Jane Alberdeston Coralin


(let's hear it for Cristobal Colón)

The children give themselves to the ground
their chests whistling like the wind

We did nothing
to stop their singing
Fed their dreams
the white meat of the batata,
manipulate their mouths
watch them eat the pulp
the color of our nightmare's skin

the worn prepare the soil
for graves
our throats rattling like gourds
with the names of our fallen forebearers
the organs of their language
held within our molars
like flecks of gold

Kathy Keler
Late Bloomer II

1999, 24" x 17",
computer print with varnishes

more work by Kathy Keler





Hijo de la tierra
pescador puertoriqueño
con tu cara de taro
debajo del pie del sol
subes la falda de los mares
buscando la boca de tu nuevo Dios




it was a ritual
one Saturday a month
storm or shine, broke or not
Mami would drive us to Rosa's Beauty
near la 17 in Santurce
where a barrio's history is the mad work of knives and men
but there we were on our way to get our hair done,
to be called chinitas
straighten out kinks we couldn't correct in our everyday
couldn't make family better, bring fathers back home
but we could look real nice
like real Puerto Rican girls should
it was like walking into your girlfriend's house,
Rosa's, with it lime green tile floor,
slippery with black hair clippings
under a forest of high-heeled, flip-flopped women
spitting fire in Dominican Spanish,
frying pan hot, ají in each word
room aflame with their lipstick
all talking the same bochinche
about who was doing who
and who got deported off the island
and what puta cut what cabrón
five hours amid smoke and ash
lotions and dyes tinting the air
scissors and mouths moving
to any Mambo radio tune
and by then my head was burning alive
with the power of the relaxer
unable to wash it out
for fear of staying black
and we all knew that's what we didn't want
we wanted to shake our hair
(since we couldn't shake our skin)
loosen wool into Chinese silk
smooth flat and fit for feathering
on Antillen days under salt and sun
ruining a girl's reputation for looking right and good
now I'm thirty and a box of Dark and Lovely is a stinging
memory of a young girl's addiction
dishonoring the women born of the coastline
mother, grandmother, before even them
women swimming seas, bearing storms, fighting misery
with hair stronger than the ropes that held them



Santurce, Puerto Rico

..........The old neighborhood
Uncle Abraham called it
driving past, his face twisted like a hitman's first day

.........Why'd you take this route, I never go this way
Teté grumbles from the backseat
tight-knuckled, readied for the riot
of addicts and thieves snatching away
the last three sweaty dollars she owned

.........It wasn't always like this
Abuela whispers like someone
who's lived in Tidewater too long

.........Blame it on those Dominicans
Uncle spouts, threee impressionables
turning our heads to stare out a car window's hush
at the barrio's new migrants
still salt-wet with their crossing
their faces shiny as freshwater pearls

.........We'll be home soon, Mami murmurs
in her voice, not the statement but the idea
while I, chewing the inconsolable meat of the coconut,
return to the work of being twelve:
on summer vacation, clam cool, bored with the view,
their Barrio Obrero stewing in the sun
.........like bottles of fermenting maví



Summer 1999

We wait for
.........when it pours...

Sleep folds my partner
his flesh a beach of sweat and muse
his eyes fanning delirium, a broken A/C
we transmit our heat like flintstone

the sky drys out like a bad perm
I think of body bags
I have faith in a shower's alchemy

in the newsroom, the Devil's impatient progress continues
Farmers slip tongues through cracks in destiny
asphalt undulates like a Mexican grave
redwoods meet their maker
.........Chicago liens another retiree

I dream of somewhere in Siberia
reach for the coolest part of you
hot little hand on a lover's belly
busy as a looter's fingers
swift as televised rebellion


A DC resident since 1995, puertoriquena Jane Alberdeston Coralin is a fellow of Cave Canem, a writer's workshop for poets of African descent, and a recipient of a District of Columbia Arts and Humanities Grant. She has most recently been published by the Paterson Literary Review (PCCC-NJ), Bilingual Review (Arizona State University), and Step into a World: A Global Anthology of the New Black Literature (John Wiley & Sons). Her poetry collections, Waters of My Thirst and The Afrotaina Dreams, are still in circulation. In the upcoming year, she will begin her graduate studies in upstate NY.

Published in Volume 2, Number 3, Summer 2001.


To read more by this author:
Cloaked Silences in Reetika Vazirani's Poetry by Jane Alberdeston Coralin (The Profiles Issue)

Jane Alberdeston Coralin: It's Your Mug Anniversary Issue