The only question was whether they would kill me or not:
All their fumbling and grappling with hooks and buttons,
Hurried and unfocused, like sharks after a bloodied fish,
And the shouts of Hey, puta, how ‘bout white meat for a change?
Left no doubt as to the first order of business.
If the old Jew hadn’t stepped forward, it was probably a short trip
To some cold slab and Potter’s Field
(Perhaps it was charity on his part, a sentimental gesture
From the old punching bag to the new,
But he stays open all night on Saturday, head always uncovered.
Most likely it was the fear that half of the dimes for soda and papers
Would head elsewhere.)
Maria? She is a child, and mourns as a child.
Oh I know she was with the Polack,
But only in some misty fairyland of songs and flowers and ever-afters;
She may as well have given her cherry to a teddy bear.
Some of us know what it is like to be with a man,
For better of for worse, vows or otherwise.
How many nights did I hold Bernardo’s head as he wept
(A strong man, strong enough to cry)
After a night of being mocked while waiting tables
(Dos cervezas, mas frio, boy the fat businessmen would say,
And how ‘bout your sister’s phone number,
If it isn’t on the bathroom wall) and then harassed by some beat cop
For committing the crime of being Puerto Rican
In the wrong neighborhood at the wrong time of night.
You cannot know a man—truly be with him—
Until you have shared conquests and beatings,
Ministered to bruised egos and iced down swollen eyelids.
Ah, but our Maria, she is allowed to don a widow’s weeds,
To tread behind the body with steps light as an angel’s
Whereas I am afforded no such grace, no such dignity,
Simply Bernardo’s woman, they all but spit.
Such is the work of poets and playwrights,
Who write of passion and principle
Without knowing the first thing about either.
God save a woman from men without blood or honor.
(For the most recent Thursday challenge at Real Toads. Stop by and read and partake; licking the toads is optional and not necessarily recommended.)