Made in América
I thought they would be of madera,
the kinds with splinters.
That this item from its birthplace
across an ocean would come with
an authentic flag carved into the handle
as if sliced from a tree—
each instrument cured
by the scent of café con leche.
I look at this USPS box as if to ask
why you aren’t wrapped in enough tape
to waterproof yourself
because you’ve traveled oceans,
like a message in a bottle—
no certificate of authenticity.
Instead, this maraca was made
by hands that pulsed to the pace
of manufacturing novelty músicas.
Enough to afford a jibaro hat.
Enough for endless chicken feed to cast
the way it’s depicted on that one mural
in that one legitimate Puerto Rican restaurant.
I can only blame
the Bermuda Triangle for this etched-in
plastic. My instrument will shake
with the sound of an Anglo-percussionist
caricature. My American voice,
fabrication that silica gel packets can’t hide
behind maracas or mouth.
I will not be taken seriously
during Hispanic Heritage Month,
even when the pain of my flag
begins to crown the crackle
of heavy tongue through teeth.
A Boy Who Finds His Way
A Porta Rock confesses. It says, “Yo soy.”
Something unexplainable happens to a body
when a name is uttered.
A tethering between planets.
A game somewhere between
“Where you from?” and “Who are you?”
where names nicked, bought, and sold
are transferred from soul to soul
until a combination of words catch a body.
“White boy” is a nickname.
Real name, a placeholder for “white boy.”
Real name is the given name of a white man,
the name of a soap opera villain that gives boy a better shot.
But the first name could not hide boy’s last.
The Latinate root, still the villain.
Soy blanco? I’m not sure.
But when a cop is driving behind me, I automatically think of ways
I may have broken the law and by the first traffic light
I can feel shakedowns. Chain gangs and jail cells in my chest.
My heart is made of black steel.
A pot of boiling sauce, but not just sautéed in garlic.
Scotch bonnets, sazón, and cilantro.
Sometimes I am asked, “Are you Indian?”
Whether they think Asian or mistaken India for Americas,
I am not sure.
Either way, the question stands, what is it to be Indio
when the many shades of brown become another gray area?
When are the bodies connected through a common wind?
From a Current State of Being
“What’s happened here is a perfect storm…While it was really bad for the people of Puerto Rico,
in the long term it’s a godsend if people look past that.”
—Halsey Minor, Founder of CNET (The New York Times, February 8, 2018)
There is no common wealth here or there.
And my people didn’t know until they knew.
And Harvard recorded 4,645 deaths.
And since, the government recorded “about 3,000.”
And of-fi-cial-ly or al-leg-ed-ly are both four syllables.
And September 20th is a day of silence.
But the island again, sings.
And now is the time to buy property in PR!
And there is still debt.
And if feathers were dollars, we’d need 100 billion of mine.
And if feathers were infrastructure, I’d be threadbare.
And flights are cheap.
And our people talk about an exodus to the mainland.
And our people talk about an exodus to the island.
And a breeze says, “Quitate la mascara…”
When people come back.
When people buy, and laugh, and hug.
When they get drunk, and cry, y cantar.
And swim, and party, and dance, and wear straw hats,
and don sunglasses, and wipe sweat off their bodies,
and smile, and lie, and cheat, and buy, and clean,
and relax, and tax, and use, and sniff, and smoke,
and shoot, and bury, and pray, and manipulate,
not resuscitate, but buy, and plan, and buy,
and waste, and displace, and deface, and erase,
and what the fuck is tax free and a Logan Paul?
And Brock Pierce is the next white Jesus bringing us to paradise.
But what about the intelligence of our people?
And the beauty of the sand, the rainforest, the campo,
the concrete, the mountains, the castles, the music, the fruit,
and the roots of sunlight I can barely imagine unless I try to feel.
And the ugliness of the name “Puertopia” translates to “an imagined port.”
And what is it to dismiss something perfect as slipshod imagination?
Wrong. Erasure. Modern Genocide.
Where (history) takes (repeating) under my wing.
Where three tenets are hurting wind beneath my appendages.
Wrong. Erasure. Modern Genocide…
In case you didn’t hear.
Cryp-to-cur-ren-cy and co-lo-ni-za-tion are both five syllables.
Where an isla one hundred by thirty-five miles is microcosm of what goes on all over the world.
Where a protestor yells, “¡Pal carajo, Rosselló, La Promesa, y La Junta!”
And I attempt to speak to the island without speaking for her.
But has it needed me to speak when mi gente’s voices ring beautifully?
Our mouths are satellites frequencing through sound.
Hear our music through a microphone, a megaphone, words on a page.
When a child reads their first La Borinqueña.
When they hear her for the first time.
Carrying the weight of an entire universe.
Seeing Americans marvel at her strength.
See, we are not blind to dreaming nor our own power.
See, we are all bound to living much more than dying.
And across the us we’re scrying a future that says,
“We are here.”
“I am here.”
Somewhere, a Boricua Picks Up the Phone
—after Ntozake Shange’s “I need to talk to a Puerto Rican”
Escuchame hermana, we’re here
and promise to lay you down.
Decir tu soul sistah words
in either language that was forced
upon us and I’ll hold you
under my bosom until we match
Poeta y alma hermosa,
the lifeblood of unity
in a held-out hand, I thank you.
For every uttered vowel
was a piece of rainbow
that helped hold each other up.
Let us talk one last time
in a tongue that assaults us both.
That says, “We are here, we’ll
be here, and one day be gone
but nought forgotten, no.”
Because the body is separate
entity from soul.
is what’s remembered most,
so let this grito be for just you.
Let these streets sing joy
through even the tiniest
of holes, universes
between the fabric
In your name,
let’s kick up Mother Earth
and invite her back into our pores
so in the face of death
you make us braver
we need to talk. There is
a future and we’ll be in it.
Note: These poems are part of Big Other’s Puerto Rican Writers Folio: A Hauntology