By Denise Domena
This poem focuses on my experience growing up in Brooklyn, New York. It addresses the challenges and stereotypes that Puerto Ricans face in the neighborhood.
I wish your voice was just white noise. Something I can block out like the rumbling of the subway braking harshly in the city Or the blaring sirens of police on call. Instead, I stop and freeze When you jokingly question me For it no longer feels like a tease, But a dissociation from others like me. I’m from Bushwick, New York. Balancing the border of Brooklyn and Queens. The overachiever with straight A’s. The one who cries over silly mistakes. I’m also the youngest of two. My abuela’s cuquita, My parents’ little one, And my sister’s loving pain. The unspoken glue that holds this family in place. Without knowing any part of me You say I must be oblivious to my culture and roots Because I don’t speak Spanish Or have the same accent as you do. As if I haven’t been trained by my abuela’s routes. And yet, despite our language barrier, I still manage to understand her. Some might call it broken English But actually, it’s music to my ears. Something I’ve learned from and listened to over the past few years. Her voice guides my course, Against this frictional force. It teaches me how to move my hips To the blasting speakers of our Brooklyn district. It leads me to the back of the shady projects To watch the viejos play endless rounds of dominos. Tracing my fingers along the dotted indents. Hopping to pull off a capicu in just a matter of minutes. It shows me why piragua hits different than Any sprinkled ice cream from Mr. Softy And how Vicks is the solution to any sickness For a coat of it can cure just about any illness. Not to mention smelling her authentic pernil richness After watching her sprinkle the adobo on like it's nobody’s business. Learning the familiar sound of chancletas down the hall And feeling dirty if my bare feet touch my house floors at all. These small things bear heavy significance To who I am as a Puerto Rican. I will no longer allow you to question All of these fond memories. Pretty soon, your noise will fade Into just another muffled voice during my commute, Indicating my train is delayed. Just like with the train conductor, I won't hear you Because my pop indie rock is consuming you. Tuning out your opinions That have been blinding you From seeing that I am And always will be Boricua.
This poem initially started as a free write. It was inspired by authors such as Elizabeth Acevedo and Lin-Manuel Miranda, as well as my desire to capture my experience of being a Latina. I wrote several drafts with various tones, but after months of bouncing ideas off of my mentor, Emely, we finally decided to focus on the everyday things that are a part of my culture and make me who I am.
Denise Domena is a native of Brooklyn, New York. She is college freshman who plans to major in English Literature and concentrate in creative writing. In her free time, she embroiders, plays ukulele and piano and bakes cookies. Denise hopes to one day publish young adult fiction novels and perhaps a collection of poetry.