Shopping bags, pulverized by branches, contort into a new— from “We Used to Call it Puerto Rico Rain”
nation of black flags. Our block was our island.
Today’s read: The Crazy Bunch by Willie Perdomo – Penguin Books – 2019
It has been a pleasure to read varied poetry collections that have taken me to some unexpected places. Today, I decided that I wanted to return back to New York. And not just NYC but the barrio of my teenage years. So I took a ride on the #4 train from Mt Eden Ave down to 125th St via The Crazy Bunch.
Even fifteen years in Oakland and I still feel like I am taking that subway ride every morning. I have so much Bronx in my speech and approach that it comes through both in English and Spanish. Mexicans routinely mistake me for Puerto Rican. Anglos often imagine that I am Italian-American and by that they really mean that I must be a New Yorker but they can’t quite figure out what to do about my light skin tone.
In this collection, I don’t need to worry about that. I can walk through as a visitor from Uptown. I can get off by Lexington Ave and be sure to walk down with the supermarket to left because if I start heading in the direction of the Mickey D’s then I may not find my way. You definitely don’t head down the direction of the Metro North because it”s the 80s and every other empty door is a crack house.
You follow Lexington and watch the street numbers go down and the street narrow until you find my favorite tostones across the street from the museum that looks like a school but there is a real school down two more blocks but not the best habichuelas but not-so-good is still better than anywhere else.
This is how you navigate this island in the middle of an island. You go by memory and swear to the legitness of your experience without the need for rubrics. Though I do know that any time I visited El Barrio I was doing exactly that just walking through and hearing project whistling in the background knowing it wasn’t my business.