How can I call myself a Boricua when I
barely know the Spanish for earth and sky,
have no roots in the soil of Moroves,
no sense of San Juan’s flavors,
the warm Atlantic blowing Arecibo beach,
Ponce dancing in the Caribbean’s laughter—
all memories stolen from postcards hastily
bought at the airport along with a
tin of Florecitas by my mother returning home.
Those little flowers exploded suns on my tongue
and created colors, formed postcard dreams
of forts, conquistadors, Taino villages burning
in flames rather than submitting to Spain’s sway.
I craved to be an archeologist reverently
dusting off the bones of my ancestors.
I wanted to be an artist, like my uncle Bob,
splashing faceless heads among yellow flares
devoid of black, red, no tint of sad back story.
I settled for being a poet, a painter of words,
a discoverer of the history of hopes.
There is a memory of the Rambler hitting a cow
on the dirt mountain road leading to Moroves.
The bovine sliding down the embankment,
nonchalantly getting up and going his way.
The Rambler’s front end forever stuck with the
impression of an angry bull welded in the grill.
Another of a drive to a carnival, sitting
in the cab of another station wagon,
stargazing the white half moons rising
from under the red halter of my cousin Anna.
A final one of my grandmother praying
the rosary while I stumbled to the outhouse,
spending the night on the swing under the porch
because I didn’t want to break her silence.
Cows, moons, prayers are my Boricua heritage.
I can’t translate the decimas of a jibaro song,
nor dance a merengue, a bomba, plena.
I have no desire to eat sugarcane from the stalk,
nor split the soursop for it sweetness.
I am lost in the winds every Boricua knows.
My memories are blown away in the hurricane.
I seek the solace of the first flight out
after the storm, sad knowing that
I was not born, like every Boricua,
from the roots up, to study the light of stars.