Three Poems

Solitary Encounters

His intellect reminded me of Spanish Harlem,
unpretentious but resonating,
as he discussed downtown’s inconsistent architecture,
the irony of Thomas Paine’s title Common Sense,
coined the term déjà vu history 
when another child disappears, a shooting becomes rudimentary, 
a person killed for walking in the wrong color.

His philosophy on how the world works 
reminded me of the Bronx,
unafraid of who he offended
as he confessed why he carries a knife
wherever he goes, why he will never marry
a woman named after a cocktail,  
and why provocation is sometimes necessary.

He doesn’t remember the inappropriate joke 
we simultaneously smiled at,
how I stared at him longer than I should,
or our goodbye hug 
awkward like undergraduate sex
when hands don’t know where they should go.


A BX Love Letter

He welcomed her at innocence,  
surrounded her with dystopic landscapes
filled with lullabies sung by fire engines,
car horns, and police sirens,

made sure her Buster Brown shoes 
hopscotched safely from Tremont Avenue to Crotona Park,
never falling between the concrete chasms 
left behind from salt poured on icy Januaries,
listening to his metropolitan lessons 
of trusting no one, following her instincts
versus hackneyed island rhetoric, writing
ekphrasis poems from graffiti murals.

Perhaps he made her too tough
as her body grew into her attitude,
forming hermetically sealed domains,
technicolor emotions wrapped in pink bows
like the arsenal of birthday gifts he gave her each year,
such as strip someone naked in two languages,
stare down urban Goliaths with brown eyes warmer
than the sun she was born under.

But one day she left him for another,
one who recycled the recycled,
ran strawberry stands with a sign 
“Take a box, leave $5. God bless.”

Her intentions left him empty, concave
as he howled promises to tear down the Robert Moses statue,
allow guavas to grow in her hair,
become her muse once again.


The Legendary Legs of the Rodriguez Women

Unequivocal with his observation,
a New Orleans accent and a smile
the stranger comments, “Nice stems”
quickly passing by my shoulder,
creating a small breezy respite from the stale heat.

My cheeks respond in gratitude,
with thoughts of my mother
and the legendary legs of the Rodriguez women,
mythical like Ithaca and Helen. 
The genetic heirlooms 
from a grandmother I never knew
as 1970s pictures framed in sunflower yellow
document my mother standing on beauty pageant stages 
in stilettos with an audience of wishful suitors
and envious women.

Instinctive like writing names on wet sand
I touch the brown flesh and muscles below my knees
wonder if Carmelita ever thinks of my mom or me
when she inspects the variant blues of her veins, 
slips on silk stockings, dances to Tito Puente, 
wades in the water we call home.