Last month, March 2017, I visited New York City for the first time since moving to Puerto Rico almost three years ago. In a separate post I can share some of the warm, fuzzy thoughts I experienced upon arriving. But what I’m sharing today instead are thoughts taken from my journal on the day before my scheduled departure back to Puerto Rico. My feelings had shifted as I reflected on the New York I had been born and raised in, what I had observed, what it had become. I must first offer gratitude to the various ancestors that made this trip a powerful testament to their light and love. And my humblest gratitude to the resilience and love of the many mujeres, of blood/ spirit (starting with my momma, sister and tias) who brighten my days on the NYC side and whose love transcends el charco. I love them and ache to leave them, but am thankfully nurtured here by Borikén, our other mother!
The NYC allure has lifted.
Mountains of packed snow and ice
on sidewalks and cross walks.
Iceberg climbing and slush sloshing on streets.
Sick-passenger-subways delayed still run local.
Alls a rush. Schedules packed.
Events start late then run over.
Loisaida bodegas gone few and far between
Amidst shops of gourmet eats.
Grab dinner at midnight
from some smoking cart
on some corner in the shadow of the Empire State.
Pack away the steamy aluminum falafel bundle
to eat at home 2 trains and a cab ride later.
Neglected bodies, too-stressed guts
and the horizontal scars of cuts
carved on an innocent wrist.
New York you revealed your truth yet again.
A city scattered.
An inflated subway system that reveals your anxiety and harshness
Like stepping into a boxing ring
You take risks each time you enter and exit a train.
However plentiful your supermarkets
Whatever sales & deals I seldom see
on the other side of el charco
I have no desire to walk down three flights, three stories
hike various blocks, brick from the cold to purchase groceries.
Lug em back and climb three flights with pounds of packages in hand.
Your snow and cold curtailed my appetite
I slept in a snow cap, knitted scarf and wrapped a fleece robe around my shoulders
To battle the draft of my old room.
I’ve watched my mother’s arthritic body struggle up and down those stairs
Wonder when I go back how does she handle basic shit
like taking down the garbage, collecting her mail.
I’ve seen your roaches and mice.
I’ve seen people cling to you like burnt crack to a pipe.
They hold on for dear life.
I’ve seen people buying temporary gratification, unsatisfied
Abusing their bodies to the point of illness, to the point of death.
I’ve visited their graves in a whole other community we spread across Cypress Hills cemetery.
I’ve seen you offer jobs of exploitation to the desperate
While others make jobs out of helping the desperate
And still others get rich off keeping the desperate desperate.
I’ve seen you make mules out of the accomplished
and leave them all jaded, broke and broken in the end.
I’ve seen cultural arts movements born out of invisibility
where people battle for recognition.
I’ve seen trendy art spotlights shined on the privileged pimping our struggles
While we the sufferers and the innovators remain marginalized.
I’ve seen activist networks preaching liberation on all fronts,
arming Olympic arenas
where the oppressed battle each other
in acts of micro and macro aggression
of insecurities and complexes of inferiority.
And all the while the oppressor still roams free.
I have seen babies’ smiles stifled.
Their giggles replaced by curse words.
Their sweetness replaced with aggression.
Their hope smothered in fear.
I have seen my abuelo’s East New York Brooklyn house
go from the community center of my family
to empty, decrepit and abandoned,
to gentrified, rehabilitated and re-inhabited
by people who don’t share our family name.
I’ve seen enough drug money luxury cars
parked on this block
that together can knock down this rotting building
and erect state of the art affordable housing
for all locked in poverty here.
I’ve seen love smothered by cement
then sprouting from sidewalk cracks.
I’ve seen a people succumb to a dream
they believed in
that was only ever meant
to consume them.