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Always Here

By Rich Villar

lacking a proper entrance
into a poem
about Arizona Senate Bill 1070
prompts me instead
to tell you

about the flamboyanes blooming
in Doña Yeya's mouth
every time she speaks
about her children,
or the pasteles that do not
wrap themselves
until blood is offered to the masa,
or the boys she sent to Germany,
who came back headless
and quoting Bible verses
or the girls
with thirteen years of bruises
at the hands of those same boys
who were told asi es la vida
without the slightest sense of irony
who shouldered Nuyorican babies
dutifully to Bayamón
dreaming about a nation
under which they cannot
legally claim citizenship
or parrandas of gold stomping
flat the Jersey snow
forgetting that coquito never meant
cold weather
or the act of forgetting
beneath every aguinaldo,

because civil cafesito
and politics cannot coexist
and we do not question
our birth certificates
unless we are agents of Homeland Security
because we were born American citizens
and as such are eligible to die
at a higher rate
in exchange for houses in Orlando
that we do not own.

There are Puerto Ricans
in Arizona and New York and Nebraska and,
I promise you,
good gente, it makes no difference
if your grandmother conjures
Michoacan or Mayaguez
in her flowered breath, it makes
no difference
if you bless the four winds
or pray to San Juan Bautista,

to those who only see papers
and brown flesh, who cannot
locate your cities on the maps
of conquerors or conquered,

you are a threat,

and if this is the case,
gente, I say,
be a threat. Unquieted,
bloom where you are not permitted
to bloom. Disjointed,
walk anywhere you please, stumble
if you must, but be present.
And when they ask you
where you keep your company,
tell them here, here,
always here.

Added: Wednesday, July 2, 2014  /  Used with permission.
Rich Villar

Rich Villar is a writer, editor, and educator originally from Paterson, New Jersey. His work has appeared in a number of journals including Black Renaissance Noire, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Union Station,  and Radius; as well as on NPR's "Latino USA." He has been quoted on Latino/a literature and culture by HBO, The New York Times, and the Daily News; and he has led writing workshops in high schools, universities, and nonprofit centers throughout the Northeast. Since 2003, he has served as a director and curator for Acentos, a grassroots project fostering the Latino/a voice in American letters. His first collection of poems, Comprehending Forever, was published by Willow Books in 2014.

Other poems by this author