Silent Neighborhoods Across New York
By Maiesha Muntaki & Maria Alejandra Barrios Vélez
A poem about our two neighborhoods in New York and our experiences inhabiting the city in our own particular lenses.
Corona Avenue If I were to tell you about my neighborhood I would tell you about my dad, Before moving to the neighborhood I could see him being so cautious I learned I don’t need to know every neighbor I used to think a neighborhood is supposed to be a community But maybe I had the wrong idea It’s not all that bad There’s not always talk among the neighbors The least bit of words we exchange with each other Are the “goodnight’s” and “have a good day’s” in the elevator There’s a large park right next to my apartment Its spaciousness isn’t its only specialty There are trees all around in order and the center of it is the big circular field even if it’s only human-made nature it makes me feel serene with that there’s even a pool that comes to life during the summer everyone, including kids, swim there But I always wished the pool wasn’t coed with that there’s a space for soccer, basketball, and tennis The kids would sometimes quarrel over the game or cheer for scoring Been to this park a couple of times Saw new faces every time Probably because I can’t ever get to familiarize The faces that pass me by. My favorite place in my neighborhood Is the library where I borrow my favorite graphic books There are stores in front of my building But I’ve barely gone to every one of them I had this thought that kids in a neighborhood became friends easily But after moving to this neighborhood I realized It’s the opposite Been here for four years But never have I made a neighborhood friend each year. It’s safe to walk around the neighborhood at night But I remember my mom being cautious while walking through the dark streets While walking through my neighbodhood’s streets Most are walking and minding their business Few men are listening to Spanish music and chatting The beautiful roses in the summer are always vibrant If a Muslim is passing by I would receive an instant salam That I barely get to reply back Few balconies are bright, shiny, and sparkly around Christmas giving out the message that it’s time for celebration. During summer days along with bearing the heat I’d hear the kids from my room every summer day I like my neighborhood the way it is I might not see the attachment to my neighborhood But all the little bits and pieces I know of my neighborhood are just what makes living here comforting. I wish my neighborhood was more of a community Where Neighbors know each other well They celebrate together They cope together The silence wouldn’t be so encompassing, What I wish for the most is a big family neighborhood. Fort Greene If I were to tell you about my neighborhood I would tell you about the trees: Old, wise, resilient with great deep roots that stick to the land never to let go, I would tell you about the wind that hits the window on sleepless nights and the car sounds, music, sirens, reggaeton that wakes us up— The moving trucks, the recycling trucks, and the infinite glass-shattering sounds, I would tell you about loneliness, about walking and not knowing, about walking and not talking, no questions, no curiosity, no one to talk back and no one to listen, I would tell you about the wagging tails of dogs and the children sledding on hills on the rare day of snow, I would tell you about their kindness, and I would tell that no one is as lucky as the trees, people with roots in this neighborhood and in this land, are forced to go, are force to leave behind, are forced to look away, are told to look away, although they can’t, although they dream to return, although this neighborhood my neighborhood, might become a place they don’t recognize, If I were to show my neighborhood, I could tell you about all the places that feel mine, at least for now.
Since we haven’t met in person, we thought it would be interesting to tell each other about our neighborhoods in a poem so we both could picture our worlds.
Maiesha Muntaki is a junior in high school. She’s from Bangladesh living in Queens. She loves graphic novels and her recent hobbies are reading manga and staring at the sky. One of her favorite clubs in school is Japanese club because she loves learning new languages and learning about different cultures.
María Alejandra Barrios Vélez is a writer born in Barranquilla, Colombia. She has an MA in creative writing from the University of Manchester and lives in Brooklyn with her husband and scruffy dog, Gus. She was the 2020 SmokeLong Flash Fiction Fellow, and her stories have been published in Shenandoah Literary, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, El Malpensante, Fractured Lit, SmokeLong Quarterly, The Offing, and more. Her work has been supported by organizations such as Vermont Studio Center, Kweli, Caldera Arts, and the New Orleans Writers’ Residency. The Waves Take You Home is María’s debut, inspired by the resilience and strength of the women in her family and the Caribbean city she spent most of her life in.