Susana Praver-Pérez

Three Poems

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
¡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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