Category Archives: Poetry

The Song of Mothers

Dedicated to Mami, my mother’s mother, and her mother’s mother:


I can hear her humming in a distant room.

She sings songs of her childhood

that were from her mother’s time

and the time of her mother’s mother.

No complaints.

No slowing down.

Just the rummaging of what she’s getting done

and the sounds of her voice.

A few sighs here and there may be heard,

but never a malicious word.

She goes about her business,

finishing every chore with perfection,

while lightening the load of those around her.


Her humming is soothing like a lullaby,

but with a melody that keeps her going.

It takes me home to my island.

It takes me home to my childhood.

It is the humming I love most.

The humming of my mother,

my mother’s mother,

and her mother’s mother.



Stay Woke


The night is black
Our skin is black
Yet the world flashes
With lights
That are red and blue
As the world wakes up
To an orchestra of sirens
After the introductory
Boom boom boom.
And your son or your daughter
Your brother or your sister
Your nephew or niece
Comes to you and says,
“I heard the fireworks.
They woke me up.
I see the reds
And the blues in the sky,
But I don’t see the big boom.
Where’s the spark?
Where’s the explosion?”
And you look that child
Deep in their eyes
And you realize
“Baby, that’s exactly
What I’m trying to find.
That’s the thing I ask myself.”
And you aren’t feeding him lies.

You truly think to yourself
When will people see the spark?
When will they hear an explosion?
When will my brothers and my sisters
Wake up and see the red and blue hues
For what they really are?
Those alarms don’t mean
Music to my ears.
They make opportunity
For my fears.
The fact that the badge to me
Is more of a warning
Of the devil in blue
Than an angel on earth
Means we need to wake up.
We have to rise from our slumber
And make our own explosion,
Our own thunder.

Now why is it that our children,
Who can’t even vote,
Are dying in the name of America?
Why are they dying in America?
And why is it
That when they die
Our protests are seen
As hyperboles and jokes?
Why must they die
For our people to wake up?
For their people to wake up?
Because if I wear
A black hoodie and blue jeans
That means
I’m the director
Of the city’s crime scenes?
Because “protect and serve”
Can be exchanged
For “project and slay”?
Why is there a new case each day?
At least that’s how it seems
With the most recent of things.
There’s always a new one.

Hashtag rest in peace my angel.
Hashtag you got your wings.
Hashtag never forget.
Rest in peace
Because we haven’t found it here.
Rest in peace
Because we’re still restless.
Rest in peace
Because dying is the only way to get it.
That’s the price of peace?

The irony of the land of the free
And the home of the brave.
Where our people
Fear the youth
And dark skin.
Where the new slaves
Are still shackled in chains.
Where our leaders
Pray we stay sleeping.
Land of the free
And home of the brave.
One nation under God.
One nation together
As long as we stay divided
From bottom to top.
One nation united
As long as you stick to a curfew,
Walk on sidewalks,
Stay away from skittles,
And find a way to hide
The melanin you inherited
From your dad and/or mom.

Now call me selfish,
But with a father who looks Arab
And a brother who knows he’s black.
My father is named Martin.
My brother is named Martin.
I’m just grateful
I’m not hashtagging
Rest in peace to my Martins.
Because I know all too well
No one is safe
Unless I have the right friends,
Know the right places,
And disown the ancestors
Who make up my faces,
I’m not safe.
My family is not safe,
My friends are not safe,
My fellow Americans are not safe.
All college educated,
All clean records,
All good people,
But no one is safe.

Officer, what was my crime?
Was it the fact that I was out at 1am
With my brother
On my way to Taco Bell
Because I was hungry?
Or was it the fact that my skin
Blends more into the night than yours?
And I can’t deny it
My roots aren’t from the land of the free
And the home of the brave.
You’re right about that, Officer.
I’m no Native American
Because I can’t trace my ancestry
To the Iroquois or the Cherokee.
I just know I was born on U.S. soil
That was stolen from the Spanish
In a war I had no part in.
And, on this night,
That I choose to get a quesadilla
And nachos with guacamole on the side
I see five patrol cars pass by
And I tell my brother
“Junior be careful I’m scared.
Something doesn’t feel right.”
And I didn’t feel safe
‘Till we were both
In our home.
I didn’t hear any boom boom booms.
There were no fireworks tonight.
No rest in peace tweets,
But a friendly reminder
To stay woke.




I dance to drum beats

with my bare feet.

I was born in the heat

and I am made of dark meat.

My hair is thick,

my hips make them sick,

and they wish

they could be just as slick.

We all eat the same fruit.

We are all seen as strange fruit.

Our tongues

may not understand each other,

but I am still a sister

and he is still my brother.

Bomba, plena, and santería

all derive from your same

rhythms and religion.

We were all stripped

of the choice

to make a decision.

We all lost our voice.


we make up the hues

of all the rainbows.

That’s just how it goes.

It takes two of us

to equal one and then some,

which is why we must

remain united as one.

An ocean stands between

and you may consider me

lost at sea,

but there simply

is no denying

you are the root of my being.


“La Borinqueña”


With “Grito de Lares” as her inspiration, Puerto Rican poet Lola Rodríguez de Tío wrote “La Borinqueña.”  The poem’s words were eventually changed to become less revolutionary and more patriotic to appease a larger group of people.  The modernized version of Lola’s poem is now Puerto Rico’s anthem, still titled “La Borinqueña.”

Here are the original words that Lola Rodríguez de Tío wrote in 1868.

¡Despierta, borinqueño
que han dado la señal!
¡Despierta de ese sueño
que es hora de luchar!
A ese llamar patriótico
¿no arde tu corazón?
¡Ven! Nos será simpático
el ruido del cañón.
Mira, ya el cubano
libre será;
le dará el machete
su libertad…
le dará el machete
su libertad.
Ya el tambor guerrero
dice en su son,
que es la manigua el sitio,
el sitio de la reunión,
de la reunión…
de la reunión.
El Grito de Lares
se ha de repetir,
y entonces sabremos
vencer o morir.
Bellísima Borinquén,
a Cuba hay que seguir;
tú tienes bravos hijos
que quieren combatir.
ya por más tiempo impávido
no podemos estar,
ya no queremos, tímidos
dejarnos subyugar.
Nosotros queremos
ser libre ya,
y nuestro machete
afilado está.
y nuestro machete
afilado está.
¿Por qué, entonces, nosotros
hemos de estar,
tan dormidos y sordos
y sordos a esa señal?
a esa señal, a esa señal?
No hay que temer, riqueños
al ruido del cañón,
que salvar a la patria
es deber del corazón!
ya no queremos déspotas,
caiga el tirano ya,
las mujeres indómitas
también sabrán luchar.
Nosotros queremos
la libertad,
y nuestros machetes
nos la darán…
y nuestro machete
nos la dará…
Vámonos, borinqueños,
vámonos ya,
que nos espera ansiosa,
ansiosa la libertad.
¡La libertad, la libertad!

“Río Grande de Loíza”


In 1870, the Moret Law was approved, which granted freedom to slaves born after September 17, 1868 or were older than 60 years old.  Three years later, slavery was abolished in Puerto Rico; however, oppression remained a large issue in Puerto Rico and is still prevalent in some areas of the island.  Julia de Burgos is recognized as one of the greatest poets to come out of Puerto Rico and she often wrote about the civil rights issues on the island.  “Río Grande de Loíza” is considered one of her most famous poems and is one of the many pieces that reference this issue.  Enjoy!

Río Grande de Loíza

By Julia de Burgos

¡Rio Grande de Loíza!… Alárgate en mi espíritu
y deja que mi alma se- pierda en- tus riachuelos
para buscar la fuente que te robó de niño
y en un ímpetu loco te devolvió al sendero.

Enróscate en mis labios y deja que te beba,
para sentirte mío por un breve momento,
y esconderte del mundo y en ti mismo esconderte,
y oír voces de asombro en la boca del viento.

Apéate un instante del lomo de la tierra,
y busca de mis ansias el íntimo secreto;
confúndete en el vuelo de mi ave fantasía,
y déjame una rosa de agua en mis ensueños.

¡Río Grande de Loíza!… Mi manantial, mi río,
desde que alzome al mundo el pétalo materno;
contigo se bajaron desde las rudas cuestas,
a buscar nuevos surcos, mis pálidos anhelos;
y mi niñez fue toda un poema en el río,
y un río en el poema de mis primeros sueños.

Llegó la adolescencia. Me sorprendió la vida
prendida en lo más ancho de tu viajar eterno;
y fui tuya mil veces, y en un bello romance
me despertaste el alma y me besaste el cuerpo.

¿A dónde te llevaste las aguas que bañaron
mis formas, en espiga de sol recién abierto?

¡Quién sabe en qué remoto país mediterráneo
algún fauno en la playa me estará poseyendo!

¡Quién sabe en qué aguacero de qué tierra lejana
me estaré derramando para abrir surcos nuevos;
o si acaso, cansada de morder corazones,
me estaré congelando en cristales de hielo!

¡Río Grande de Loíza!… Azul. Moreno. Rojo.
Espejo azul, caído pedazo azul de cielo;
desnuda carne blanca que se te vuelve negra
cada vez que la noche se te mete en el lecho;
roja franja de sangre, cuando bajo la lluvia
a torrentes su barro te vomitan los cerros.

Río hombre, pero hombre con pureza de río,
porque das tu azul alma cuando das tu azul beso.

Muy señor río mío. Río hombre. Unico hombre
que ha besado mi alma al besar en mi cuerpo.

¡Río Grande de Loíza!… Río grande. Llanto grande.
El más grande de todos nuestros llantos isleños,
si no fuera más grande el que de mí se sale
por los ojos del alma para mi esclavo pueblo.