you get to the island.
this time the verdant hues blend,
end gaunt & gray.
the whole sky
a paradox for campesina-hood hands
the sinking salt as silt
& 22 tires sweltering gravel
gallanting a processional of homesickness
huddled in clapping hollers & you,
the unruly roads
of Santo Domingo are silent,
the nebbish air heavy pulsed.
before you bury your father,
he touches your lower spine.
tugs on your spirit,
an unhemmed string.
recuerda m’ja. me fuí
but I left you all--our name.
fingers paralyze into limoncillo tree limbs.
heart-roots throb digging into the absence.
the women who carry your name besiege your frail body.
rápido, rápido se fue la negra.
call you from your light
place with wails, wet wash towels &
padre nuestro, que estas en el cielo,
santificado sea tu nombre…
they pull each bough
string you out.
all you see is gone.
faint like the rest of your days.
when you return,
your croaked voice
demands a jug of iced water.
all you are certain is
Papi expects his beaded tin cup
by the poplar casket.
walk with the sun
at its peak
to the Navas’ river-bridge
Papi dove into when mountain creeks hurdled. scooped out shrimp
& crabs with bare brown
all the vecinos
feasted when the skies cried.
the river, dry now.
mocks your reflection
with skirts of dusty moss.
tinkles onward as a whisper.
Papi must have taken
all that’s divine with him.
when giving up any ghost,
don’t forget to pay homage
to their water dwellings.
what u wont do is paint ova our dead.
on da street corna
where bark meets gravel
near strands -uh pixie sticks
wit names -uh haygrass
wit cults -uh lead runnin’
from brick walls
scattered on they back.
da black -uh black.
ever questioned why luz pura
agua de sol
is afraid of permanence (here?)
da way street warriors die on
these empty-bottled barren cornas
nite lites dictatin’ they triggas.
been runnin’ for centuries.
yet stay here.
inked in da alleyways -uh his ribs
guerreros are born steel
from sweet rivers to honey & bones.
scorn they prayers.
yet we pray for ‘em
claim we care for ‘em.
in da name -uh warriors
who die on forgotten cornas
i sit on a pixelated mosaic
atomic bomb mural,
on a gentrified northeast philly
organic coffee shop backentry stoop, ticking. thirsty for an end.
for da warriors who live
on chipping brick walls,
u set a mantle where u stood
we made altars for ya spirits,
set libations on ya death days
black rivers white waxed on concrete.
to da warriors who die on patrolled cornas,
who feet no longer flinch to the cadence -uh da conga,
it da sounds -uh da sirens got ‘em movin’ now.
to da warriors who dream worlds
on these street cornas
we been dying. wit you all along.
they been dying wit you. for maddd
long. i been dying
wit you all.for too long.
the mirage of being
on the day you begin to die,
your throat will feel it first.
a cotton flower unwinds, upwards.
withers backbone, quickens past your gullet
stations itself on an iris. how quickly cotton
flower becomes calla lily.
calla lily, neither a calla nor a lily.
both names foreign to its carcass. classified Zantedeschia genus,
named after an Italian botanist whose death was not recorded.
record this. we fade. our lives. fleeing monarchs by the stonehenge.
when no one is there, how much of us remains?
1.8 people sink in exhale now. while we stay.
one whole and fourth fifths of a person. now.
the way Washington is washed into us.
now. how many of us will just fade?
murdered in our own apartments.
shot down. Fred Hampton. 50 years later. Breonna Taylor.
our existence is erasable. transversable.
defaced by linguistic aesthetic standards.
named after our masters.
we were better off before you ‘found’ us.
hung to dry, our worn names, slowly fade, in.
then out of style.
reincarnates. is re-extinct. is re-extinct.
we did not know we could die twice.
they should have warned
some will not remain.
primero se llevan tu alma,
y después la memoria de tu respiración.
we’ve been living in worlds
dictated by thud thuds,
yet we greed as if dough,
the bloody green could buy us palpitations.
on the day you begin to die, your muscle
the size of your fist will feel it second.
your last inhale will stream down your lung pipes,
enter your fatigued emblem one last, lose itself in decaying temples.
you often forget to breathe. the crevasses on your dilapidated walls hold stories,
graffitied your existence unto bulwarks.
notice our bodies seldom come in singles,
explains why we have alter egos,
confuse fucking with loving,
tattoo hearts instead of uteri.
must be the reason birthing
feels painfully whole. some
on your wedding day,
you toss the calla lily ornaments
wish for cotton flowers
to properly wipe your name off your skin.
on the day you begin to die, your name will feel it last
the ribs for our lungs rupture as your organ thrusts.
your name inhaled. pumped. swooped. beat. butchered. tokenized. rise.
no one seems to get it right. if your tongue can’t handle death,
train it, I've been training mine.
on the day you begin to die you will not see a calla lily
a cotton flower
will breed in your still organ
remember some of our breaths are distorted. not all of us
are permanent. not all of us is permanent.
not all of us is.
to be brown & woman
is to balance
baskets on your head
for the town.
in the beginning
she was carried by a stoic
black stallion born
out of concrete,
a rebirth for the world.
all did not go west
on graveyard boats.
some carved maroon
latitudes on the backs
of thighs, across navels & napes.
most dove to dark of the sea,
knowing they’d return.
in the beginning
she was taken
south to where avocados rest
después de los ríos
de bambú y las montañas de cajuil
to where the sun shimmers
as water glass
they refused to give her
& a mule,
una cosecha de caña,
un Brugal Extra Viejo,
& a deceitful dream.
in the beginning
there were no nations.
a tongue born for spanglish
her hair waltz’d dim
eroded from dance of palm
fronds, tocando salve,
el monguito, la guirra y los panteros.
her ancestors unraveling her thread
cultivated as a corral of irised hibiscus.
in the beginning
she was the Dajabón river
& the birth of her tributaries.
yearning for the truth
but settling for the end.
we are all born dead.
from the beginning.
she was the sky,
& the duende in between.
tributaries tumble down the
valley of two mirrored mountains.
creeks cuddling bitter
conundrums in crevasses.
right here, she says
underneath my left
but your right.
which one is it again?
she repeats in a humble whisper,
my left one.
Left, a blazoned Greco-Roman statuette
you mean by your heart
you feel the lump there?
cerca de tu corazón?
& when the word hovers, corazón?
the lump gravitates past your groin,
into your mason jar.
you never thought words could make a poet queasy
but that’s what it means to be a woman, she says.
accepting the breast cancer
like mold on wheat bread.
we got this. tia Olga says.
naively you push, what if we don’t?
the strands of power strips
beginning at her scalp
fade as the doctor visits become a habit
she’d tell jokes like
everybody’s bald-headed now baby,
look at Rihanna, this is style.
but when you bump into her left breast
& feel its emptiness on your shoulder,
the cotton balls plunging back at you.
her hands shakened in grief.
you can’t help but question
why this is what it means to be a woman.
a warrior left unnamed.
a chiseled sediment.
the next time you go out into the streets
& the boys on the corner holla,
oye Mami tu si ta buena coño,
you shake the world with your rancor
oye poco hombre, donde están tus cojones,
se te olvidaron cuando saliste de la matriz.
the last time we checked being a woman
means men get way more than they bargained for.
$19 can still buy Kim, Sahad, BabyGirl, Theresa, Maria
let’s stop naming them now
because we can go on for days
& their names are subject to change.
girls sold on black markets like t-shirts on sale.
two for forty, get them fast. no refunds.
haydil henriquez: "Born ya-i-dil—daughter of diligent Dominican parents with century-old dreams. I am an arts program educator, cultural worker and Bronx-bred poet. I earned a BA degree in Psychology & Education from Swarthmore College in 2014, and worked with communities across the Diaspora facilitating oral storytelling workshops for youth. I completed the Emerging Poets Fellowship at Poet House in 2018. I hope to honor the lost stories of neighbors, people of color, those who are too often displaced and discarded—and not write these stories as loss, buried in pity or remorse, rather relinquishing to their divine dignity, euphoria y poder."