after Michel Camilo
Cuba and Puerto Rico
are the two wings of a bird.
—Lola Rodríguez de Tió
pero what about DR hermanito?
nah nah nah see. this
bird got three wings. got three
that all sing cuando she
flutters them. trade winds
bounce scorch reefs
like Anacaona’s name
on tyrant tongues.
this bird see got three
wings unfurled across
this gulf this bird
symphonies that sail three
nah seven continents
in 5/4 counts. barons
and lords flinch when they
knock on these
shores. derelict. indecent
descendants repent when
these feathers unfurl to outclass
out-savage the euro
when he brands your staccato
this bird primo this one got wings.
three. each threshing feather
sports eighty-eight keys,
unlocking a googolplex
of coops mi gente.
get it. three wings nah thirteen wings
nah seven thousand wings (qué pasa
Trinidad Saint Kitts Martinique
las otras?) on this dove
flexing multi-atti-pulchri-alti- e-tudes
of hues ’mano!
“Cuba y Puerto Rico son / de un pájaro las dos alas”; Lola Rodríguez de Tió, “A Cuba,” in Mi libro de Cuba: Poesías (Havana: Imprenta la Moderna, 1893).
Mutiny at the Elder Care Facility
Had to summon four orderlies and my
aunt to confiscate the knife bisabuela
stashed in her bloomers. Snatched
during breakfast, she held the blade
to her chest like a cross, as the impious
attempted to strip the shiv that was her
only protection. From what? At ninety,
bisabuela drives the men of the home
to act like hormone glutted teens. They
pitch their wheelchairs before her wing
with hopes of catching one whiff of her
Vic’s Vapor Rub. She got all Roberto
Duran on one for trying to woo her
during Sabado Gigante. These last six
weeks no nurse’s aide has been able
to feed or wash her. She doesn’t need
them. Anyone. When viper-headed
spouses ventured to deplete her ores,
she swayed like a weary banyan but
never cracked. And when despots
occupied the coasts and forced her
to replant herself in a city that worked
double shifts to give her hypothermia,
she was a bulwark. Staged her own
brand of insurgency by turning deaf
to their language. Vowed to one day
reclaim her villita and never set foot
on this godforsaken continent for all
her remaining days. But her damn kids.
They did make her return. For what?
Just because she left the stove on one
time. Now some infant in scrubs insists
on wiping her. Well, she’s had enough.
Coño. She’s keeping the knife. Whoever
thinks about taking it, or anything else,
from her can be sure to feel its pinch.
Anthropomorphic Study of the Antilles
Parabola of mangroves in an equatorial yawn,
blue dunes deflecting the Gaze that leers
at her glades and sierras, she dodges
lustful overtures to her
summons Guabancex to halt the erection
of bitcoin brothels fencing her
basins and charging membership fees. When
she insists that she is not
property, cannot be consumed
for private pleasure, the Gaze collects
armies and lawyers, draws up
charters that she is forbidden
to vote on. Her barrier reefs break
the tide of offenders groping at her piers,
scattering a season of pathogens
claiming her lots vacant as they stoop
to appraise her star apples.
Cornered, she stings,
wades out into uncharted shoals
beyond earshot of chancellors
branding her bruja and harlot, epithets she
mulls and ferments into a caney
for her son Bayamanaco
who burns the leeches listed
in the Panama Papers. She starves
them until they divest
and sheathe their cara palos. They beg to lasso
her and teethe on her coral. She shakes
them loose, rattling her Beata Ridge
to make it plain she is not kept. They call her Sycorax,
but she is no foil in some sallow man’s tale.
She is not grief tinted or deprived,
no mere harbor
for the wanton and the loused, was not
put here for an other’s private
by syllogism, circumstellar
and circumspect, she adorns red
clay, is Milwaukee Deep,
gets all Kick ’Em Jenny on armadas
that approach without consent.
Vincent Toro is the author or STEREO.ISLAND.MOSAIC. (Ashahta, 2016), which was awarded the Poetry Society of America’s 2017 Norma Farber First Book Award and the 2015 Sawtooth Poetry Prize. He is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and the recipient of a Poet’s House Emerging Poets Fellowship, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, the Caribbean Writer’s Cecile De Jongh Poetry Prize, and the Metlife Nuestras Voces Latino Playwrights Award. Vincent is a professor at Bronx Community College, is poet in the schools for Dreamyard and the Dodge Poetry Foundation, is the writing liaison for Cooper Union’s Saturday Program, and is a contributing editor at Kweli Literary Journal.