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Urayoán Noel

Urayoán Noel is the author most recently of Buzzing Hemisphere/Rumor Hemisférico (University of Arizona Press, 2015), and an associate professor of English and Spanish at New York University. Originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, he now lives in the Bronx, New York.

By This Poet


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.