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Ninos de Las Islas

he Children of
The Islands,
They gather here today,
In remembrance of them days.
They are the children of
Arroz con Pollo,
Of pastel-colored houses five minutes from water,
Of devoted mothers,
And of “tengo una tía en Nueva Yor.”*
They are the ones
Who boarded planes
With trembling hands
And lips
As they watched
Their fruitful homes
Drift away into
Small specks amid
Beds of sea.
They are the ones
Who arrived to the unexpected shivers
Of tropical blood meeting New York winter
And streets that were not paved with gold,
But littered with syringes and barely-breathing immigrant dreams.
They are the ones
Who graduated high school,
And made it out of El Bronx to
Manhattan colleges.
Together now,
They reminisce on bare bulbs
In dorms,
On the parties that brought
Home back,
and
On the “Sí Se Puede’s!” of rallies in ’72.
Together now, they hang their heads
In honor of the friend who lost himself
To dope and white powder snorted with white classmates.
Together now, they laugh and dance
And drink like old times:
Like them days, hombre.
But at some point during the night,
A child will tug on their sleeves,
And ask “can we please go home now? I’m tired.”
Suddenly they,
The Children of the Islands,
Will look around the room and see
That now,
They are middle-aged and middle-class.
They will listen again to the sleepy whines
Of their children,
And hear perfectly spoken English.
Where are the clumsy tongues that
Tripped over words like “churches?”
Why does their oldest son
Want to take a gap year and “leave the city, man?”
The Children of the Islands,
They bend down, say, “we’ll leave in a minute,”
(Which of course means twenty)
And in their final hugs and kisses and despedidas*
Say goodbye to a generation passed.


*I have an aunt in New York.

*Farewells



Join the Discussion


This article has 7 comments. Post your own!

Imani said...
Jun. 8, 2011 at 9:58 am:
Maya, amazing piece. I identified a lot. How to consolidate a generation onto one page--two generations if you count the beginnings of our own.
 
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notateen said...
May 22, 2011 at 2:30 pm:
nice, looking at by looking back, nostalgic maybe? melancholic maybe?
 
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BB from Brooklyn said...
May 18, 2011 at 10:29 pm:
Bittersweet- truly captures our generation,  the loss of one identity the emergence of another, the yearning for yesterday,  the sadness for those of us who got lost on the journey and strength of a generation that forged a path for such talent as the poet above. 
 
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Adri said...
May 18, 2011 at 2:24 pm:
Wow... brings back so many memories of many parties whiole growing up and now seeing how this new generation  reconnects with our past.  Reading this piece makes me feel like I'm there; can trully relate.  
 
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Umoh said...
May 17, 2011 at 9:15 am:
I love this poem. it is very vivid. the imagery used brings home exactly what the author is trying to say and the story they want to tell. it is a poem that touches me dearly. as a child of an immigrant and as an immigrant as well, this is tale i can relate to very well. and this is why i like and enjoy the peom dearly. the use and mix of both spanish words and sayings with english, forces you to acknowelegde their background and the pride they takes in what their parents have achieved.
 
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Elena said...
May 17, 2011 at 7:50 am:
 Evocative and specific images give this poem so much power!
 
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Sisepuede said...
May 17, 2011 at 5:45 am:
Vivid images of latino immigrants in NYC.  The spirit of being an immigrant from the first to the second generation captured with love.
 
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