This is what it looks like
to be dressed in
what a family can’t afford:
a chiffon dress,
blue as a lily flower,
creamy white shoes,
tight enough to hurt.
My mother remembers
when she first went dancing.
Her parents went without for her
on that occasion too.
She figured we all
owe a debt to it anyhow.
Otherwise, there’d be none of us.
So why not owe more.
My father can remember
hanging out with his amigos,
all done out in hand-me-downs,
watching the cluster of la chicas.
on the opposite side of the hall.
He was brave enough
to ask my mother for a dance.
So she reckons the expense
will be worth it
if I meet someone half as fine
as the man she married.
Of course, mostly they argue these days.
But always in clothes they can afford.
Families, loners, occupy the tenements,
play in the park,
shop at the grocery store.
I’m sure there’s a story to why
all these people live where they do.
I’m learning it bit by bit.
Some have been here all their lives.
Others are just passing through.
Lots of folks sit out on their stoops.
If you want to know why they can’t get a job
then stop a while and listen.
they tell me.
This city’s a crazy grid
of streets just like this one.
there’s different houses, different people.
So it’s not alike.
Some of the streets are better kept up.
Some look like battlegrounds.
Some boast fancier parks and grocery stores.
the playground’s littered with glass and needles
and, if they have a store at all,
it’s most likely boarded up.
I’ve seen people
sitting on their stoops
on block after inner city block.
But I only get the news
from the ones on my street.
Are you pleased with yourselves…
I think the word is “voyeurs.”
Or is it “lechers.”
This is what comes of all these
English as a Second Language classes.
I have rid myself of el lascivo, el libertino
but then some would-be stud takes their place.
Okay, I get it.
I’m a piece of meat
with hair where it should be
and brown skin where it’s not.
And I have the shape
that corresponds with
someone’s momentary libido.
Now there’s a word that’s the same
in English and in Spanish.
So there’s no getting away from it.
But, to be honest,
a catcall, high up on a construction site.
has nothing to do with me.
From that distance,
my possibilities are endless.
Up close, I can only be so much.
Juanita Rey is a Dominican poet who has been in this country five years. She has worked many jobs while studying to improve her English. She has been writing for a number of years but has only recently begun to take it seriously. She enjoys reading. Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Toni Morrison are particular favorites. Her work has been accepted by 2 River View, Harbinger Asylum, Pennsylvania English, Petrichor Machine and Madcap Poets.