Lost Brother

Sometimes I want to hug a man I don’t know anymore,

but he’s still ripe in my nostalgia.

I can almost feel his boney frame encasing my own uncomfortably.

Wood knocking –

except he was more like lumber while I was more like twigs.

Towering and looming –

felt like shelter. Felt like safety.

The closest to a brother I could ever have as a brother-less woman.

There was strength, ease, and most of all, no pressure. No innuendos. No assumptions. No judgement.

Just our branches tangling in a completely love smothered gesture.

Sometimes, I have this urge to hug him,

but I don’t know where he is anymore,

because I no longer know him.


– Rachel R. Vasquez, 5/6/2015

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There was no thoughtful process involved here. Literally wrote this up within the last few minutes and had to get it out of me. Knew a guy in high school that was like a brother to me – not sure how we lost touch throughout the years, but I’ve come to realization recently that I really, really want to see him again. And hug him. The last pictures I have of us together, we’re hugging.

I miss that tall skinny jock. Damn it…

Mourning for Bushwick

I mourn for the ghetto.

A White Castle next to

an incongruous condo.


I weep for rickety fences and rusted gates.

When the L train was yellow and grey.

Before they raised the rents.

Off the M, when there was salsa at Borinquen.


Oh, way back when

we occupied steps,

claimed a corner, taken a block.

Skies with pendulous banderas

over the May rising flocks.


Dominican bodegas.

They called me rubia,

before baristas and yoga gyms

landed on Troutman.


Before history got wiped.

They call it gentrification.

I call it genocide.


An invasion, a regression, an infection

of organic produce.

It once was wild, and brimming with pride.

Oh, Bushwick, I miss you.


The hermanos, the primos, the chachos, the homegirls.

Knickerbocker has gone silent.

It’s the worst deaf I’ve ever been.

The worse death ever experienced.

Where my people at?


Oh, it burns so bad – it hurts.

When my home feels like an alternate universe.

I feel like a refugee, a survivor, a remnant.

Eventually an artifact.


Slabs of fresh paint while tackling lower crime rates.

I’m grieving for this place, for milk crates and domino games.

I sob for the mom and pop shops.

This place has changed too much and too fast.


Something’s breaking in my heart,

A phantasmagoria

of bubble tea spots, vintage store fronts and health food stores.

Now until forever, for Bushwick, I’ll mourn.


– Rachel R. Vasquez, 4/30/2015

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Been wrestling with these feelings and this poem for the last week or so. The neighborhood where I grew up has changed so much while I’ve been away – it feels strange. It doesn’t feel like home anymore. It feels like I’ve been gone too long, and now it’s too late. It feels like I took for granted something I’ll never have again. Sad part of growing up I guess.


Child’s Fairy Tale

When I was a child, I saw with blinded eyes.

White sheets by my side down my living room aisle.

Human porcelain came to life and lip-gloss gave me years.

Plastic plugs clipped on my ears, a lollipop took away tears.

Pairs of socks stuffed into my shirt, toes sink into giant shoes.

Little pink frills upon my skirt and a piece of rubber to chew.

Pink cotton fluffs propped up on sticks, games that I never lose.

Magic tricks and vanilla splotched cheeks,

No sickness a mother couldn’t soothe.


Sunflower fields and golden wings around my head.

Bare feet pitter-pattering, when I believed everything said.

When a penny was a lot and money had colors.

Boy was the world nice then!

Tucked into bed with a goodnight kiss,

to awaken to a reality without mend.


Empty spaces during dark phases,

the world just cries and wails.

No white horses, just fifty percent divorces,

a world full of broken fairy tales.

Ripped pages and dried ink, the fantasy is now the past.

Tears at the brink from this reality, breaking the heart like glass.

Dying trees, unknown disease, and an education that always fails.

So next time you see a little girl with wings, underneath her golden veil.

Just keep passing by; it’d best be wise, to not say a single word.

Just hope she doesn’t open her eyes,

peaceful and undisturbed.


For being a child is a luxury,

she deserves the sugarcoated lies.

At least for a while, at least for some time,

Let the poor girl taste the sweets.

Because as she lives and the pages all end,

that’s all it’ll ever be.

A sweetness with a bad after taste.

Just a nice sugar coated dream.


– Rachel R. Vasquez, 4/30/2006, edited 4/30/2015

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Wow, I wrote this almost an entire decade ago! I found it and realized I had written it the same day as today, except it was 2006. I thought it was meant to be published here today. This was originally inspired by a quote from the bible and my dark afterthoughts at the time. I was purposely aiming for that nursery rhyme feel.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, felt like a child, reasoned like a child: when I became a man, I put from me childish ways

1 Corinthians 13:11

The D Uptown

I hear it in layers.

Like a wind –

an exhale, unvarying and steady.


Sinking into potholes.

Toothy tireless rims.


Grinding, thunder, whinnying, skidding.


A cacophony of keys, hollow pots banging,

ringing, scraping, hinging, rattling,

an elephant screeching,

whistling amidst cicadas

and marbles being swirled ’round and ’round a metal tin.


Shrill and sharp.

A largo tempo.

And a distant memory of amusement park bells.


– Rachel R. Vasquez, 4/21/2015

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Have you ever stopped to close your eyes and really listen to a train? I always thought that trains sometimes sound alive, like metal breathing organisms. I wanted to see what I could pluck out from the white noise while on my morning commute, and make sense of it piece by piece. It was an interesting exercise, especially for someone who is hard of hearing.

I like this idea – maybe I’ll revisit this poem later.


Like tryna’ to catch water.
Could never win, no matter how much I fought her.

A pointless carousel, I watched it dissolve.
Those revolving doors,
couldn’t take it anymore,
as they took us round and round,
and I wound up a deserter.

Couldn’t pretend, couldn’t float on the deep end,
felt like an accessory to murder.

Whenever she defiled her worth, didn’t matter what she deserved,
but I couldn’t weather the rewind.

Had to repeat history, had to re-loop misery,
Couldn’t remain blind.

I tried to be hero, tried wise mediator.
Instead I became a powerless spectator.

Maybe my shoulders weren’t strong.
Like slow motion she willingly leaped off
into an ocean of sharks.

Like rolling under a the wheel of a truck.
Like running through a fire.
Poking an electric socket, she was dead set on drowning –
No matter the life jacket, what advice she gets,
the only place she could live
were those thorny roads I abandoned.

When a part of you gets gangrene,
you cut it off.
There’s nothing more helpless
than loving one who doesn’t love herself.

And so I swept it under the rug.
Saved myself even though it hurt.
Had to release her from my clutch because I loved her too much,
and I was done being burned.


– Rachel R. Vasquez, 3/12/2015

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I once had a friend who was more like my sister. She was a part of me, but she was no good for me. And she was no good to herself. Sometimes when you love someone, you’ve gotta let them go. It’s one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make in my life, and sometimes, I miss her… I hope she’s out there, and I hope she’s finally learned to love herself.

Place of Sighs

Click clack on cement past the flip flap stand, down over by the heavy beats and la’s of the boom box.

The screech on the road pulls the leash on my neck, and I wonder how tires hiss.

Boppin’ and chewin’ my pop stick by the slick man who licks his lips as he mmm’s at swish and swivels.

Little girls hop and skip on chalk grids in the chain parks ‘cause big kids boycott swings.

As they squeak and rust, I plug in ear wires with a shrug to provide my mind with breathing support.

Calligraphy bricks line up by yellow cliffs where you can see the rats race.

Thunder rolls in trenches, sparks snap rails,

noses lost in the gray-scale paper. The lifeless paper.

With frost in a cup, hunger tugs my sleeve.

So I flip flop upon freshly drenched summer to where you can scream with ching in your fingers.

I tinker with the slurp bubbles, between jingling metal and my grease pod –

over the stoop dwellers,

sometimes guarding carnival bodegas.

Kangaroo pouched fellas shaking up copper dust on the bottom of one dollar coffee cups.

Finally through the turn and shove into the clock’s hug where I bend and shift up the light switch that flickers over the table that mail has consumed.

My last move on this night’s end and day’s routine, is to snoozes where relief sings me soothing odes.

Tightly secure in my place of sighs, beside wailing windows.

This four-sided burrito roll. This place I call home.

– Rachel R. Vasquez, 2007, revised 3/12/2015

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Weather is getting nice around here. Hoping I can go to that place where I can scream with ching in my fingers soon – aka the chuchifrito place. One coquito and an accapuria please!

Beloved Stranger

Beloved Stranger
I knew you in the dark
Where the depths
Blind us from one another

I knew that gaping hole
That swallows more and more of you
With each passing day

I knew the wandering in the desert
When the sun blanches our eyes
And it’s too cold at night

Even though I knew you
I never found you
Beloved stranger

– Rachel R. Vasquez, 2/12/2015

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Was thinking of a cousin of mine who would have been the same age as me, but she passed away years ago. We were a lot alike, but living states away, we never realized it. Long story short, she suffered from depression, hung out with the wrong crowd, and passed away getting drunk one night with friends before their car pitched into a lake or river. She gave up one day, and God took her.

Sometimes I wonder how I was never able to find someone in the same darkness I was fumbling around in at the time. I wonder sometimes, what if we would’ve found each other somehow? Would she still be here today?

The penguin on a recent episode of Gotham had an odd moment of wisdom. He said, “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light”. Could I have been her friend in the darkness? I will never know now…


Sunhats shave ice blocks under umbrella stands
Strap backs pendulum their hips
Water runs through flip flops around gradient sprayed concrete
Ink snakes along bronze waists
Party horns honk on trollies
Whistles screech
Where the white T’s palm rubber to a wall
Speakers ride their shoulders
A husky chants “Que bonita bandera”
And the malta men spinning black dotted blocks on turntables
Shake their beaded necks like maracas
The cowbell-
tap- tap –tap-
tap- tap-
The rope slaps with clapping girls
Singing past the mating calls
Hissing from glitter fenders at snappy fingers
The hoop ears with stoop scuffs on stringy rears
They only stop when the weasel pops on postered trucks
Fabric rises like war filled spears
The crowd’s amok
Between flickering lights and clashing beers

– Rachel R. Vasquez, 4/28/2008

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I wanted to wait until summer to put this up, but with the freezing temperatures and snow as of late – I guess I became summer sick.

This was inspired by what my neighborhood was like as we neared the Puerto Rican parade in the summer. Bushwick was full of pidaqua stands, salsa booming from the cars with giant flags draped across their trunks, street merchants selling all sorts knick knacks, kids playing hand ball in the parks, jump rope, ice cream trucks – man it was the place to be! If there’s one thing I miss since moving to the Bronx, it’s that Latin fever that happens once the summer rolls around, nothing beats that atmosphere. Nothing. Nada. I haven’t found a chuchifrito place around here yet that sells coquito, and that makes a girl a bit home sick…


Sopa de paloma.
Does mama pluck them?
From the fence?
From the street?

Before she chucks them,
not from the sky,
but brethren
with feet upright
into the pot.

Does she fetch a price for their beaks?

Do the eyes get so hot,
they burst?
Not chicken,
the birds?

Do they come from allá?

The pigeons in the soup
perched on roof ridges,
not pollo,
but bludgeoned herds,
not frozen,
but all bones and sofrito.

No lo entiendo.

Mama looks to mommy being told
Deja la niña,” as she cooks.

Tell me quick!
With haste!
Do they know what I sip?
La paloma, not poultry.
Will I ever be forgiven?


– Rachel R. Vasquez, ?/?/2014

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My mother once teased me as a kid that “mama”, an elderly woman who I loved as my grandmother even though she wasn’t, was actually feeding me pigeon soup and not chicken soup. Of course, this was a lie, but I might’ve believed it a little at the time. This poem was inspired by that tall tale. Thanks, mom. 🙂

A Country

Somewhere in me,
a country rises,
of cobble-stoned roads,
street lamps like raised eyes,
3 panel windows on brick,
of blown glass, wind chimes, and freshly baked bread.

Somewhere where it’s winter.
Somewhere I only find
when I’m taken from everything else.

A man I don’t know,
but is the type only I could ever truly know
on the other side of a barely cracked door split to show
heavy wooden furniture, sofas and curtains,
answers in a defeated tone to his cynical father,
“She’ll probably go back when the winter’s over anyway.”

I know he means me,
but I’m not sure where it is I’ve come from to return to.

He has dark hair that whips in the front the way beaters fold cake batter,
glasses, a long sleeve sweater on his long arms –
I push the door open with my breath not being the only thing I leave behind.

Dusting a layer of snow from my red coat,
I tell him it’s cold outside
before inviting myself to his flank.
If he was surprised,
he only let it slip for a moment before he secures me against him with one arm.

Does he know I heard?
A shop owner,
a woman I apparently know who knows us,
but only him individually,
asks him a favor to which
he answers with a grumble.

He looks at me look at him
and changes his mind.

“Let’s go.”

The kiss is as quick as the dot of an exclamation.
I’m not sure it happened,
But my face senses the intrusion and bares teeth.

She gives me that look.
The, “I know you’re staying whether or not it’s winter forever,” look.
Out in the winter,
my coat and his red scarf,
he reaches for my cold fingers
before country sinks again.

I open my eyes to the
winter that hasn’t gone,
but I’ve left against my will.


– Rachel R. Vasquez ?/?/2014

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