poetry quarterly

10th anniversary


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.


Rich Villar is the executive director of the Acentos Foundation, an organization committed to building audiences and communities around Latino/a literature, and he facilitates its weekly poetry workshop in the Bronx.  His work has appeared in Rattapallax, MiPoesias, Ocho, Achiote Seeds, and Amistad. He was the co-curator and host of the Floricanto in DC reading, in protest of Arizona Senate Bill 1070, in February 2011.


Published in Volume 13, Number 1, Winter 2012.