Bushwick Baby

FeaturedBushwick Baby

Bushwick baby

used to “Como ‘ta linda?”,

used to “yo ma” me,

when I was peligrosa

and a saggin’ slim used to wink “What’s poppin’?”

on Stockholm and Wyckoff.

 

Keys rained with box stitches and Chinese staircase lanyards

from second stories,

where stoops were sold out from Bedford to Halsey.

Before 358 Grove was whitewashed next to White Castle.

 

When I was rubia in the bodegas.

Willoughby used to “ey yo” me with a bottle of Bacardi while going limb by limb.

They rocked door knockers on Knickerbocker

and doors were knockin’ with “Dios te bendiga” damas

who called me nena and asked me to pray for knocked up primas.

 

Solo para mi gente would dale don dale down Wilson

when banderas marched on the wind.

Back when Jazzy Jazz and S&M had a quarter zoo.

Greene was in loving memory with a Woody Cartoon.

Do you remember?

Before it caught Alzheimers and forgot it’s roots,

Bushwick used to hoot and holla.

Now Bushwick has forgotten all my monickers,

made me a stranger,

when it used to call me familia.

 

– Rachel R. Vasquez,  May 2017

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I actually wrote this one 2 months ago and was struggling with how to close the poem. Finally managed to wrap it up and found the motivation to update my poetry blog.

If you grew up in Bushwick in the 90’s/2000’s, then some of this may be familiar. When I think of my childhood, I think of all the Spanish speaking residents in the neighborhood, and the sounds of the language, the music. I think of summer bringing everyone outside to the streets, on the stoops, playing dominos, buying from the pidaqua stands and dancing. Sure, there were some dangerous sides to the neighborhood as well, but the culture was really something before gentrification swept in. I’ll never forget it…

Covid-19 in NY

Covid-19 in NY

Photo from “13 photos of New York City looking deserted as the city tries to limit the spread of the coronavirus

Trigger Warning: This poem is about how Covid-19 is affecting our current way of life. There are some graphic images described in this piece. Please proceed with caution if you choose to read this poem. Be safe and healthy everyone.

Covid-19 in NY

New York was the city that never slept —

until February 2020.

Two hundred thousand ill, three thousand dead.

Only the children are safe from drowning.

 

No showtime on Broadway, nor on the trains.

Rockefeller! Fifth Avenue! Times Square!

All shuttered. Abandoned. Still — like a wake.

The planes are grounded. Poison in the air.

 

More unemployed since the Great Recession.

The future unclear. The future unsure.

How long until they start welding our doors?

Disinfect and bleach the trains! Bleach the floors!

 

In China, the infected dragged away,

captured with the same nets they use for strays.

All day long, we sing Happy Birthday.

Italy keeps their residents at bay

 

with flamethrowers while they sing from the windows.

All we see are eyes. Windows to the soul.

 

Shelves are empty, and the price gougers fat.

Our mothers are sewing surgical masks.

 

There aren’t enough vents, nor are there beds.

Our grandparents, dying alone in their beds.

CPR denied to cardiac arrests.

 

Central Park, Jacob Javits, Navy ships —

temporary hospitals for the sick.

Bodies are being cradled by fork lifts

instead of loving hands, loving arms.

 

We’ve gone through March.

We’re going through April.

Social distancing has banned funerals.

 

We pray the summer burns away the plague.

The number of cases swell with the days.

 

– Rachel R. Vasquez, March/April 2020

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Never have I wished to be farther from New York than now. I’ve lived here all of my life. 9/11 happened when I was in high school. This? I’ve never experienced anything like it in my lifetime. Some days I’m not sure how to cope, some days I’m inside trying to pretend this is just a really long staycation. The only thing I can do is take it day by day, and write. Hoping everyone stays safe out there.

Believable Boricua

Believable Boricua

Summer burns me

into three shades of

believable Boricua.

 

Come, summer! I’m ready!

I’ve got Bad Bunny in my headphones.

 

The bronze on my shoulders

are like the tassled shoulder pads

of a uniform

I can only don

once a year.

 

A uniform of pride.

It won’t get questioned.

Once the sun has knighted me,

 

on both shoulders, and

my crown.

– Rachel R. Vasquez, 2020

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I’m ready for ya summer!

Imagine

Imagine

There is no sound

more deafening

than the silence of your name

never being spoken.

 

There is no space heavier,

more suffocating — full, and yet,

so hollow, and

empty,

than your absence

in this world.

 

My nightmares awake are long.

My sleeping dreams of you

are brief.

 

Nothing gives me less purpose,

less drive to get out of bed,

than knowing you might be

behind my eyes.

 

I only have to go there, and

hope that I run into you.

 

Imagine an ocean,

never combed by the moon.

 

Imagine a wind

that never breaths.

 

Imagine birds,

grounded and mute.

 

Imagine veiny trees,

desperately reaching, and naked,

all year long —

forever.

 

Imagine that the black behind your eyes

is more beautiful

than a night’s starry skies.

 

– Rachel R. Vasquez, 2018?

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Another grief poem pulled from an old notebook. Despite how inactive my blog is, I have a lot of notebooks full of stuff. I don’t often get to the part where it goes from my notebooks, to a digital form. (sigh)

I Die

I Die

I die

over and over.

 

I used to think I wanted to.

I used to flirt with death using the same razors

mama used to shave calluses from her

hard working heels

but now I know better

 

when walking feels like

dry heaving my broken insides

when it feels like vomiting

the pieces of me

of her

that have loosened in me

since she left

 

pieces trying to force themselves out of my body

 

but I hang onto them

no matter how sharp

 

and I die

from doing this.

 

I die when I remember her face

turn blue

 

I die when I can feel how soft her hand was in mine

in my mind and

I realize

I can never feel it again.

I die.

– Rachel R. Vasquez, June 2018

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I wrote this around 4 months after my mama died. Grief feels very surreal in the beginning. Our culture truly does not give grievers enough time before they have to throw themselves back into the daily grind.

I went back to work about a week and a half after her passing. I remember walking in the streets, physically straining to hold myself back from what felt like dry heaving. I can’t describe it. It wasn’t necessarily about being nauseous all the time. It was like, being a water balloon ready to burst and with any poke, gentle or otherwise, the balloon will splatter into a mess. I felt like I was literally hanging on by a hair, trying to keep myself from literally collapsing in the streets in pure agony.

Sometimes it did feel like “Fuck, I’m going to throw up,” because the horror of loss and witnessing death feels that way. Sometimes it was more like an unfathomable sorrow and pain that I could barely contain within myself in silence.

It’s like being punched in the gut multiple times. There’s only so many times you can let yourself get punched without ever making a sound. Sometimes the pain is so great, the only relief is to make a sound – to cry, to scream, to release.

There were many times I couldn’t hold it back, and I had to pull myself into a restroom stall or even face a wall in the subway to just break down. Let some of the tsunami out just enough so that I could return to appearing “normal” and walk that fine line between sanity and the insanity that is grief.

There were mornings I didn’t make it to work, and the mornings I did, it felt like a drunken haze, an alternate reality I was being forced to live in. How do people laugh? Go to work? Keep going about their lives when this life is missing from this earth? When this life has been snuffed? How does no one notice when the sun is blotted from the sky?

I wrote this back then. It’s been a year and 4 months since she passed now. While it’s no longer a physical strain on a daily basis to hold back my grief, it still comes in waves. Ever since, I’ve been following only a single line of advice. Take it one day at a time.

Brink of War

Brink of War

With news of escalating tensions with Iran, and Russia already being a worry for me, combined with my own personal life stressors – my anxiety is off the chain tonight. I haven’t been this anxious, or in what I like to refer to as “OMG I’m gonna die” mode, in a long time. So in an effort to feel better somehow, I thought to myself, if I never achieve all the things I wanted to achieve in life, you know, because of possibilities like war, what will I have left behind?

It was then that I decided to share a very vivid dream I had, days before I went to visit my mother in the hospital, and it truly hit me that she was going to die. This was three or four months before the fact, but until this day, I haven’t forgotten that dream.

I’ve decided that, if for some reason I don’t get to live out my life until I’m a sassy, salsa bopping, viejita, this was the story I wanted to share.

In the dream, I was in the city. It was Manhattan probably, and I was standing in the middle of the street during the day.

Just like an apocalyptic movie, the skyscrapers are collapsing around me, the ground beneath my feet, is cracking to inevitably swallow people and everyone is running for their lives. For me, the moment is in slow motion. I know there’s no point in running because there is nowhere safe to go.

A few feet ahead of me, both of my parents are holding onto each other and looking at me.

I glance at the buildings and know that I only have seconds to act before we all die. Surprisingly, my first thought isn’t that I’m scared, or that I don’t want to die. I don’t despair over the multitude of unanswered questions regarding the Christian faith I abandoned in my late teens and what that means now that this is the end.

Instead, I only have one thought. To get to my parents in time.

So I ran to them. And when I reached them, I grabbed both of their hands in mine. While breaking down in tears and trying to keep my eyes on them, probably even try to smile at them one last time, I only tell them this:

“I love you. Thank you for giving me life.”

I woke up after that.

I’ve always thought this dream was metaphorical – a bad omen of things to come. I don’t normally remember my dreams or nightmares, unless they really strike a cord. If I remember them, I feel like they must have a purpose.

At the time, I thought, well, my parents are my world and I am theirs. So seeing as I was in the process of losing one when I had this dream, this dream could’ve been a metaphor for how that felt to me.

Today, in my anxious state and the state of our country, this same dream could have a different meaning.

I feel like it shows how much I love my parents. I was their “miracle” baby, a premie born at seven months who was sickly ever since. Asthmatic, hearing loss, anemia – while I became stronger health wise as an adult, they always prayed and worried about me. While it’s just my father now, I’m sure he still does it just the same.

And despite that I have so many things on my mind now, with my anxiety shooting through the roof, remembering this dream gives me perspective.

In the end, nothing else really matters, except family and those we love.

I just want to be with my family. My heart has never been the same since I lost my mama, and I ache with worry that someday, my father will go meet her. I know it’s inevitable we all leave this life, whether it’s through aging, a freak accident, or God forbid, war. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, or if I’ll ever get to do all the things I wanted to do.

But for tonight, I’m going to hold onto that dream. I’m going to remember that, when I thought that life was over, how grateful I was to have been given life. How blessed, as ironic as that word feels coming from me, I felt to have the parents that I did. How fortunate I was to be loved and to have parents to love in return.

The life I leave behind may not be the legacy I intended; Maybe due to my own procrastination, or events beyond my control.  However, regardless of what remains when I’m no longer of this world, know that I was a girl, who’s parents were her heart and home. A girl – who hopes that someday when her time comes, she can have them both again, and be together.

– Rachel R. Vasquez, June 2019

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The picture on this post is of me as a little girl, holding onto my mama and my daddy. Holding on always…

 

#VSS365 May 2019

Once again, trigger warning for grief related stories below. May is not only the month of mother’s day, but it’s the month of my mother’s birthday. Needless to say, May hits me hard. This is the second time around since her passing.

 

#VSS365 April 2019

Warning – the first few “very short stories” I wrote in April may be triggering. I’m still grieving the loss of my mama. I write in an effort to comfort the ever present void in my life due to her absence.

#VSS365 March 2019

 

#VSS365 February 2019

#VSS365 January 2019

I discovered the #VSS365 hash tag on Twitter recently, and I’ve started to participate in it. It’s been a lot of fun. I’d like to keep track of them from now on, on a monthly basis. Since I’ve only just started, here are the few I wrote for January. Enjoy.