Bushwick Baby

Bushwick baby

used to “Como ‘ta linda?”,

used to “yo ma” me,

when I was peligrosa

and that 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 Jazzed 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…

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.

 

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!

June

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…