Cleaning House (For the new Puerto Rico, 7/2019) I’m tossing useless I Love You’s– a polyester rose a heart-shaped balloon I have no room for words without feet for one-way streets I’m tired of insults puta, pata, pendeja– crush them in my upraised fist I’m tearing sheets, tying them to balconies dangling in the air a single star between my teeth I’m trashing the commonwealth– there’s no common wealth when you loot and leave bare shelves I’m taking my seat at the table– been fed scraps in the pantry too long I’m standing tall an ocean of Boricuas rising ¡Coño! ¡Qué bello amanecer! Castles in the Air (Puerto Rico, 1/2019) You could walk right by, not even see the lime-colored house amid thick emerald leaves. Or its owner –señora of seventy years– her rocker in rhyme with a song of coquis. Yellow bloomed vines tangle grills on windows. Mango tree shadows a battered tin roof– just a blue FEMA tarp between her and the rain. Far worse, her sister’s house next door– its roof ripped away by María’s shrill wind. Rain runs down walls blackened with mold, Rust gnaws at a filigree gate. All her years as a lawyer are crumbling– she’s perched like a bird, her front porch, like a cage. Pensions dissolve in fiscal default on an island held hostage by foreign dictates. But this is her home, her haven, her castle, jasmín y sofrito perfume the air. New moon nights were splendored with stars before bright light high-rise buildings appeared. Flamboyán y flores were felled to roll asphalt, parking lots spread to the edge of her green. And now they want to bulldoze her house, demolish its walls and her dreams. But each new day, aroma of coffee, the radio plays an old le lo lai, she keeps the beat, the creak of her rocker repeating, repeating, a defiant reply. Just Breathe A solo scrub-jay perched on a wrinkled orange tree calls out dawn like nails on a chalkboard. I can still remember mornings like symphonies and plump oranges on glossy green. Oakland wakes to a grey brew of pollution and soot. My sister can’t stop coughing– A wheeze planted its rusty roots in her once pink lungs. Pesticides drift, settle on a withered hibiscus. Birds fall, bees die. Monsanto–Not my saint! Monsanto dances with the devil on a bed of crushed wings, dollars jingling in its pockets. I recycle, reuse, reduce, but what can I do to curb corporate cravings that shoot up towns and rainforests, greenhouse gases spurting from exit wounds? Who would imagine we’d take to the streets and march for air to breathe for water to drink? Thousands strong, our chants rising like ravens, we march for a future for this sacred Earth. We march in the too hot sun so sweet grass may always grow. We march lest we leave our children a fractured sphere and to our grandchildren, nothing but prayers.
“Just Breathe” was previously published in Still Point Arts Quarterly, June 1, 2019 and in the anthology Civil Liberties United: Diverse Voices from the San Francisco Bay Area.
Susana Praver-Pérez is an Oakland-based poet and memoirist. By day she works as a Physician Assistant and Associate Medical Director at La Clínica de la Raza in Oakland, California. By night she reads at poetry events in diverse venues from San Francisco to San Juan. By nature, she’s a storyteller, relating that to which she bears witness through her poetic lens. Susana’s first book of poetry, Hurricanes, Love Affairs and Other Disasters, is in the works.
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