N  a  p a  l  m     H  e  a  l  t  h     S  p  a  :     R  e  p  o  r  t     2  0  0  8






El Coto Laurel


Dinner with mom

And with tía Carmín

Consists of a heavy soup

We call Sancocho

It consists of stories

About the exquisiteness

Of grandmother’s cooking

How she stretched a sliver of onion

And little garlic cloves

During the Second World War

Enough to cook a pot

Of beans for two nights

How the taste of those beans

Could never be duplicated


Dinner with mom

And with tía Carmín

Consists of a warm sunset

White curtains flowing

In the kitchen

Annoying mosquitoes

Under the table

And highball glasses

Filled with passion juice






In My Perfect Puerto Rico



My gray mother would be

Combing her mother’s white hair

On their turquoise painted porch

Under mango trees

Among hummingbirds


My black grandfather

In the next rocking chair

Happily looking on


My four-foot-eight cousin Sonia

Would be out back

In a wooden shack

Washing clothes

Or running in the garden

Tending to her dogs

She wouldn’t walk with a limp

Wouldn’t be sick

She’d have working kidneys

She’d live past thirty


My father would be hunting

All over this side of the island

With his best friend Angel Rodriguez

For reusable items

Dumped on the lush country side

They would be recycling pioneers


I would have a choice

Of which cousin to visit

We would still be young

And beautiful








We would still be together

And not just old scattered pieces

Of what we once were






Homemade Hot Sauce

                       for mom


Mother goes out on the hunt

In search of prime specimens

Little red peppers

Some green

Her market of choice

A vegetable post by the side of the road

Year after year you can find

The old man there

Under a perennial baking sun

His makeshift market in the wind

Mother slowly stalks the produce

Scrutinizes the baby bananas

Pores over the vianda

Pauses to ask if I’d like her

To cook some for dinner

Then analyzes the aguacates

Turning them over

Squeezing them lightly as they rest

In the palm of her wrinkled hand

Finally she comes up on them

Chubby as plum tomatoes

Their skins shiny

Smooth as plastic

Their fiery nature screaming

From inside glad sandwich bags

Where they hang on a tree


Back home mother

Patiently washes each one

Grinds up spices with her

Wooden mortar and pestle

Pounds with such force

The hanging pictures

Over the dinner table

All dance to her cooking drum

And when her concert has ended

She packs them into

An old vinegar bottle

Adds a fresh splash of vinegar to the mix

Then promptly places

Her concoction out doors to ferment

Under a Puerto Rican sun






Where My Father Is Buried


Where my father is buried

The earth becomes white from the scorching sun

Becomes light as air

It sweeps across his small gravestone


My mother’s cherished visits to this place

Her ritual of getting someone to drive her there

Of going to the five and dime store

Of diving into bins filled with plastic flowers

To excavate the very brightest rose

Lily or tulip she can possibly unearth


And when she arrives

My 83-year-old mother kneels

With old cut off T-shirt in hand

Wipes away that light white earth

Claws at the hard dirt

Makes little holes there

To plant those eternal flowers

On either side of my father’s grave







Iraq 2003


Soon our children

Will go off to war

Be shipped out

Like cheap products on barges

They’ll believe every piece

Of garbage told to them


Soon the children will believe

They are supermen

They will leap tall buildings

In a single bound


Soon our children will plummet

To their deaths






I Told You


That the implosion

Of the United States

Would occur in our lifetime


That hatred would

Consume itself

Bite off its hands

Feed on its entrails

Feed on its own children


That this would explode into

A billion body parts like fireworks

On the 4th of July


I told you the sun would rise

One dead mornings

Around white picket-fenced corners

Waking Dick and Jane

Turning their faces toward the mirror

Crystallizing the cries of dead bodies

Floating down rivers

Of massacres and mass graves


That the U.S. in Bosnia

Would take Oklahoma by surprise

That the U.S.

In the Middle East

In Africa

Would pay New York City a visit


That U.S. policy makers

Would meet in chandeliered-rooms

For breakfast

For lunch

For dinner

To toss stacks of paper around

Like some ball game

White-collar trash men


I told you that assassins

Would come back into style

That the Dark Ages would thrive

In the 21st century


I told you that McCarthy

Would miraculously

Come back from the dead