Scissors

Scissors

When you cut me from your life,

did you use scissors?

 

Did you cut carefully

like I was a curving,

challenging,

stencil?

 

Occasionally I feel like

a frayed ghost limb

from a thoughtless tear.

 

Maybe I was creased first

before you casually

pulled           me              apart.

 

Tugged. Me.

With the same soft swipes you’d use

to shoo dust off your loved one’s cheek.

 

Did you use a cookie cutter?

I’ve felt shaped differently since.

 

I don’t feel you balled me in your fists before discarding me,

but I feel crumbled nonetheless.

 

Did you commit my calligraphy

to memory?

Recalled our childhood and chronicled

all we had,

held me to your heart,

before you severed us?

 

Whether you shunned me away into a

water-stained box, full

of your childhood knick knacks, waiting

for your hands to wrinkle to be

treasured again,

or tossed me into the same wastebasket

of shredded due dates and credit card offers,

I still have to ask.

 

Did you have the decency to use a pair of shears?

Once they said we were cut

from the same cloth.

Yet I still feel the ripping

from your bare

clenching hands.

 

– Rachel R. Vasquez, September 2017

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A Halloween Memory

A Halloween Memory

All Saint’s Eve, daddy took little miss piggy

to the Cypress and Harman bakery,

where they gave her cookies and pennies,

and her pumpkin was brimming,

until mommy stripped wrappers

off tootsies and suckers by evening.

Inspect for catheters, needles and blades.

Don’t get too gleeful,

mommy checks for evil and lethal –

all to keep her piggy’s kisser safe.

 

– Rachel R. Vasquez, Oct. 2017

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It’s not Halloween anymore, but better late than never. Didn’t originally title this – but it is what it is. 🙂 Once upon a time, my mother would check every single piece of candy I received on Halloween just to make sure it was safe before I could eat any.

Please. Don’t come home to die.

Please. Don’t come home to die.

Please. Don’t come home to die.

My primo, listen, I’ll tell you why.

 

Imagine the gut wrenching screams your parents will have,

When they have to ID your body from a body bag,

Found in an alley, needle in hand,

No will, no testament, to the life you lead.

 

You wanna choose hood over blood,

But tell me little cousin,

Who will choose your coffin?

The wood of your casket,

Your flower arrangements?

 

You tryin’ to quiet the racket in your mind with poison,

But who will choose your last suit and tie?

 

Please. Don’t come home to die.

 

Don’t drown, don’t wither,

Don’t go, stay steady.

Don’t go preppin’ your obituary.

I left church years ago,

but I’m praying you find sanctuary,

For your weary heart and broken past.

 

Remember the albuterol mask on your face as you slept,

The comics my father gave, that you never read,

The brands on your back that your mother earned,

You were my chubby cheese club before you drank burn.

 

Death only stops kindly for those who don’t stop for death.

Don’t go rushing to be laid to rest.

Your parents paid school and paid rent.

Both made mistakes, not gonna lie, not gonna pretend.

 

Neither can claim they always did you right,

But they’ll both weep loudest once you’ve left for the sky.

 

So please, don’t come home to die.

 

You can hang your mantle,

You can share your burdens,

But don’t let them dismantle the life you’ve built.

 

Don’t matter the clique you roll with

Or the titles.

Don’t let the tides hold you in it’s grip.

 

I won’t say it’s easy,

But I want you to try.

It ain’t simple but please.

Don’t come home if you’re trying to die.

Come home. To live your life.

 

– Rachel R. Vasquez, Oct. 2017

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Be wary of the streets – they can take your family…

Maria and my Mother

Maria and my Mother

They say you should never take your mother for granted.

I discovered too late that this applies to mother nature, and my mother land from whom I can only sputter my mother tongue.

I’ve only lived in Puerto Rico in two ways. In pictures, and my parents; from the bandera brandished mugs, plates and porcelain bells behind the glass of the chinita my mother inherited from my grandmother, America.

My entire childhood, my father described the sound a coqui makes, and always danced in his bedroom raking a guiro or tapping a cowbell. When he wasn’t listening to cassette tapes, he was drumming his fingers on the dinner table.

My mother made rice and beans for dinner almost every day, filled our railroad apartment with the smell of homemade sofrito and gave me commands twice. When she wasn’t angry, in English and in Spanish, and only in Spanish when she was.

Their stories of the island felt like hearing about heaven’s gates – climbing mango trees for a snack, being able to see your feet beneath the ocean water and the odd story of fleeing from bulls.

When they brought me there at 3 years old, they say my asthma disappeared. As if the island knew I was hers, and healed me so long as I was in her arms.

I hear her in the congas. I taste her in the pasteles we buy for holidays. I feel her in the brief New York summers that can only mimic. I feel closest during June when all her children don her colors and summon her spirit with bells, horns, and whistles.

I’ve always told myself I’d see her one day, see her again, but for the first time, so I can remember her. But now…

They say you should never take your mother for granted, and mother nature tore through my mother land to teach me a lesson.

I can only say this to her in my mother tongue –

Lo siento.

 

– Rachel R. Vasquez, Sept. 2017

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Puerto Rico is in trouble. The whole island is in darkness for at least a few months, and it’s agriculture is completely destroyed. Half the population is without drinking water and conditions are making it difficult to get supplies to residents. My people need your help. Consider donating anything you can!

I only wish I got to see her as an adult before Maria happened.

She Walks

She Walks

She walks like her hips are a soup ladle.

Thick spoonfuls of negative space.

Like a jutting bulldozer,

straining upward,

before the final wobble at its highest point.

The anticipation in a pendulum.

The hangtime of a swing.

That’s how she walks.

 

– Rachel R. Vasquez, date unknown (2012?)

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Found this in an old notebook of mine. 😊

Rotary Phones

Rotary Phones

I miss rotary phones.

Did you dial gently like

drawing a message in the sand,

or like tearing knots through hair with

hooked fingers?

I miss tugging the wrong digit and how it forced us

to start all over.

Put effort.

Be cautious when we drag.

Think.

I miss shuffling through a mental lattice of numbers,

curly wires snagging us close,

like a parent, it’s toddler, to keep us

from wandering

too far.

Focus.

I miss the heart swallowing screech it made across the apartment,

launching into a stumbling run,

sometimes diving into it.

And it ensnared us like an octopus with

arms and mouth open wide.

Dared to miss it and welcome the mystery of,

“Who could it have been?”

Dare to take the chance of never knowing – forever?

I miss leaning into it’s cradle

with bated breath until the dull blip of a phone

being picked up registered relief,

and knowing that my reward in two seconds

was a voice.

“Thank God I caught you home.”

I miss the receiver’s breathless groan once a call had ended.

It’s different now

when someone says they’ll call because

they have my number.

Do you?

You can have something without ever truly knowing it.

Have you memorized my number?

Memorized me?

 

– Rachel R. Vasquez,  August 2017

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I miss the days when calling someone and catching them home was something that wasn’t taken for granted. Versus always having a cell for anyone to reach you at any time, via text or social media. I miss good old fashioned, plop yourself in a chair and have a conversation while you play with the curly wire in your fingers. When my mom used to punish me for misbehaving, she’d put a lock on the rotary phone so you couldn’t turn it and dial – funny now that I think about it. 🙂 It was easy for parents to restrict a kid’s contact with their friends at home back in the day. 😉

 

I feel like there’s more I can do with this poem, but moving on from this one for now.

Little Cousin

Little Cousin

My little cousin’s got the Brooklyn.

The kind from the underside of pinched Corona caps,

stoops littered with sunflower seeds,

and Beenie Man grating from a recorded cassette.

 

I have other cousins who were cured.

Left cemetery meetings amongst Kings and color initiated school holidays.

My aunt grew tired of sleeping away from the windows and cured her children the only way she knew how –

Pennsylvania.

 

My little cousin though, he’s got it bad –

the Brooklyn.

The kind where no Jansport or Jordans were safe.

The kind where kids were offered Remy Red from paper bags out of cars blasting “infiltrate”.

We didn’t mean for him to get it, but it was like he was destined.

 

Lured by Wyckoff summer nights.

Enticed by windshields of Puerto Rican flags and “Rollin’ with the Clique” down Onderdonk.

He must’ve been seduced by starry names we wore on necks, fingers and belt buckles like voiceless shouts.

 

Maybe he caught it from someone else?

Foxy, Chino, or was it Willie?

Was his name Willie?

Willie who wore foundation two tints too light,

lookin’ like an unslept, unbrushed Tego Calderon,

who strutted up the block to talk about love and dick before I’d seen either?

 

Was it all the unready mothers raised by unready mothers,

then trying to raise sons like sacrificial lambs?

Like offerings to “outside”?

 

Was it that my little cousin heard?

Heard women talk about “the club” the same way some country folk must talk about “the city”?

“Better than being out here in the sticks. Why ain’t we at the club?” as if there was only the one?

 

Did my cousin see?

How shadowed men jittered in doorways across the street from the abandoned warehouse on Willoughby?

I remember his ear to ear grin as he told me he saw

me kiss the pothead I pined for from Stockholm,

the one with a topless fairy tattooed under his forearm.

 

I think he’d already showed symptoms of having it then,

but we had hoped he’d outgrow it.

Doesn’t really matter now

that he’s a grown man.

 

They say he’s got the Brooklyn terminal.

Here we are now, years too late,

trying to save him.

It’s up to the blood in his veins now.

If he’s not careful,

 

Brooklyn will kill him.

 

And we’ll continue after,

asking ourselves for the rest of our lives,

how we could’ve prevented it.

 

– Rachel R. Vasquez,  August 2017

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Got family on my mind. Also wondering if I can find a WordPress theme that respects a writer’s line breaks, indents and spaces…