Bushwick Baby

Bushwick 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 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

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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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

 

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.