believe in everything she believes
but I demand too much of faith
like apples in the market I inspect the curves & creases
put them back at the slightest sign of bruising

Related Poems

A Perfect Game

To this day I still remember sitting
on my abuelo’s lap watching                 the Yankees hit,
                 then run, a soft wind rounding the bases
every foot tap to the white pad gentle as a       kiss.

How I loved those afternoons languidly
                 eating jamón sandwiches & drinking root beer.

Later, when I knew something about                 the blue collar
man—my father who worked with his hands & tumbled
                 into the house exhausted like heat in a rainstorm—
                                    I became a Mets fan.

Something about                 their unclean                 faces
                                       their mustaches               seemed rough
to the touch. They had names like       Wally & Dyskstra.
I was certain I would                 marry a man just like them

                 that is until                      Sammy Sosa came along

with his smile a reptile that only knew about lying in the sun.
His arms were cannons and his skin burnt cinnamon
                 that glistened in my dreams.

Everyone said he was not       beautiful.

Out on the streets where the men set up shop playing dominoes
I’d hear them say between the yelling of       capicu
                                   “como juega, pero feo como el diablo.”

I knew nothing of my history
                 of the infighting on an island on which one side swore
it was only one thing: pallid, pristine.                        & I didn’t know
                 that Sammy carried this history like a                    tattoo.

That he wished everyday to be                 white.

It is a perfect game this race war, it is everywhere,       living
                                  in the American bayou as much as
                 the Dominican dirt roads.
It makes a man do something to his skin that seems unholy.
It makes that same man change               eye color like a soft
                 summer dress slipped on slowly.
It makes a grandmother ask her granddaughter

                                  if she’s suffering
                 from something feverish
because that could be the only excuse why
                                  her hair has not been straightened
like a ballerina’s back                 dyed the color of wild
                 daffodils growing in an outfield.

Sammy hit 66 home runs one year
                                  & that was still            not                  enough
                 to make him feel handsome

or worthy of that blackness that I believe a gift
even today while black churches burn & black bodies
disappear from one day to the next the same as old
pennies.

I think of him often       barely remember what he looked like

                 but I can recall his       hunched shoulders in the
dugout                 his perfect swing
                 & how maybe he spit out       something black
from his mouth                 after
every                 single                                  strike—