June 12, 1994

June 12, 1994*

Domingo is singing
Songs of love—
Of perfidy and
Green eyes, yes—
But also love
Of homeland:
Veracruz, Buenos Aires,
Puerto Rico:
“La perla de los mares”
Such passion!
You know what I mean—
That tenor’s cry
Just made for songs
De alma, sufrido, amor.

I recall a day last summer when
I crossed the park from west to east
Walking the middle of the broad avenue
Past Bethesda Fountain
And to either side
On the lawns and little hillocks,
Families, friends, cousins
Had gathered with
Coolers of beer
Rolls, I imagine,
Bread from the A&P
Sliced meats, cold chicken
Potato salad,
Boxes boomed with
Boleros, merengues
And flags red, white, and blue
La bandera borinqueña
Limp with heat,
Stiff with pride
Had been strung
On anything standing
High and straight
Along the road.

Once I make my way across the park
I’ll see them parading up Fifth Avenue:
Girls in lace dresses
Salsa dancers
Drummers, brass, timbales
Dignitaries in cars as big as boats
Priests, perhaps
If I can get through to Madison
Foggy with the smoke
Stench of grilling meat
I’ll see women selling
Jewelry: cheap plastic beads
Colors specifically selected
For one important
Purpose or another,
Men with shirts off,
Women baring almost as much
In tube tops the brightest
Yellow, orange, pink, and
Bracelets, lots of bracelets,
Children cranky
With standing too long
And too many sweets.
This is the truth;
These are the things I’ll see.

But first,
In the middle of the park
An altercation:
A flag, it seems, must come down
From a lamp post
The park police are adamant
And a picnicker—
Man in white jeans,
I remember that—
His family gathered round him,
Calls the cop a racist
They have reached, I see,
An impasse:
This has gone beyond a flag.
Suddenly the man,
The one in white,
Raises his fist
Thrusts out his chest
And cries,
¡Viva Puerto Rico!
Then as in—what? a movie
Or an opera—
Someone across the way and down—
Different picnic,
Strangers, I’m sure—
Takes up the cry:
¡Viva Puerto Rico!

And all along this corridor
This little stretch of
Lawns and hillocks
It echoes
Fierce and passionate
As a song
¡Viva! ¡Viva Puerto Rico!
Like the flags strung
From tree to lamp post,
The music that shakes and swoons
From box to box,
La isla leaps
From heart to heart,
The cry of love
From mouth to mouth
And strangers
United by love
Knew all along they were
Sisters, brothers, compatriotas
While I, standing somewhere
In the middle,
Taste viva
In a whisper on my tongue
Aching to know how
It feels to love
Your homeland
Like a mother.

Andrea Wolper © 1995

*Originally published in a poetry journal I can’t remember the name of and would have to dig through piles of storage to look up.

3 Responses to June 12, 1994

  1. Helen Thomas-Williams says:

    This poem made me feel that I was there, experiencing the smells, sights, and sounds of that day. Bravo!

  2. wayne says:

    marvelous writing, thanks for sharing. You truly take us there in body and soul.

  3. akgreenberg says:

    Great words for the 235th birthday of our United States! Thank you for posting a poem that can evoke a nation’s pride.

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