sea of the poem (an annex so we may dream backwards)

enjoy our américa’s big party . . .
             at the bottom of the sea!




the wing of the sea is the wave;
the wave of the sky is the rain;
the salt of the rain falls as hail;
and the hail of hate rains in shots;

the shot of the soul is the bell;
bell without time is the ballad;
ballad that craves no beloved:
the love that names not its ballad.

a bridle-less horse is this life;
the life of the sea is the wave;
the wave of the bird is the wing;
and the wing of hatred is war;
the war of the wind is the storm;
storm of the soul, the beloved;
beloved of all, the poet;
poet of the sea, mariner;
sea of the poem, the future.


mar del poema
(anexo para soñar deatráspalante)


¡disfruten de la gran fiesta de nuestra américa . . .
                                                en el fondo del mar!




el ala del mar es la ola;
la ola del cielo, la lluvia;
la sal de la lluvia, granizo;
granizo del odio, balazo;

balazo del alma, campana;
campana sin tiempo, balada;
balada sin hambre de amada:
amor sin nombrar su balada;

caballo sin brida, la vida;
la vida del mar es la ola;
la ola del ave es el ala;
el ala del odio es la guerra;
la guerra del viento, tormenta;
tormenta del alma, la amada;
amado de todo, poeta;
poeta del mar, marinero;
mar del poema, el futuro.

when you tie rope and ribbon

for oscar lópez rivera

you make two knots
so that years and names
can climb up or down

uniting thick and thin threads
simplicities and opacities
tense and resolved dialectics

your eyes are closed fists
that guide your hands
so the ribbon may last centuries
or until we have no need
to unleash forces
or unarm states

cuando amarras soga y cinta

para oscar lópez rivera

creas dos nudos
para que puedan subir o bajar
años y nombres

uniendo hebras gruesas y finas
simplicidades y opacidades
dialécticas tensas y resueltas

tus ojos son puños cerrados
que guían tus manos
para que la cinta dure siglos
o hasta que no haya necesidad
de desatar fuerzas
y desarmar estados

in peñuelas they knock down activists’ doors

                                        for nina droz franco
                                we assume the worst

but nina burns holes in the air
and we are also ashes
of another fire

en peñuelas tumban puertas de activistas


                                        para nina droz franco
                                asumimos lo peor

pero nina quema hoyos en el aire
y somos también cenizas
de otro fuego

notes on the seasons

in spanish, we don’t naturally occur. the seasons differentiate us from natural people. when there are no seasons, let’s say, when we are a caribbean country, better yet, when we are a territory, we aren’t allowed to use the x, except for the word xylophone, because who uses a xylophone? and who wants us? every time you think these questions aren’t the same, you recognize that you never met me, despite the i’ve seen you before and somewhere.

if i’m going to explore my nationality, i have to be recognizable. this is what everyone knows. in fact, if i’m not recognizable, it’s as if i had no nation.

i wrote the following in a letter to the lions of the mayagüez zoo:

i know that right now you are lions, and you’ve spent a lot of time in the heat, but when you become snakes, no fence will be able to contain you. they’ll have to put you in a glass cage. they call this cage a fish tank. they’ll decorate the cage with rocks. you’ll no longer be able to roar. but don’t worry, when you become spiders, you’ll be able to leave the fish tank. you’ll climb up to the roof. maybe it’ll take you many weeks to find a window, but in the interim, you’ll eat mosquitos, since these are abundant, despite the aromatic candles.

i wrote them this letter because i know what it’s like to wait for transmogrification.

i wrote them this letter because i know what it’s like to wait for transmogrification in captivity.

outside of the fish tank, there is a room. outside of the room, there is a zoo. outside of the zoo, there is a hometown. outside of the hometown, there is a colony. outside of the colony, there is an empire. outside of the empire, there is the king of seasons. if you kill the king, you kill the game.

notas sobre las temporadas

en el español no nos damos naturalmente. las temporadas sirven para diferenciarnos de las personas naturales. cuando no hay temporada, digamos, cuando somos de un país caribeño, mejor, cuando somos de un territorio, no se nos permite usar la x, excepto para la palabra xilófono, ¿porque quién usa xilófono? ¿y quién nos quiere? cada vez que piensas que estas preguntas no son la misma, reconoces que nunca me conociste, a pesar del te he visto antes y de alguna parte.

si voy a explorar mi nacionalidad, tengo que ser reconocible. eso lo saben todos. de hecho, si no me reconoces, es como si no tuviera nación.

le escribí lo siguiente en una carta a los leones del zoológico de mayagüez:

sé que, en estos momentos, son leones, y llevan mucho tiempo en el calor, pero, cuando sean culebras, no habrá verja que los contenga. tendrán que ponerlos en una jaula de cristal. a esta jaula le llaman pecera. decorarán la jaula con piedras. ya no podrán rugir. pero tranquilos, que cuando sean arañas podrán salir de la pecera. subirán hasta un techo. quizás les tomé varias semanas encontrar la ventana, pero en el interín, comerán mosquitos, pues estos abundan, a pesar de las velas aromáticas.

les escribí esta carta porque sé lo que es esperar la transmogrificación.

les escribí esta carta porque sé lo que es esperar la transmogrificación en cautiverio.

fuera de la pecera, hay un cuarto. fuera del cuarto, hay un zoológico. fuera del zoológico, hay una pueblo natalicio. fuera del pueblo natalicio, hay una colonia. fuera de la colonia, hay un imperio. fuera del imperio, existe el rey de las temporadas. si matas el rey, matas el juego.

Related Poems


We do not recognize the body
Of Emmett Till. We do not know
The boy’s name nor the sound
Of his mother wailing. We have
Never heard a mother wailing.
We do not know the history
Of this nation in ourselves. We
Do not know the history of our-
Selves on this planet because
We do not have to know what
We believe we own. We believe
We own your bodies but have no
Use for your tears. We destroy
The body that refuses use. We use
Maps we did not draw. We see
A sea so cross it. We see a moon
So land there. We love land so
Long as we can take it. Shhh. We
Can’t take that sound. What is
A mother wailing? We do not
Recognize music until we can
Sell it. We sell what cannot be
Bought. We buy silence. Let us
Help you. How much does it cost
To hold your breath underwater?
Wait. Wait. What are we? What?
What on Earth are we? What?

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
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
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
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
Mother kept singing,
as esperanza, gently vibrato
hope like a white
Garza landing upon a cadaver.

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.


“Until all oppressed people
              are free—
              none of us are free.”



the chains are different now—
lay on this body strange
no metal clanging in my ears

chains laying strange
chains laying light-weight
laying credit cards
laying welfare forms
laying buying time
laying white packets of dope
laying afros & straightened hair
laying pimp & revolutionary
laying mother & daughter
laying father & son

chains laying strange—
strange laying chains

how do i break these chains



the chains are different now—
laying on this body strange
funny chains—no clang
chains laying strange
chains laying light-weight
chains laying dishes
chains laying laundry
chains laying grocery markets
chains laying no voice
chains laying children
chains laying selective jobs
chains laying less pay
chains laying girls & women
chains laying wives & women
chains laying mothers & daughters

chains laying strange
strange laying chains

how do i break these chains



the chains are still here
laying on this body strange
no meta—no clang
chains laying strange
chains laying light-weight
chains laying funny
chains laying different
chains laying dyke
chains laying bull-dagger
chains laying pervert
chains laying no jobs
chains laying more taxes
chains laying beatings
chains laying stares
chains laying myths
chains laying fear
chains laying revulsion

chains laying strange
strange laying chains

how do i break these chains



the chains are here
no metal—no clang
chains of ignorance & fear
chains here—causing pain

how do i break these chains
to whom or what
do i direct pain

how do i break these chains
how do i stop the pain
who do I ask—to see
what must i do—to be free

sisters—how do i break your chains
brothers—how do i break your chains
mothers—how do i break your chains
fathers—how do i break your chains

i don’t want to kill—
i don’t want to cause pain—

how else do i break—your chains