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Richard's Story This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   1950, my parents Lisa and Carlos came to the Bronx,
from Puerto Rico.
Hardcoconuts had rested on their branches, crowning their house
But now, curvedlights wept over their block

Neighbors no longer brought arroz congondules or town gossip
to their doorstep
Now, they spoke in funnytongues
the foreign spices they cooked with spilled through the cracks oftheir metal doors
stinging the insides of nostrils.

The lady who livedbelow
was Puerto Rican, she always knocked on the door,
her heavy,perspiring head slowly lowering to the floor
She begged for money while shewiped her sore nose with her
sleeve, "Por favor, un poco dedinero."

My mother, Lisa, had five kids,
I was in themiddle
Carlos, my father, joined the Marines
His 8" by 10" picture sat likea king in the middle of the dinner table,
so we wouldn't forget his face
orhis power

Lisa folded and creased clothes over the board
her wrinkledskin grasping the iron
On her knees,
she wiped the scuff marks off theUptown floors
an apartment full of noisy kids, she came home to
and atepeanut butter on bread,
while they had peanut butter and jelly,
fordinner

Carlos, my father, came home for a year
My name becameNiño and my sister Niña
the rain fell often thatyear,
leaving the streets dirtier
With every fight he threw Momharder
against the kitchen cabinets
he pulled her hair out with hisfists,
telling her she was fea.
She cooked whole meals now, platano, arrozcon pollo y habichuelas
and she worked nights

Leaving us alone withhim
I hid the books from the library across the street,
under my bed
andgot the action figures out
My sisters wore their Easter dresses
clean andcrisp for his fingers to touch

When we were loud
Carlos, my father,threw
rice on the floor, like frozen rain
Our naked bodies knelt on thelinoleum
picking up kernels with our sticky skin
They dug into the creasesof knees and
poked into the pores of our skin

Soon Carlos put hisuniform on, with the shining medals
hanging perfectly on his breast
heplaced his bags at the door.
The kernels came out as angry tears
as Ichased my father around the apartment
with a knife,
clenched in mypalm.
I caught him like a slippery fish,
he shrank into his uniform
andhis eyes became as dead as his medals

We never saw him again,
but thekernels are still at the surface
of our skin
And I will never let go of theknife.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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