Tonight, after the blackout on Mami’s native
island, there is no sleep on my side of American
country. Instead, there is Mami’s isla del encanto, smeared
across my black eyes, there is the wail of coqui lungs,
the yellow writhe of yuca snapped in half, the wet crack
of palmtrunk kicked across La Perla by history-old wind,
the toss of green-glow’d bay in Fajardo, the raise of graffit’d brick,
the empty stages of El Bori, where mi prima y yo
danced to buleadores pounding drumskin
pa’la playa, pa’ la calle, for unshackled spirits.
Tonight, I think about my mother’s island,
heavy with the weight of mainland,
which shares the colors of the Boricua flag,
we are so proud to ink on our breasts,
to stitch on our stomachs,
because we make these colors
fit our brown skin right.
I think about Mayagüez on Memorial Day,
empty, save for a joint that played Coldplay and
Hector. Mayagüez, where Cristobal’s statue stood
in the Plaza, his shoulders high and smug, hands
outstretched like faux Cristo, the lady slaves
and Tainas, these estatuas behind him, limply clutching
torches, staring away.
I think about when I dipped feet in purple Ponce water,
the happy vendedor who threaded a bracelet made of
coral, conch, and twine on my wrist,
tight enough so it wouldn’t come off.
I think of the viejito who kissed both of my cheeks last June
and said: No existe un corazon Americano. Tienes sangre esclava,
Taina, blanca. In the States and here,
you are Boricua.
Tonight, my Mami calls me from her American city,
says she is thinking of our island, and wonders
with tiny tongue, what is left,
where are our people.
We ask each other these questions,
and do not have answers.
We whisper in lighted rooms in American cities,
as if the ghosts of our family-gods
can hear our fear.
A week later, we talk loudly of pain, of the pueblo
ravaged, my mother’s birthplace. We talk with family
from her town, about political slapbacks,
our friends who cannot access food
or life-basics. We talk all day to our family, and turn
on the TV to see a line in front of the
blue-white-red lights of a Ponce Walmart.
We think of who is hurt, where are our gente,
what has not been done.
But, tonight, in a Boricua blackout,
I wonder who is running
past dark shores
on my mother’s island?
I wonder what jibaro is stamping across campo alone?
Who is dancing bomba in white dress?
We know somebody is dancing.
We know some countryman is climbing along.
We wonder who is dying.
on our island,
Jennifer Maritza McCauley is a writer of African-American and Puerto Rican descent. She teaches at the University of Missouri, where she is a PhD. candidate in creative writing and literature. She is also Contest Editor at The Missouri Review and poetry editor at Origins Literary Journal. She has received an Academy of American Poets University Award, and creative writing fellowships from CantoMundo, Kimbilio, Sundress Academy of the Arts, and the Knight Foundation. Her creative writing has appeared in Columbia Journal, Passages North, The Los Angeles Review, Jabberwock Review, LunaLuna, Puerto del Sol, New Delta Review, The Feminist Wire, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Public Pool, Latinas: Protests and Struggles in the 21st Century USA (Red Sugarcane Press), and A Shadow Map: An Anthology by Survivors of Sexual Assault (CCM Press) among other outlets. Her poetry collection SCAR ON/SCAR OFF is now available from Stalking Horse Press.