When spending time with a Puerto Rican poet

I feel like smoking, long drags on an ever dwindling cigarette. And the thing is I don’t smoke- except for that one time at Dana’s house lying on her roof with several classmates during junior high…but that’s a story for another time as I can see my Mom pursing her lips in that “Annelies!” way she has perfected over the years.

But tonight he’s got me thinking about what it would be like to be a Puerto Rican growing up in the Bronx and marrying into a New England Caucasian family. He’s got me clasping my silverware a few seats down from him at the Thanksgiving table as his mother-in-law refers to her husband as Daddy- Daddy who later fires his cannon in the backyard at the tombstones.
He’s got me standing very still in one circle of immunity, watching the night janitor mop 10 floors of a corporate building clean with ammonia as oranges sprout from the glossy slick surfaces- the night janitor is tending his garden and I get to watch! He’s got me wondering how identity and culture seethe and bubble like a pot full of spices and chopped vegetables melding, their juices and flavors fusing more as time passes.

And I guess I wonder why we are sometimes so mean to each other that we can’t see how connected we all are. Why must the Palestinian not lie down with the Israeli? Why must the hatred persist like breast milk passed down to future generations. I think it’s all better- we are not the rallying cries of the Civil Rights movement era and yet three incidents occur this year utilizing the icon of the noose. I wonder how many more nooses? And I guess I also wonder how I am this stranger floating in my own marrow summoning up the Dutch, Bolivian and Mexican like they are guests oversleeping their stay. Sometimes I wish they would all be at peace with one another and sit in amicable conversation at the table. No forks as weapons or pepper as exclamation points, no fierce forked tongue to pierce the tender flesh, no constant driving like a clipper upon the sea sailing singlemindedly toward a perfection that could be fabricated.

But instead I read about a jail librarian, upon an anonymous tip, hauling away a dumpster filled with discarded unsold books to the jail, for the prisoners whose school is named after St. Dismas, the thief pardoned at the crucifixion.

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