Dekalb Avenue

Dekalb Avenue

Dekalb is titi’s house.
Grover Cleveland’s tracks lead to 
Dr. Mederos on St. Nicholas,
Chinese on Wyckoff by the B38,
Corner of Irving, a brick building — beige. 

Crosses jutting out all over.
My whole childhood, shuttered.
Sophi’s hair salon after.
Tony’s Pizza on the corner of Knickerbocker.

The cuchifrito, Cecilia’s, where titi always gets the mangú.
Next to the newsstand where uncle Louie gets the gum that tastes like soap.

This is titi’s block.

Across from the place you can rent for parties.
Three creaky metal studded flights up 
that are shorter than the length of your feet
so you always feel like you’re falling even when you’re climbing.

Her bell never works. Gotta scream.
From out her metal barred window, she drops the keys.
Dekalb is the turrón titi ate with me.
The clothesline outside her window, wooden clothespins pinched between her lips.
The Reggaeton, the Salsa, the Merengue, the Bachata,
at all hours of the morning, never letting poor titi sleep.

The only survivor now is the pizzeria, and the tracks.
The rest you can only visit in memories, photos, or Google Maps.
They even gentrified the piraqua stands.

Leave my ice alone.
Dekalb Avenue. Not “Deh-kolb.” The L train says it wrong.
Dee-Kalb. It’s titi’s house. It’s childhood. It’s home.

Feeling nostalgic. May polish it for “sound” later. Love you, titi! Muchiiisimo!

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.

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.


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.


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.

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 Jazz 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…

The Past

The Past

It’s where you wander when you’re lost
because it’s deep and familiar.
The end is visible although not really an end,
but where you started.

It’s easy to try all the abandoned roads
than to leave and instead go
to the one place where the only road is forward.

It’s easy to be lost in a place where lost is the only destination.
And if you’re not careful,
you’ll never be able to escape.

– Rachel R. Vasquez,  October 2016

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Something I wrote in October and realized was still in my drafts. Tweaked and published.

Old Places

Old Places

For those places
no longer home.
Kept safest
in your minds own.

Heart aches for trodden roads.
Soul weighs with forgotten ghosts.

A hum whose words are lost,
of curtains drawn,
and bridges crossed.

The streets recede
twisted and strange.
I know this dream
if only by name.

This Avenue’s familiar.
The gates –
The doors –
In another world similar
I’ve been before.

They beckon from pictures,
from over my shoulder.
Yet once I’ve turned,
they slip even farther.

Someplace traversed
and somewhere fond.
I can never return
once they’ve gone.

– Rachel R. Vasquez, 11/11/2015

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“If I come back, it will be a place, but it won’t be home any longer.” – The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I’m learning a common pattern in my life. From old jobs to old schools, once you’ve left a place in that point of time, you can never return. Even if you do, it will never be the same. It never feels the same. You can miss what it was, wish for it to become that place again, but that place is just a place once it’s no longer home.