Dedication to Piri Thomas Rest in Power maestro

Whatever that muddafuckin word means

Piri screamed
From the rooftop for recognition
Hoping that the stars would listen

Down these mean streets
an instant classic
For struggling Puerto Ricans
Gasping for fresh air
like coquis cantando in the city

Always bendicion mama
seeking amor from his papa
Black skin misunderstood
white man’s world
Unacceptable rhythm
No dancing no flowing allowed

Like every other action
Celebrating declaring
Life prohibited
exhibited cool barrio machismo pride

When it’s on
Time for a quick rumble
Proving size of cojones
Connected to corazon

Full of rejection turmoil
breaking back to affirm
Befeo would burn
Into bistec encebollado

On marine tiger
Merchant mission for trabajo
Yearning to run as fast as possible
From abajo

Started sticking up bars
Buy a drink for everyone on the house
Before it gets robbed

Pig’s bullet hit St Christopher
In and out flesh wound
Who knew that cop he hit back
Would die soon?

Just a Nuyorican
Trying to reach the moon
Dreaming of not dying on
A cold ghetto corner

Sentenced to 7 long times
Begging the Lord
Savior Savior please
Hold my hand

Through the belly of the beast
Got me fiend out on contraband

Determined to do the time
Not let the time do me

Only my body in prison
But mind and soul free

Hugging self kissing my own fists
Without this love
Freedom would cease to exist

When he came out made sure
No one else would live like this

Every child is born a poet
Including young Peter Juan

Words becoming butterflies
Fluttering beyond
Project buildings

Scribbling illegible manuscript
Feeling like catharsis
Almost exactly about to look it up
Finally met agent and publisher
About to hook it up

Ran immediately
Looking for Home Sweet Harlem
First draft was thrown into incinerator

Tears were the flavor
Of frustration frito
And anger asopao

Focused on future
All I got is today and buncha tomorrows
if I wrote it once
I could write it again and better

Reexamined life rewrote every letter
Overcoming every obstacle
Won’t let distraction derail destiny

Released a Modern Masterpiece in 1967
Found it in Soundview Library 30 years later

Creator let us cross paths
At Agueybana en Loisaida

Where I told him in shaky trembling voice
Sir you taught me
What it is to be a Boricua

He chuckled shook my hand
Vaya Pa’lante Pana
Then signed my book
There is no such word as defeat

Now I’m a maestro
Who tries to freestyle wordsongs
With any beat

He taught me
To have confidence pride truth

Always a punto
After you speak

Peace CPG

What’s good mo?

Someone just jumped
Outta the 4th floor in Soundview

Sounds suspicious
Hear cat meowing outside crib

Walks around park
Just trying to live

Lights and sirens
Wonder what’s happening

Notice smalltime grafitti artists
Trying to evolve from toys

Hush of city mixed with breeze
Bitter faces brings noise

Who decides who stays alive
Many think
It is the person inside

Core fragile like egg shells
Tell everyone very well
Very fine

When it hasn’t been that way
In quite some time

Everyone assumes
Everyone on their grind
Everyone don’t care
When you outta sight
Outta mind

Rotten rotation
Repetition remains
Hard to elevate
When you hesitate to gain

No matter where you go
Everyone grow
All different but just the same

Somehow there is
Supposed to be
Structure in your pain

Educated with self hatred
Trademark stereotype

Stamped on your brain
Tell tears to transition
Into stars in your solar system

Keep going you must maintain
In my darkest hours

Words are the only currency
I have to buy back my happiness

I tell myself
Love myself

Resist temptation to telemarket
My tragedy
Celebrate myself with a sixteen

To love the reflection
In the mirror
Is the beginning
Of tomorrow’s revolution

Today begins
With affirmations
Of inevitable uprising

Embrace the evolution
Existence never isolated
Pushed pa’lante by people’s power

You are Godly
Flowers blooming
In arid desert

Time is now
Future made up
Of your poetical presence
Spiritual essence
Will keep you moving

Keep your head up
Winning even when losing
Proving that truth rarely soothing
Often cluttered confusion

Climbing mountains of people’s opinions
Avoiding painful domestic

Dominions of dominance
Seeking to elevate to pleasure
Prominence but feeling groggy
Soul feeling soggy and staggering

While worry wagering
On hope’s horse
Who’s 30-1 odds
In the last race
Of drama’s derby

If you give this world
Your best
You might make it home
Early enough
To read your own obituary
In the nite owl morning news

despierta boricua

Duerme Boricua Comprende El Puno

Front row seats
To the parade
On high definition TV
Anchored by Ernie Anastos
And Brenda Blackmon

Today is designed
For you to be proud
Of your pain and scream
WEPA as loud as you can

Forget about the other 364 days
You are not allowed to wave your flag

Too much soul in your salsa
Too much coordination of your colors
When your land is far from organized

This is more like
Sancocho of politics
With flavors that are too overpowering
To taste

Each pastele has a statehood tax
Cerrullitos support the status quo

Even jibaritos heridos
Have filed claim
To their sovereignty
With their separatist t shirt
Sponsored by American Airlines

All dutches cost
Event inflated 3 bucks
Along with Bacardi nips 2 for 5

What a bargain
To be a buzzed Bori

You prolly saw dudes with pythons
Around tight necks

Identities squeezed into
Limited edition air force 1s
There is even a discount
On those ridiculous coqui banderas
As Kermit coons himself on the stripes
Barring him from ever seeing freedom flowing
Over a truly liberated people

Mama Loca is drunk off
Mamajuana singing Mama Guela
Asking why are we still mamando
A place that don’t love us back

Ultimate fuck with no kiss
Manufactured bliss in abusive relationship

How happy can false consciousness make you

A brand new AmeRican seeking
Nothing but smiles and sunshines
Under cloudier skies

Ain’t no time to realizar your suenos
Thin line between realizing
You are still sleeping and barely awake
In this nightmare
Called pursuit of happiness

Perhaps you might pledge allegiance
To porqueria
God Bless Insularismo

Island got my crib bugged
Cultura gets learned
Like clockwork orange
Marathons of your least favorite novella
That numbs you down
To ser y nada

Sartre would have been a sangana
Trying to find the purpose in manana
When mind been molded
Into meaty mofongo

If there was a bilongo in the barrio
We might have quilombos
To gang up our sorrows

Drums dance in the shadows
Echoes follow you through deep darkness
Still hoping to discover

The birthplace of your grandmother
To explain
How rain sizzled on her skin
Drenching self determination

Not allowing her star
To glow brilliantly
Against the ghetto glare

Gaze into the galaxy
Examine the universe
To unify the black holes

Too many gaps in our souls
To ever keep the claves clapping

Boda en Condado

Let all those other days pass
When you made iffy choices

Conviction in your beliefs
Intelligence must sing from your voice

Every crucial critical decision
Analyzed to where you stayed

Every word you said
Been offering prayers
That took us this far

Sandcrab building a tunnel
Destined to be washed away

Te lo juro papa
Soy un hombre sincero
Vargas me llama
Vengo patras en media hora

Sometimes we gotta go walk it out
On the mission to find what you seeking

Who would have ever thought
We would reach New York

Nothing nueva
But old dreams prepackaged

History handed down
Is too worn out

If only white thighs
Would tan as quickly as rest
Of sun deprived body

Demons in chopper
Wouldn’t interrupt your Godly
Conversations with the waves
Crashing symbolic
Of never staying stuck

What a rush to blush
At your barrio confused by each block

Child of public housing project
CPG is paradise
Compared to Luis Llorens Torres

Sad more famous as infamous caserio
Than beautiful AfroBoricua poet

Lyrics fall shallow
When eye of beast is upon us

Paranoid to even preach Pa’lante
Down with a pais that abuses us

So easily we seek the next sale
On Polo en Plaza Las Americas

Rather than read about tyranny
Tearing apart peace within people

We barely understand each other
Except exporting selling out
Better sport than surfing

Island style so different
But spirits in sangre scream
Build a bridge

Where revolution puede bailar
Liberation puede disfrutar
Amor puede hablar freely
Sin mentiras

Honest discussion
Of future’s movement over
Ice cold Medallas

Focus the motivation
On freedom not failure

How strongly can Don Q Rum
Embrace you to handle the truth
Burning insides barely can stay awake

Daydreams have you leaning
Like avoiding Guardia’s bullets
In the madre tierra matrix

Didn’t even say hello
At the entrance
Before making a quick exit

Almost able to absorb
Apathy en asopao

Policia give you fast paopao
For thinking any of your gente
Have real power 


what's good? back from the dead, lol. just because i don't pop up at your readings, slam, poetry venue, doesn't mean i haven't been writing. been living which is far more important. whole lot of revelations this past weekend.

one, i'm from the bronx, but the place don't define my future. right now, i'm loving where i'm at in life, but it seems like the hood don't want anyone to ever be happy. or better said, if your life doesn't revolve around bottles, bitches, or ball, you have no place in the conversation. well, i'm married, have a kid, a stable job, and a lot of creativity. Clason Point Gardens was and will always be the foundation, but it can't be the glass ceiling. "wondering why did you love the hood, when the bitch don't love you back" i'm gone. yall won't see me for a minute.

two, my new family shows me more love than my old family. i know that the forces of time have pushed us apart, but by no means is our family the way it should be for amari. we seem resigned to accept living in isolation, dark project apartments where the phone never rings. i can't. so if yall want to join me on my side, you are more than welcome. i'm tired of being the lonely historian who feels like i'm the only one who cares about a place no one else even acknowledges as important.

three, there is no need for external affirmation from any of my artistic community. I've been living for other's approval when the whole time, i needed to give myself the permission to shine. So if i sent you a copy of Dice Queso and you never even took the time to read it, offer some feedback, it's all good. I'm gonna make it fly with or without you.

four, if you don't believe in your own power, you will be weak and worthless until you decide to be powerful. so i can't wait on nobody. I've been waiting on my best self to show up for way too long. He has been chilling on the block, wasting time in cyphers that cost me too much, with people who paid too little attention to ever care. He finally realized that home is wherever you rest your head, and family are the beautiful people who have supported you unconditionally. Peace young boy Morales. Welcome sir to the rest of your life.

You will see me soon. Just say what up.


Think Fast

Don’t let time run out
Before you decide to shoot

Ball will stay stuck
In your hand until after the crowd

Has left you searching
For the way to say
I love you
In multiple languages

Without needing to explain
How difficult caring is

All the answers are none of the above
Mostly related to opening up

Spaces in shuttered Corazon
To pump blood to rest
Of your thirst body ready to jump
Off the curb with a parachute

Afraid of the fall
Ground rapidly approaching
Before you got feet under you

Practice makes regular
Exotic exclusive inviting

Integration of inspiration
Activation of internal radiance

Every piece of art
Been attempts to define
Simple complexities compounded
By fatal factors

Multiplying mission
So we could collaborate with
Congested calm corner

Photo retrospective
Declaring our defiance in face of
Death with mac hoody down
Ready to catch the next victim

Slipping back to on point
Focus lenses to movement
With frames blaming burden
On resistance to routine

If this ill
Imagine what you ain’t seen

Thin line crying over concrete
we drink in dreams

Want one last before
Riding out to see jaguars on prowl
While I seek 3 for 25 specials
Of special feeling

Embuste the entire trip
Learning how to find the grip

Allow what you want
To fall into place

No distractions
Breathing in pace with race

Small chase to gain homily
For few hours

Circulate scene while underground
Keep names in back of backed up

Fruitility politically abstain
From any battle for fear
Of bloody repercussions

Discussion allow deciphering discourse
Often of course traveled

Most jog through hostile
Patience wearing thin as scalp

Pork want you to have indigestion
More stressing in session schedule

To regain fuel at rapid pace
You could skate on thin ice

Until you slip on the shallow surface
Catching enough breeze

Eyes skydive loving glare
Aware of eminent departure
From beautiful days

Sun shifted your soul
Enough to make you feel in control

History headed
Right direction precise perception

Mind and voice weapons
You let dust collect behind
Books you never read
Albums never listened

Far more ways you could fix the photo
On the low low
Puddles on the curb
Are tears you couldn’t catch

What you know

Why do you wish for sweet tomorrows when right now is passed away into yesterday. Today’s news is recycled thrown like periodicos de ayer, a spun record round like discoball sparkling. Celebrations of degradation reputation must come through resume of greatness. So tired of fake shit nowadays hard to find anything sacred. You hide hurt like out in the open. Levitations of elevations for momentary gain leaves tear trails where memories remain. Salutations for everyone slain, parts of yourself wither quicker than rose petals in sun. You used to run with your hair whipping in the acidic breeze like waves on moontide. Now you slide into sessions confidence a lonely weapon against turbulent terrorism. Profession of love a possession constantly seeking perfection – but all the above added up means you still broke. Still hope for future visions of riches leftover with only revenge in vicious frigid dishes.
You step off the curb and it feels like you dropped into the neverending hole in the neverending story. Foreigners surround you and calibrate the kink in each one of your curls. They offer to give you a makeover that is 120 percent guaranteed to make you love yourself. You respectfully decline but not before carefully considering their option, after all your self esteem is in short supply. Thus the demand on your depression has been at record levels causing your mental markets to vacillate between bear and bull when the whole time, it has felt like an African lion, well respected in person, but disrespected and endangered when it’s back was turned.
Next snapshot is a barbed wire fenced in concert of your least favorite reggaeton artists, Mack y Donna, cantando their latest exito, “Damelo Duro.” The strobelights and smoke machines have both blinded and suffocated you and between blinks you see images of masters whipping their slaves with Hype Williams cinematography as the victims mouth Duro along to the beat. Your screams of horror are misconstrued as cheers of support when the manager leans over and whisper screams into your ear, I know you feeling this hot shit right?
You do a lambada Macarena on the Mun2 dancing contest. The crowd goes wild praising your artistic genius one second then decrying your offensive rhythm throwing D batteries at you. The scene shifts you are the crossover movie star of the blockbuster Ole Toro! An aristocratic Mexican trapped by bullfighters forced to fight his way out the barrio Gladiator style swashbuckling battling the commie pigs. You are appalled at your own success but not enough to dissuade you from signing on for merchandising and sequels for the next ten years. This has lead to your endorsement and by default, becoming the Latino Spokesman for Bush the 42nd reelection in 3009. Performing this crucial Uncle Tom role ensures the future domination of your family’s family’s families for millennia to come.
Smiling bittersweet, you grin and whisper, you live and learn. This exact saying was what guided your mother during her romantic genocide with your father. You consider the irony in the situation especially since you have painted misogyny by the numbers in your own relationship soon destined to perish under all this ancestral weight. You chuckle at all the broken hearts in the world and cry at how shattered your own is. Those tears drop like acid in your palms softly stinging your skin.



The Poetry Of The Nuyorican Experience


January 2, 2002
Copyright © 2002
THE NEW YORK TIMES. All Rights Reserved.
The Nuyorican Poets Cafe lures young writers like Anthony Morales.
[PHOTO: Ting-Li Wang/The New York Times]
Where are my boricuas?" Anthony Morales shouted during a recent Friday night poetry slam at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, asking for the Puerto Ricans in the house.
The ethnically mixed, gentrified crowd at this legendary Lower East Side space may not have known it, but Mr. Morales was paying homage in his poem to the founders of the stage where he stood, to those
    stoned crazy prophets of revolution,
    giving poetic solutions to political pollution,
    organizing rhythmic confusion of assimilation
    to this untied states nation of eggs, cheese and bacon
    upon wakin'.
One of those prophets was the poet and playwright Miguel Piñero. He is the subject of "Piñero," a new film starring Benjamin Bratt that has put the spotlight on the Nuyorican poets' scene, which came into being in the 1960's and 70's and is still going strong as the popularity of poetry surges nationwide.
Miguel Pinero in 1974, the year he helped found the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and his play ``Short Eyes'' won an award..
[PHOTO: Ting-Li Wang/The New York Times]
Though Mr. Morales, a 21-year-old Bronx native majoring in English and Latino studies at Columbia University, may be far removed from the heroin-infested, crime-ridden, self-destructive world of Piñero, he nevertheless belongs to the same literary tradition, born of the Puerto Rican experience in the United States. "My poetry is about trying to make sense of the world, of being a young Puerto Rican male," Mr. Morales said. "We have incredible stories we got to tell."
In 1974 the story Piñero told in "Short Eyes," a prison drama presented by Joseph Papp's Public Theater and at Lincoln Center, won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for best American play. It was developed in a workshop at the Ossining Correctional Facility (Sing Sing), where he was serving time for armed robbery. That year Piñero, known as Miky, was one of the founders of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe; he died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1988, when he was 41.
His poetry, with verses in both English and Spanish, had a strong political and social foundation, using the language of the street to document urban and prison reality. What became the Nuyorican poets' movement was influenced by Beat writers like Jack Kerouac, firebrand black poets like Amiri Baraka and Puerto Rico's oral poetry traditions. And it was informed by the discrimination, segregation and other harsh experiences suffered by Puerto Ricans who settled in New York.
In the spoken word, the Nuyoricans, or Puerto Rican New Yorkers, embraced identity and culture.
"We were coming out of the 60's, and there was a switch from self-hate to self-love," said Sandra María Esteves, 53, a published poet born in the Bronx to a Puerto Rican father and a Dominican mother and who, along with Piñero, was one of the founding poets of the Nuyorican movement. "That was an important marker for us. Embrace who we are. That was very different from the messages I got when I was growing up."
Today Nuyorican poetry can range from sonnets to the frenzied verses of competitive slams, and its themes are universal: the politics of daily life, sex and love, discovery of self. The poets function in a less cohesive, more glamorized setting than in Piñero's days. This is now poetry promoted by hip-hop and delivered in a more theatrical, performance-oriented way, which some Nuyorican poets criticize as being more often about entertaining and shocking an audience than about self-expression.
Miguel Algarin, the primary founder of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, says poetry today takes place in a more integrated setting. "For once," he said, "America is truly brought together into one from its myriads of ethnicities – 10,000 ethnicities become sharply focused into an art form, and ironically, the North American Puerto Rican, the Nuyorican, has become the mainstream of American poetry."
But a preoccupation with the Puerto Rican condition still anchors Nuyorican poetry and gives it its bite, as it did 30 years ago.
Many young Nuyorican writers said they were driven to poetry by racist encounters in mostly white schools, by witnessing injustices suffered by family members or neighbors at the hands of the police, landlords or welfare workers, and by the need to express themselves, "to prove," as one poet said, "that I was a human being."
Some noted parallels to black and Chicano poetry.
"This is a survival thing," said Willie Perdomo, 34, a Nuyorican poet, who said he had his share of rough times while growing up in East Harlem. "When you see things that are wrong, you want to say it's wrong. It's a raw language for a raw experience."
Questions of identity are also thoroughly explored. In a poem called "Ode to the Diasporican," Maria Teresa Fernández, a 30-year-old Bronx poet known as Mariposa (Butterfly), takes on those who say she is not "the real thing" because she was not born in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rican, she writes, "is a state of mind, a state of heart, a state of soul."
Even the term Nuyorican has often come to encompass Puerto Rican poets elsewhere in the United States. The winner of this year's individual title at the National Poetry Slam in Seattle was Mayda del Valle, 23, of Chicago, who moved to New York only a year ago and competed as part of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe's team.
She won with two poems: "Descendancy," about the frustrations of being stereotyped and limited by labels, and "Tonguetactics," a defense of Spanglish.
"It's a different experience to be a Puerto Rican from Chicago and a Puerto Rican from New York, but there are similar underlying experiences," Ms. del Valle said. "The sense of not belonging in Puerto Rico and not belonging in the United States is something everyone goes through. I consider myself part of the movement and I definitely feel the connection."
The Nuyorican Poets Cafe is still home for many Nuyorican poets and remains a thriving poetry hub, but its neighborhood has become trendy and expensive and freer of crime and drugs. The cafe has broadened its audience and core way beyond its bohemian Puerto Rican roots. At the recent Friday poetry slam, about 120 people crowded around tables and lined the bar: college-age, beer- drinking, well-behaved Latinos, blacks, whites and Asians.
Nuyorican poets today also read at places like the Point in the Bronx, Bar 13 in Greenwich Village and the Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church in the Bowery. Some earn a living conducting poetry workshops in schools and traveling for readings at colleges; others hold day jobs in the news media and publishing.
And they are often found not only reading but also acting and singing in their own shows and performance pieces. "Spic Chic," a one-man show opening at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe this month, features poetry, music, drama and monologues to portray Puerto Rican pride in surviving life in the United States.
Luis Chaluisan, 44, the show's creator, calls it "the further adventures of an unrepentant Rican with no self- pity."
"You know what a Nuyorican is?" Mr. Chaluisan asked. "It's someone who finds solutions. How do I surmount this?"
But despite the vibrant scene and the poets' increasing opportunities to read, teach and be published, the work remains largely marginalized, some poets said. Most of it is not read by mainstream critics and scholars, does not find its way into major literary journals or magazines that publish poetry and is underrepresented in bookstores, they said.
Martín Espada, 44, who has published six collections of poetry and is a professor of English and Spanish at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, says this situation partly reflects the dearth of Puerto Rican editors in the publishing industry. And he says it might also show distaste for reminders of the poor social and economic conditions many Puerto Ricans have endured in this country.
"Puerto Rican poets are chroniclers," said Mr. Espada, a Brooklyn native who cites as his early influences the novel "Down These Mean Streets," by Piri Thomas; the poem "Puerto Rican Obituary," by Pedro Pietri; and "Short Eyes," which was later made into a film.
"We write about the same things everybody writes about," he said. "The difference is that the people who populate our poems suffer from the system that we live under rather than benefit from it; therefore our work is considered political."
Nuyorican poets have expressed a wide range of opinions on "Piñero," written and directed by Leon Ichaso ("El Super," "Crossover Dreams").
Founders and veterans of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, like Mr. Algarin and Mr. Pietri, who also appear in the movie, attended its premiere last month in New York. Some, like Ms. Esteves and Mr. Espada, criticized the choice of Piñero as a subject, noting that there were other worthy poets with less sensational lives, or who transcended drugs or other problems and did not die young.
"Hollywood and Broadway gave us `West Side Story,' " Mr. Espada said. "Decades go by, and what did we get? We got `Capeman.' Why is it that our hero has to die in the end?"
Many other poets, however, said they were moved and energized by the film, which not only recognizes an American literary movement but gives younger generations a sense of being part of a continuum.
"It was validating in saying we exist," Mariposa said. "Not only are we still here, but we have a tradition and a history."
Among some of these younger Nuyorican poets, Piñero remains an icon.
"The language that he used was his biggest influence," Mr. Perdomo said. "He made the street come alive. You could hear people on the street talking the same way. He represented poets who were giving voice to the voices."
Now Mr. Perdomo and his peers are forging their own legacy. A manager at Henry Holt & Company who has published one poetry collection and a children's book in verse, Mr. Perdomo said he wrote with a sense of threat, as the Puerto Rican population in New York shrinks.
"Puerto Ricans on the Lower East Side are being pushed toward the river," he said. "People are moving back to Puerto Rico. A lot of the writing is coming from a sense of urgency."
His goal, he said, was "to leave a solid body of work behind, so that that kid on 110th Street can go to the library and have his world turned upside down and find a voice."
Chessboard Benches Please do not acquire more damage Release the savage inside That doesn’t allow your pride to thrive How will these corrupted breaths Allow you to survive Dispense negative of what you inherited Cherish these moments so precious How could you let it go Last pull tired yawning Pacing back forth For the next shaky sense Intensely seeking spiritual blessings Mere presence doesn’t mean You been provided collided with chance Couldn’t even explain Your business plan To overstand the world in hands How would you change it Can’t pray away the pain Figure out how to get used To captivate the clueless Absolutely empty mind Blind with empty banks Blank get the reaction When you hear the honk Stomp out any fire burning Dream chapters of life Unfinished diminished returns For no more pleasure How did you ever keep it together Whatever pieces to the puzzle Shuffled around with band Banned because of contraband Still know the cheats to contra Dance knowing nothing unlimited Except love might die Tomorrow slow future Questioning have I been writing Only bull when red chased with henny Ask me about plenty of lonely Away from spotlight Wasn’t close enough to tan skin Whatever jam you in Can always smooth out rough edges Many spots be more focused on Potato wedges than poetry So pardon me for not making a sooner appearance Just a few things Dealing with outside the margin Believe so much of block bochinche Bulimic to the bullshit Tried to dress up pour cologne Ignoring how you burned away The breeze seize what you see So you can always be free