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 –
My little cousin though, he’s got it bad –
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
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Got family on my mind. Also wondering if I can find a WordPress theme that respects a writer’s line breaks, indents and spaces…