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Raíces

Poetry & Prose | February 21, 2017

Content warning: sexual assualt

 

Heat and humidity,

“Oppressive.”

 

 

Welcomed as they soothe my weary bones,

Wake in my blood the song of my ancestors,

On my father’s side,

Africans dragged through the Caribbean

On their way to build this country from scratch.

On my mother’s side,

Spaniards raping the women of the island of Puerto Rico,

Mestizos, “mixed,” as though passively

And years ago, merengue y bomba combinaron

Y el latido de mi corazon nació.

But the heat and humidity,

“Oppressive.”

 

 

I have been to the motherland,

No passport necessary,

Property of the U.S. but different laws

And a much higher poverty rate.

Castillas of the men who took everything

Still standing, still beautiful.

Flamboyan trees with deep red flowers

like the one my grandmother’s ashes were spread under.

Salt in the air, rain in the forest,

Turquoise oceans with white sand beaches,

the shriek of coquis,

Pain and suffering palpable

And a fire that will not be put out.
I have never been to the fatherland,

Never walked the streets of Santo Domingo,

where my father was born,

Only watched him struggle to become a citizen,

Studying U.S. history with me when I was ten and he was forty,

A man who had lived in the United States for over thirty years,

Who taught himself English, sin acento,

Who went away to trade school on his own,

No place to stay, and only 500 dollars in his pocket for the year,

Who came back to care for his sick mother.

Who lost his father still in the DR,

His father whom I never got to meet.

 

 

But the heat and humidity,

“Oppressive.”

 

 

I was ten before I understood that my family, my history, was not white.

I was thirteen before I understood that my father was black.

It was not until high school that I understood my bloodline was just that—

Bloody.

It was not until even later that I realized the ache in my belly

Was for a language, for a culture, for places forsaken

Simply out of necessity.

Simply out of survival.

 

 

 

But the heat and humidity,

“Oppressive.”

 

 

Despite the music in me it conducts.