Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The Republics

The Republics

nathalie handal
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Republics
    Book Description:

    "The Republics is a massively brilliant new work, a leap in literature we have not seen. It's gripping, harrowing, and at times horrific while its form paradoxically is fresh, luscious, and original. Bypassing pity and transforming pain into language Handal stars. She has recorded like Alice Walker, Paul Celan, John Hershey, and Carolyn Forché some of the worst civilization has offered humankind and somehow made it art."-Sapphire

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-8041-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. GALAXIES: république d’haiti

    • The Act of Counting
      (pp. 3-3)

      Death is careless at times. It confuses love with a wet afternoon in an empty room. The unpainted walls a reminder of how sex can resemble poverty. A hollow cry. An open mouth falling inside as you sleep. I prepare my heart and language with better words, like worlds in small selves I’ve built. Every month, one dollar buys me one brick. But how many bricks does it take to build a house? A stray dog barks late at night. I can’t see him but know he’s there. He reminds me that here, dreams have dangerous turns. I turn around...

    • The Sound
      (pp. 4-4)

      Forty seconds. It was forty seconds exactly. We heard the sound. Forty seconds earlier a child was reading Dumas. Amachanncounted the mangoes she sold forty seconds before. A fisherman prepared his bark forty seconds before. The morning breeze delivered what’s alive in us forty seconds before. The church bells bent the cough of a peasant forty seconds before. A woman told her husbandravin lan plen, the ravine is full, forty seconds before. In exactly forty seconds a sudden silence. The child buried alive in forty seconds. Themachannburied alive in forty seconds. The wind out of...

    • As We Wait
      (pp. 5-5)

      It’s not death, it’s the humidity that blinds us from who we have become, an old man tells me. And I think, where is the rain? What begins to beg begins as people wait. If we stay unfound—why wonder if forever exists, if the heart is not ready for the soul, if music just shows the way we starve, if saints disagree where to place us, if soldiers replace regret with leisure, if forgiveness is just a shadow split into two, if being alone is a way of reminding us we will never see the full moon? The streets...

    • Music under Sealed Windows
      (pp. 6-6)

      Something rots under his flesh. You can’t save him. A boy limps until he reaches the flickering lamppost. You can’t save him. A burnt girl stands by the lake that stretches north to south. You can’t save her. A woman’s husband grows younger in her wound. You can’t save her. The window shrieks. The fingers numb against cold bodies. The eyes see tombs instead of glow. The windows crack. Bodies see reflections they want to keep as they hold on to their birthright—earth in palm. Suddenly, a cascade of marigolds falling. A window of music,mizikas they say,...

    • The Violins
      (pp. 7-7)

      In the final seconds, who will let you in?he asks.Who will translate what happened in the room?His shadow answers: The earth can bury you, and so can poverty, but pleasure can kill a man too. It’s easier not to know, not to witness the flaw on the face, the fear that turns to strings....

    • Listening to Crickets
      (pp. 8-8)

      My coconut tree, palm tree. The mud under my feet. The mattress we share despite themizè. / No powerlines, no phone lines. But there is rum by a tulip. / Your rhythm is deaf. Fill my body with dirty water, with unfinished jokes. / For god’s sake, haven’t you mastered poverty yet? The humor of small towns, the syntax of enemies. / No guitar no land no junk no summer no heat no prayer no murder no funny stuff no car no math no book no spit no blood no skin no smoke no tap water and now this....

    • She
      (pp. 9-9)

      She, who I didn’t know, called me from under the Caribbean Market and asked,how do I live? In the light you watch fall behind you, in the tree that breaks grief in half, I imagine responding but never do. I wonder if she’s afraid shadows rest where they shouldn’t. Her voice appears in front of me like a scarf tangled in sepia, that’s how I remember my cousin’s wife now, behind dense walls, behind the sounds of the city. She is the prayer that turns ash into mahogany. I wake up to her scream. It’s been seven days. Her...

    • The City Is Mine, Jay-Z
      (pp. 10-10)

      The street is his canvas. Collapsed walls. Debris everywhere. The façade of the building where he places his wooden sculptures is damaged but a small red bougevillia not far away remains. He lights a cigarette. Hums. But I don’t recognize the tune. I ask him how he is doing. His expression replies that there is no place in this misery for small talk. So I stand with him and smoke, even if I don’t usually. A gust of wind passes through. He is unmoved by the dirt settled on our eyelids. Or the noise around us like a scream caught...

    • Glory
      (pp. 11-11)

      I was told God is in my blood, or was that an American myth? Maybe breathing is a myth too, and oxygen and drowning and choking, maybe Malcolm X and Mohammed didn’t tell us something we needed to know, like how to knock a cow down in the middle of the road, or what to do with divine intervention, angels filling our gut, voices growing loud in our sleep. Maybe we have lost all directions as our bones crumble in our hands and marbles crush under our feet. So tell me, where is the way to Babel or Jacmel, to...

    • Ti Malis
      (pp. 12-12)

      He tells me while biting his nails:My sister loved to hear stories of Bouki(the dumb one) and Malis (the smart one)—the two most popular characters in Haitian folktales. Her big black eyes with long eyelashes would widen while she listened. She also loved her uniform—navy blue. She wore it proudly to school. My father dropped her off and picked her up every day to protect her from vagabons. That day he couldn’t pick her up and asked me to do it. I got there late. They took her. Wanted money to give her back. But what...

    • Ten Drumbeats to God
      (pp. 13-13)

      I confess to stealing the tomb to bury my mother. I admit to emptying the gas tank my neighbor kept forblakawout. I took the rope and the cakes of an old lady because she had more and I needed some. I stole a radio to eat. Stole medicine to sleep. I tried to forget I lay beside dead bodies but my eyes couldn’t shut. Tried to refill my heart but it stayed shut. I wished and wish some more to be dead and not an idea, a solitude, a shame. I summoned words tangled in debris, measured the distance...

    • Tout rivyè gen zen / All rivers have gossip
      (pp. 14-14)

      When a river is too cold it scares a guilty man away. But saints remain undisturbed. How much of our lives do we tip around, and does it ever end? I thought they left a house, a can, maybe even a few dollars, but truth is, all that’s left is a Bible and a shovel to bury whatever is left of moonlight. Still, we got it right this time, straightened them out with what they’d broken, sang until our blood turned into a tune they would never know the words to. And kept the river. Now tell me your dream...

    • The Villagers and the Sleepwalker
      (pp. 15-15)

      A row of hallucinations fighting to lead the way, signposts that don’t direct. Abandoned beat-up Buicks and Mercedes Benzs. Men asleep with open eyes, their vertigo worsening. They beat the light out of the sun with a thinning rope, beat the lightness off their naked bodies. They can’t excite. And women beat themselves to sleep—magic is expensive here. The red lanterns illuminate the valley where the lost blackbirds remember the sound that startled them and the humidity left on skirts. The shape of water changes when we are uncertain of what to look for. They practice dying on Wednesday,...

    • On Blindness
      (pp. 16-16)

      It’s like trying to find a word you’ve spent your entire life with, like trying to discover what water gave you or if the mistake you made is believing you aren’t alone or that galaxies widen for you. I understand that the sun is one thing and light something else, but tell me, what is it to be blind if you work in the dark and make perfect lines and at that moment no one can define you?...

    • Noir, une lumière
      (pp. 17-17)

      There is a sorceress in our night. A sky that only moves memory to make place for the mangoes of last month. There is an old man who says,Libère moi. And means, Take everything but my blackness. Only in the dark do doves find reason. Only in the dark do doves have reason to believe that vengeance is light hanging on fallen tree. After each fall, we ask, where is the island, the sugarcane that disappeared in our hunger, the water that emptied our thirst, the song that robbed our nightmare? They mock us. They tell us to whisper...

    • Ways of Rebelling
      (pp. 18-18)

      Who needs to be at peace in the world? It helps to be between wars, to die a few times each day to understand your father’s sky, as you take it apart piece by piece and can’t feel anything, can’t feel the tree growing under your feet, the eyes poking night only to find another night to compare it to. Whoever heard of turning pain into hummingbirds or red birds—haven’t we grown? What does it mean to be older? Maybe a house without doors can still survive a storm. Maybe I can’t find the proper way to rebel or...

    • Bury the Bird
      (pp. 19-19)

      When the smell of bodies insist on staying, I see only your eyes in the stream. It creates an image of our past, something we kept quiet. Bury the bird before we see a cross beneath a cross, not allowing our shadow to kneel to what remains of our lonely body. Bury the bird before there is no sound in our silence, no letters in our letters to each other, just a deep cough after smoking. Bury the bird before our eyes chase the thorns stretched along the wall. Bury the bird before our voice drums into still-music like a...

    • Anita’s Song
      (pp. 20-20)

      She heard what I couldn’t. Saw shadows as a riot of a thousand leaves and kept them away from me. She understood life was sewn to laughter, a way of enduring. She called meti koulit, poupe. She spoke of roads like mirrors that broke their promise of time. She often asked me,Kote ou prale, as if she knew I would always be going somewhere. I was part of the sky, she said,Men pa bliye tè ya la. Nou la. She always knew when I was going to ask her something she didn’t want to answer. Would start...

    • Lucy Ball
      (pp. 21-21)

      Doudou hit her head at the corner of the bed one night and left me. It was 1998. I hadn’t seen her in years. She was one of the first to hold me in this world. She hid miracles in the cha-cha tree, folded herself in half and forced despair to reveal itself to her, and refused it when it came. She had the quietest of voices, even her laugh was still motion. She spoke only Creole but loved watchingI Love Lucy. She was alive in front of the black-andwhite screen, so my sister nicknamed her Lucille Ball. We...

    • Love Undone: Se Ou Mwen Vle
      (pp. 22-22)

      We walk into the photograph as if it were just taken. We are young, our lives without subtitles. A dance that keeps unfolding our quiver, a sink of colored images. And we repeat the same steps for years. Then we allow the wind to divide what we can’t explain. We look at each other knowing we will never let go, but then we do. But never really. We exchange Sweet Mikey for the Eurythmics. Then move to Depeche Mode. But whenever we glance at one another, all we see is our names engraved on our arms. We decide we need...

    • Galaxy of Men
      (pp. 23-23)

      Ask the farmer why he tolerates his master, ask the beggar why he pities himself, ask the thief to ask the moon why he fears them both. Perhaps it’s about who inherits sadness best? Ask the priest when the fighter will come, ask the boy what happens when prayer does not save its lines—those who know don’t speak. Subtract sound from song, subtract color from skin, from the hissing bullets that hit a telephone pole and make a nation stutter. That’s what we’ve come to master, a place where stares measure a country....

    • Salt on the Tongue

      • Thierry
        (pp. 24-24)

        I am here because it’s too crowded on the other side of this sentence. Take this page—where do I place myself? At the beginning or the end or in the middle? Or maybe in the corner? I can’t be everywhere, that’s what I’ve been told my entire life. They say we have a choice, but where do you find that truth? What I know to be true are the lives of rooftops. I’ve been careless. Have woken up without a shirt, with bras left close by. What’s making love if not the practice of forgetfulness? Around me forgetting is...

      • Nadege
        (pp. 25-25)

        A line of silver on the mirror. A bag of canella on the bed.Feux d’artificesoutside. Aravinclose by. A star hanging on the windowsill.Les fables de la Fontaineroaming her mind. Notanbouplaying. Love is mostly misunderstandings. Hibiscus by hercerf-volant. She’s been told to be patient as she watches kites fly. Perhaps she needed to find the right place to love. After the birches, behind the burning and scattered leaves, laughter was looking at her upside down. Someone said you can’t plant origin—you’re where your heart is from. Then in the middle of...

      • Pascal
        (pp. 26-26)

        The smell ofklerenlingers on his breath. His face is numb. His memory backward. He took me to Jérémie once. But he was from Gonaïves. He said,Les artistes sont ici.In those days, there was hope. He could have painted the country but instead he bruised the language in his hand. He crossed borders to find new prayer, worshipped bones, tip to tip. Then he forgot he did that. He measured the silver surface of light, the corners holding secrets. One blackout at a time, he counted his ribs. On his sleeves a last light re-flecting as if...

      • Toussaint
        (pp. 27-27)

        Send a letter to me, seal it and deliver it—who knows which sky is safer? Send a letter to my wound. Send laughter to my village. Send night to the city. They killed my father. They needed to eat. Send death a message. Wear boots. Send trees some water. They came with guns. They lied about their age. Do you know them? Send me giant masks. Send me the maps you tore. Send me my sister, brother, and twelve uncles. No one believes my name came from a poster. I later discovered it was the name of the leader...

      • Janjak
        (pp. 28-28)

        They stopped kicking him. They left him in the trunk. The sun burning onto it and inside. The engine on. There was hell in their minds. They filled their hearts with bones and skulls as his body burned. Every time he turned his flesh peeled. When they finally opened the trunk, they stared. Asked themselves how far they would have to run to keep him away. You see, what they didn’t know was his name—Janjak, after the first ruler of Haiti. He knew how to get his independence. They say I look like him, like my father, so when...

      • Elsie
        (pp. 29-29)

        I don’t remember what was written on the tap-tap we took from Petion-Ville to Delmas. All I could think about was how nothing resurrects except old bones. Some things aren’t true even if we try to believe in them. How can we build out of trauma a huge house? Why can’t we rewind our crying? I suppose when the time comes, I will open the bed to find sleep. I will remember the shoelace I hid at five, the stocking I stole from my mother. And when the time comes, I will tell you, my love:Console me. I still...

      • Jean-Baptiste
        (pp. 30-30)

        Sak pase mann?Leon asked, scratching his hair before opening a button of his red shirt. He always greeted with his head down when he got some love the night before and I didn’t. Mine was bigger than his. So he felt he needed to prove something. I never told him anything till the day he said I’d only been with one woman. I said,The blan has a bigger one than you. Course, I didn’t think a white man could be bigger. He responded,You can’t crucify me ’cause we both black men. Shut the fuck up and kill...

      • Martine
        (pp. 31-31)

        It’s red. Like the heart. If you place your hand on it, you will see cities from above. I’ve always been dedicated to Mars. On a clear night by a bare tree, a universe will lean away to allow stars to collect ghosts. I think of him. He had short legs but ran fast, deep into a history we won’t let go and keep carving in our mountains. Who belongs anywhere when love is elsewhere? I heard his breath slip past mine, and we were on the same bed. But pianos don’t cry in the afternoon. Neither can I. And...

      • Frantz
        (pp. 32-32)

        Where should I place regret? Where should I touch you so you can stop disappearing? As I try to memorize single notes, a cold mountain air spins around me. What do I look like in those seconds that pass fast? Why am I here? To steal music. It spilled inside of me and told me resurrection is a way of sighing. You shouldn’t pray if you don’t pray properly, my mother always told me. But please Lord, rearrange the mist, the heat rising from my back. Lord, let me still kneel. Lord, let me still sing. Lord, most of all,...

    • Notes to the Slave
      (pp. 33-33)

      I hear we are free. Tell me lady, is that true?She crosses her leg, and writes me a note: Small furies circle us. We are on an island divided by horizons and iambic pentameters. Daylight couldn’t bring a fist of heavy rain. The night, green and wet, wants a song from Africa. Glorious Negro, you might think I write nonsense. But I haven’t been spoken to since I was two. A few gray hairs tell me something of the years I’ve missed.Adieu, no more prisons in the rain.Adieu,no more prisons in the air, in our buried...

    • L’Ouverture
      (pp. 34-34)

      I ask L’Ouverture to speak of independence. And he says,Our spirits reside in our mapou trees. There, we are joined. There, you will find what keeps opening—a long silence tightening our wings for flight....

    • Mardi Gras—Carnaval
      (pp. 35-35)

      A parade of wild colors—dandelion, cotton candy, cerise, electric lime, hot magenta. Masks glittering. Every meter a dream, a square of motion that multiples in the body. Drums, saxophones, conch shells, bamboo horns, accordions. People jumping up and down in perfect synchronicity. All stories are one story, oneistwatonight—IstwaNérette,IstwaJean Jacques,Istwaboat people.The ocean is an illusion tonight my man, onepeyizantold another. In the Champ de Mars or on the arc-en-ciel, in Léogâne or Petit-Goâve, Les Cayes or l’Artibonite,le pays sous compas. Chabon ap boule. La foule est prête. Rara....

    • Mardi Gras—Voye Monte
      (pp. 36-36)

      Voye Montethey said,which meant, go with all your heart.Henri Christophe, Dessaline—Voye Monte.L’Ouverture, Leclerc, General Pétion—Voye Monte.Boyer, Bolívar—Voye Monte.Edwidge et Frankétienne—Voye Monte.Roumain, Depestre et Laferrière—Voye Monte.Trouillot et Batraville—Voye Monte.Castera et Saint-Éloi—Voye Monte.Chauvet, Erzulie et Anacoana—Voye Monte.Basquiat, ata Morgan Freeman ata Walcott—apVoye Monte.Ata Jean Dominique, and the seven bullets that shot him turned to orchids—apVoye Monte.Tabou Combo et DP Express, Carimi et BélO—Voye Monte.Ti Jean Ti Louise Ti Doudou—Voye Monte.Those following the shadows...

  2. TWILIGHT: república dominicana

    • Strong Motion
      (pp. 39-39)

      He had to leave so he could see her. Count the chickens before he gave them away. Count the money under her bed. He had to leave to see his face vanish in hers. To recognize the country he is from. The good news is, he allowed himself to keep the accordion and recordings of someperico ripiao. He opened his mouth to accommodate the white moon, his body like a machine you turn off and on. On and off—when on it means he is sneaking into a place, disguised, the way church music is disguised when we pause...

    • Portrait of Stillness
      (pp. 40-40)

      He tricked the boiled water to stay still. He painted the room florescent green and added a rug he found, damaged but a cool blue. There is a request for beauty, which means for exotic fruit or nudity or the way a brief smile breaks a face to force the past out. The way we marry to remarry when we can no longer draw triangles or squares or, especially, circles. He needed to feel the crush under his feet, the house as his land, the planet as his consolation, the bitter fruits he ate all his life because there was...

    • Angela in El Cibao
      (pp. 41-41)

      It began suddenly, the dizziness of leaves. The way the trees felt a morning away. The way the valley felt weeks after an anguish. Somewhere underground, her voice. Her mascara runnning down her face, an old mirror by a vase. The pudding with raisens she made on special occasions. She knew nobody looked at her when she touched herself in that way. It made her feel immortal. She thought, a man always looks the same when he feels pleasure. A woman looks different each time—her starving increases. I imagine her lighting up a cigarette, the smoke erasing her desire....

    • Sugar, Sugar
      (pp. 42-42)

      My mother told me she had me early. She has no idea what day it was, only that she heard roosters crowing, then she parted her legs and waited. That’s how God visited us in Batey Monte de Coca, where language is removed from our gut for safety. Understand, echoes grow echoes. Maybe that’s why my father left. Everyone’s leaving for the city — the peso is what they need most. The horses we ride are quieter now that the consonants are bent. Now love is but one heart on every side of the earth — but that doesn’t help sell sugar....

    • Dimensions for Inventions
      (pp. 43-43)

      The house is 15 × 15. Nine people live in it: my two younger sisters, my brother and his wife, their four children, and my dying mother. The yellow paint on the walls is fading and peeling but I imagine butterflies live in the white spots. Everyone’s a sugarcane cutter here, but the harvest isn’t the same. Neither are we. Maybe if we exchange redemption for freedom, things will alter. Language falls asleep on my sofa. No one responds under the sun but the Lord, and he has only one heart, freedom has many, and that’s why rain fades when...

    • Traditions of Hope
      (pp. 44-44)

      I never met him but curse him all the time. His breath falling on my hand daily, as if a punishment or a message. Black space crowds what I feel, and I trade laughter for some version of a scream. I’ve given up on what he looks like, although once I thought I saw him. But it was a hesitating shadow. Like when a compatriot digs his soul underground, then pauses when it comes to his body. Yes, I suppose imagination can tear the earth into heavens or water or rain or just a perfume made of anthurium. I mastered...

    • Boys at the Intersection
      (pp. 45-45)

      My mother and I met them when they were five, at the intersection of John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln. Every time a car stopped at the red light, they washed the front window for a few pesos. Over the years, in broken Spanish, they gave us a small piece of their past—they had crossed the border for work, came from the Artibonite Valley, lived in a tin house, never had shoes. And one day in broken Creole they told us:The first person we met here asked us to show both our hands. We showed neither. Asked us...

    • Counting Time
      (pp. 46-47)

      Marie knew there was no substitute for mami, for Barcelos and Presidentes, abuela’smangúor thecolmadowith oldNew York Timesissues stacked up at the corner, but she immigrated to Miami anyway. That’s before she got to Washington Heights.

      Laura,mi prima, discovered that dirt was buried under her skirt, the cold in her bones was permanent.I was better off looking for serpents in Bayahíbe, she kept repeating .

      In bad English, Manuel, Laura’s brother, asks his wife everyday:Buy some love potion, in the store on Dyckman Street.And everyday she responds:Get a haircut, a...

    • Milagro’s Recollections
      (pp. 48-48)

      I knew her most of my life. She called me Señorista Nastalí, thinking it more sophisticated. She loved to wear skirts, on the tighter side. Colored blouses with flowers, or plain ones. Loved every shade of lipstick, even the ones that didn’t suit her. High heels—she particularly enjoyed the red open-toe sandals I gave her in 2003. She laughed constantly. Made me tell her my thoughts on feminism, then responded—O Señorista Nastalí, usted es un caso serio. She meant, how liberating not to conform to men. As for the love of her life, her son Frankie. She repeated...

    • History of Sad Thunder
      (pp. 49-49)

      She sits on the chair where one day she will say good-bye to him. In a place with many uneven floors. No one should have to live with heartache for long or count the winks her lover gave to another woman. She bleached the flowers, chewed meat where he slept with others, and soaked his clothes in dusty water. She stripped until she reached her underwear, a comma followed by a pause, and said,Search me for an afterglow, a chill.And she knew at that moment, when a man offers you life and you know it’s hell, resist. It’s...

    • Amor en la Zona Colonial
      (pp. 50-51)

      The hour changes time into other forms of desire. A woman needs no bra in summer. A kiss after a fuck. A way to depart. She spends her entire life preparing to leave, plays with verbs and nouns and syllables but there is no language for what we can’t give. Lovemaking isn’t about love; it’s about making a noise or a rhythm, arranging a life, giving an order, the way we weep on a wish to wash it away. There is always a way to disappear into your addiction. So use your sharpest knife, hombre. The sky is filled with...

    • Ta’bien Negra
      (pp. 52-52)

      She stands in front of me with nothing on but a small pale blue shirt. Her firm mahogany legs graceful. I tell her,acércate. She gently bites her upper lips.Acércate, come closer, I repeat. Her brown eyes smile and she places her index finger on her lips,Shh, she says,aquí, es una tierra sin frontera, sin prisa. She is a refrain. She is all the twilights this island has ever seen. A bachata is playing. A violin not far. I forget if I’m in Puerto Plata or Cabarete. If I ever opened a pawn shop or paid the...

    • How to Bite Hard
      (pp. 53-53)

      The night unquiet like a dog in rage. A roof that collapses for water. A steel bench. Bottles lined up like men in an army or guerrilla camp. That’s my barrio. My father taught me how to die safely.El terremoto only kills those who aren’t watching birds, he told me. And added, the 1591earthquake left Santo Domingo in ruins . As for hurricanes, he’d say,they can damage faith. The two storms he spoke most about were San Zenon in 1930, that destroyed Santo Domingo, and David in 1979, that destroyed the country. Then the hurricanes of other...

    • El Viejo del Malecón
      (pp. 54-54)

      Semi-nude,el viejo me dijo, the revolution isn’t out there anymore, it’s inside. He always smells of tobacco, always has a lotto ticket in his pocket.Don’t you know mijo, in el Malecón, women turn into colors of gold so confusing even the sun disappears during daytime. Los Santos know what they’re doing, he says,and laughs softly.But who can select their history? I keep seeds in my hands— guava— to remind me love exists.Last night, I spoke of life with a woman I hardly knew. Of course, she was staring at the spider in the corner, wishing...

    • I Am Going to Speak About Liberty
      (pp. 55-55)

      I don’t feel this closing as an islander. I’m not closed because I’m a peasant or a farmer or a passerby. I don’t feel this closing because I’m Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, or atheist. I’m close to what’s closed inside of me. If I weren’t a poet, I’d still feel it. If I weren’t from the Caribbean, I’d still feel it. If I weren’t born, I’d still feel it. I’m close to what’s closed inside of me. My closing can be explained. It’s far inside history. I chase it away, it returns. It comes from the waves from the winds from...

    • Pa’ya
      (pp. 56-56)

      His heart burst but he only realized how far his blood spurted when he saw stains miles later. Maybe the bloodstains will become a eulogy. A man has to tie his faith to his neck or mimic what he detests or runs away from—that’s what a blazing star tells me when I dream of satin sheets but find only acres of hate. It’s just wreckage. The sap of a dying tree is what’s left. Splinters in my fingers, the detours of desire, gone. An overheated car, a broken front seat, vanishing gallons of gas, a malnourished herd, and flies...

    • Pa’lante
      (pp. 57-57)

      They told me I was dead. That the electricity pole hit my head.Coño, did I have to go that way? I would have much rather been found beside a beautiful woman in her fuschia lingerie. Anyhow, I wasn’t sure whether to believe them or not, so when I heard voices, I tried to tell the sweetmorenashe’s lookin’ fine. But she couldn’t hear me. I screamed. Nothing. Everyone just kept walking by.Mierda, it’s true. Wait a minute, it’s a joke. I knew drinking with that gringo would screw me up. He told me I’m a riddle. I...

    • Chariot on Lope de Vega
      (pp. 58-60)

      Lord, I’m ready, review my soul?

      Hombre, good luck?

      Stop it, Pedro—can’t you see this is important?

      What I see, Jesus, is that you drank too much last night, probably had a dream of Zoe Saldaña in a negligee again, so your head’s all messed up.

      It’s not always about that, man.

      You need some mamajuana.

      Stop—give me the hibiscus on the table.

      Do you also want the oleanders and maybe you want me to count the goats you never had too, right? Hombre, what’s going on with you?

      Por favor.

      You need to eat—want a pineapple?...

    • Last Night in San Pedro de Macorís
      (pp. 61-61)

      I told him how he made my brother eat his shit. Took his tractor, roosters, dog, and his identical drums. I told him I dreamed my brother didn’t die. That he’s in a hotel in Jarabacoa and he just left a bar. Flirted with a ghost, ate a pineapple and turned his shirt inside out so that he could forget last night. He once considered taking a bride but couldn’t find a theme for the wedding. He meant to, but then didn’t see the use. Some people like ideas, others like motion, some like one woman, others roam.Don’t apologize...

    • Repetitions at Colmadito #3, Calle Gaspar Polanco
      (pp. 62-63)

      Para tío José,que murió cuando yo tenía siete años—his bottle of rum by his side. Para el padre de tío José, farmer on a banana field who reflected every day at five in the morning on what his mother told him,por fin por fin. Para mi mami who prayed only to la Virgen de la Altagracia. Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia, Patrona de la República Dominicana. Para la Señora Díaz, who explained her yellow teeth meant lost love, then showed me how to play blackjack. Para Ciel, who lit candles to find a good man, and taught...

    • La Carta del Capitán
      (pp. 64-64)

      We loved the same river. Heard the same dim hymn of the Yuma River. You, who are made of jade mountains. Of the turquoise waves of Samaná. You gave me a wild iris and a red sea when all I had was a broken motorcar. I contained the wind in my eyes for you, and collected photos of waterwheels because they amused you. I stole a bench, two nights, and gave you the trembling that was piercing the hours in my hand. I carved your favorite memory in my being—The day white butterflies opened midnight.I kept the feel...

    • Anacaona
      (pp. 65-65)

      You left us your echoes so we can unfold our silences. Left us your ballads so we don’t get tangled in relics and vertigos. And resist crippled editions of noise. Left us your poems so we can see our bruises, smell the sea, find gravity. Golden flower, you circle the earth to tell us this point has no parts....

    • Santo Domingo
      (pp. 66-67)

      A multicultured coat. A motorbike. A star like Jupiter. A mirror of un-finished voices. A drawing of blue feathers. A dancelike night in coco. Breath—air out of bamboo drums. A canvas of tangerine suns. The bells dreaming of nights before a colony of clouds. Music sinking in wings, rivers keeping hope tight. Cities hiding cities. A thousandnunca te olvidaréson the wall. A simpleque talfollowing. This place remembers where stars die and resurrect on walls of old churches in the Colonial Zone or on the Malecón. River reveries want speed that sing twice for pleasure, for...

    • Yagua
      (pp. 68-70)

      At the end of the republics, I find more stories widening the island. At the end of this journey, I wonder what the small native palm of Hispaniola would tell me—that the sounds in its roots dismantle our faces so we can keep meeting on every sheet....