by Reena Alter

It lay right outside her bedroom window,
Since my brain was able to see the colors of the swings,
The taste of metal after a particularly rough fall in the stairwell,
The feel of the cold elevator walls, the corner mirror scratched out,

She has been dying,
We were never to bother her,
Never to make more noise than her chancletas,
On the fake wood floors,
So we huddled,
Two black haired heads of anxious energy,
Full of questions we’ll never get answered,

Up close to the small TV set,
The one with the turn dial on the right hand side,
The wire antenna that magically teleported us
Into the land of Teletubbies,
Leaving behind the piss stained elevators,
The heavy doors,
The flickering lights that will get fixed eventually,
Only emerged from that small bedroom in the back of the apartment,
When the smell of sancocho was so strong our bellies cried out for a taste,

Abuela Rosa use to make the rice just right,
Con un poco de sal,
Never gave too much juice and not enough potatoes,
She saved the biggest pieces of carne for Papi,
For when he came to pick us up
After a day of climbing telephone poles,
Of fixing other people’s problems,

She would kiss him childlike,
Her negro nieto lindo,
Tracing the sign of the cross on his forehead,
Un bendicion,
None of us ever stopped being her prayers,

Back when all I wanted was to watch her take down her bun,
Hair surrendering to her back,
Lying so long that I wondered how we could share the same blood,
How my black has part of her light spread through it,
An accent,

She was a small woman,
A small voice,
A small apartment on Grand Concourse
Where the piraguero selled cherry icees,
The woman on the corner sold pastalitos out of her cochee,

I only go back to the Bronx for funerals and food now,
And I feel like I’ve spent half my life looking for parking,
I’ve been looking to the stars for solace but I only see death,

I comb my hair and pray for it to grow,
Gray and long down my back,
A tribute for a rose that spent 99 years
Spread out on those plastic covered couches,

Espero que el cielo te cante hoy
Y que llevaras todos nuestro amor
En maletas para llevar contigo.