THE ANGELS & EL MORRO
The angels walk along the shore
where sparks of Heaven
reach down to light
the rippling fragments that dance on top of each small wave,
washing back & forth on the
white beach the tiny shells & dark grains
that cling to strangers´ feet during
elementary travels, appreciating the sun,
grasping the hands of a child ready to play just
one more time in the shallow pools.
It is only a bright quiet.
In the heart songs of heroes, big is the operative word.
Soldiers travel leagues to fight legions
& return spoiled in riches
washed in blood.
The eye of vision lights up at promises
of glory, & glory means big,
& more blood.
It did then & it does now.
But tender are the steps of earthly angels
& smaller heroes traveling closer shores
to paint the faces of the young
vacationing for the first time,
soaking the tropical sun:
The grass is bright green & neatly trimmed
around El Morro.
Colorful kites fly high; strollers are watched, down the hill
barefoot children run from tracking fathers
gleefully enraged at their impudence.
Sweaty tourists enjoy elados near squat palms
long battered by the Gulf´s streaming.
When the fountain walkways shoot up,
girls wiggle, boys jump.
Here the heat is a welcome madness, tolerable for the
inspired love of sun gods long forgotten.
The Poet dreamed of bliss, & came up full of angels.
THE WELCOMING WIND
At dusk, his steps are rough,
with a dry grace of
the spring is gone,
& forward is the march.
In the grinning breeze he stops,
faces the pressure, feels it, leans in,
pressing into the airy opposition:
the force, that strength of Time
which faces him
along the winding red walkway bricks
of the harbor.
In time, some bench may call &,
sitting down, he will face the sea, watching
the terns & spins of the gulls
as they follow the ships
to feast on ready meals,
tossed by the time-tossed,
the welcoming wind.
With more degrees
than a geometry quiz needs,
known to Anglo friends as “Randy Pants”,
pondered his next step.
Years ago he borrowed
his mother´s savings
(from years of aching hands building little motors
in the warehouse districts of Miami)
and began a career in educación,
which now led him to the poisonous
Fountain of Debt
where Latino dreams drink freely,
No conquistador´s sword ever cut so sharp
as those wounds which now bled
his generation till they looked
lean and crisp like some old lechón
dropped into a dry sun.
The lucky ones worked as
adjuncts in community colleges
where they sprayed your name in
syllables both sides
misunderstood, but at least you held a job.
On weekends, though, you stood
shoulder to smelly shoulder with 18 year olds
sifting fries under the baking lights
or cleaned floors with
your father´s generation
and your mother´s rabia:
“There is never enough money. Again!”
Now, Randy Pants´ idea was to sing,
and the boos and shouts he received
he wore like a barber´s dish
happily on his head.
Collecting pigeon´s too was fun,
(after work #2 at the burger place),
so he smelled like ammonia-shit and grease
and regularly looked at the Santos on the window
wondering why 1800 dollars a month
was the bitch-price he paid
just to keep the Debt Barons from
claiming the old blue Oldsmobile his father left him
for blood payment on his future.
Randy Pants had no future that didn´t reek of
cebollas over-cooked with abichuelas each day
supplying tanks of homemade gas enough to run
half the businesses off Calle Ocho or,
where he now lived again, back in the Bronx.
With a little arroz on the side, though,
And he still saw stars.
At night, cheap Bics scratched paper
in old notebooks where he saw stars trickle on him
when he won the Nobel Prize for his poetry (¡Ojalá!),
or, facing a firing squad of more realistic assessors,
he thought he´d be lucky to get a chapbook out
in limited edition, 200 pressings which
he´d have to pay out of pocket to that old comunista
who fondly remembered his years in the Young Lords
and so prints
“only what you pay for, pendejo”.
But he wrote and wrote, and wrote.
He swore, too.
All those years of World Book reading
(cover to cover, volume to volume, he bragged) and
a thousand trips to used book stores where
his mother´s pity
got him all the paperbacks (slim and fat) he asked for
jumping about with colored fascination
and overdramatic pleadings.
Books were Randy Pants´ salvation.
Randy Pants had more books than friends (for sure)
more books than chances (cierto)
and more books than his parents had ever seen,
and so he just knew he was on his way.
He left the hood, left familia, saw his future,
applied to schools, got accepted,
got a grant, took a loan, (took another),
took girls home (who went for his poetry),
took more loans (saw less girls),
and by the time he´d gotten four schools down
he cried to Heaven
that the future was coming –
and after years and years
and more years than money,
he´d finished a Bachelors and then
got an MFA to boot! then switched to sociology,
to get a JOB, an MA here, one over there,
then threw himself
into a doctor´s course of misery until
it all crashed upon him, the money dried,
his resources tapped,
and Randy Pants´ debts became a deadly trap.
Now, the little place he slept in smelled of pee from
the baby upstairs who thought
the stairs in the hall a better place to
leak than in her diapers and had La Bruja
as the only landlady who´d take him
(¡Coño chico, con todo esos libros nadie te roba aqui!)
so he knew he was lucky:
Three or four times a month at the community college
the surly and expectant sons and daughters of new dreamers
sat in front of him while “Mister Pantones” spoke of
Pound and Williams,
of Gelman and Burgos,
of Neruda and Heaney,
and they thought his wide eyes meant he was strung out
rather than bleeding out
in tropical enthusiasm the now rankling dreams of
the Renaissance ´Rican
he´d always prayed
“My father´s fingers were so fat
he couldn´t pick up a dime” he taught,
impressing them with a bobería they couldn´t relate to,
“he´d worked so long with his hands
that he told us to get an education”
and there they sat getting
that very education in the one elective
they really didn´t need, but at least he was from the hood,
(plus they knew they´d see Mr. Pantones at
Bobby´s Bacon Burgers every weekend,
and they´d laugh ´cause he always smiled and told them
poets had to suffer with the people to be great.)
But no great sacrifice goes unmocked, he swore,
wiping the grease on his apron for the 12th time that night
for the 8 bucks an hour which at least kept
the demons from sending him packing to live
on the street where all the dreams in this neighborhood
competed with death to make it first.
“Three jobs down, I drown, but shit,
four and I´d ‘sleep with fishes’!”
Still, Señor “Randy Pants” Pantones,
the poetry teacher living a puta vida
laughed at Fate and swallowed
all the dreams of his family
to finally nail it and be the “da Vinci of da hood”,
but our Renaissance Rican still cleaned the floors with
another ammonia after this,
composing paeans to his Papi
who died hoping his gifted son
would make it somewhere,
with softer hands.
José M. Tirado is a Puertorican poet and political writer living in Hafnarfjorður, Iceland, known for its elves, “hidden people” and lava fields. His articles and poetry have been featured in CounterPunch, Cyrano´s Journal, The Galway Review, Dissident Voice, La Respuesta, Op-Ed News, among others. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org