bitter

August 22, 2009

Las Salinas, Bani Dominican RepublicPhoto: www.lagacetafea.blogger.combracero2

these tracks are old
they lead nowhere.
this is the land of salt mines
and sand dunes.

heat burning skin.
salt stinging wounds.
over one million
Haitians
migrate
to this
third world.

third world country
with first world mentality
put these men to labor
extracting salt
from pool bottoms.

salt in wagons
pulled and pushed
on tired tracks
eroding
corroding

Bani
Las Salinas
Dominican Republic
known as the land
of poets and liberators.

this is one sad poem
and liberation,
is only reserved
for non-Haitians
“para todo aquel
que no sea negro.”

travel 400 kilometers east
along the southern coast

on different tracks
railroad tracks
pulling thousands
of sugar cane sticks

loaded by braceros
sugar cane cutters
back breaking
soul aching.

nine to twelve hours,
machetes swinging.
young sons alongside
exhausted
with no time to play,
must say
“there is nothing
sweet
about this sugar cane
stick dad.”

La Romana
Dominican Republic
the name
comes from a balance
used to weigh
merchandise for export.

but there is no balance
in inequality.

and what this third world exports is

not salty
not sweet
just bitter.

~sarahi yajaira, 2009

stage an uprising

August 19, 2009

we are a perfect imperfection
created in the image
of saints and sinners.
we rise and fall.

we love hard and strong
every day
because we believe
in it, through it and for it.
because we believe “love wins out!”

we are but a small gigantic part
of a world in need
trying to create change.

at times
we loose faith,
our hope dwindles.
with heavy hearts
our feet drag..

take a stand.
hold your ground.

we gain strength.
we press forward.
we take flight.

we cannot let ourselves
be held back.
we cannot allow hatred
to triumph.

fear is a four letter word
with a five letter sentence.

create an honest rage
that stages an UPrising .

see
talk
listen
touch
taste a new movement.

we must be
the next big bang,
the air that fans the flames,
the start of an evolution revolution.

consider this an invitation.

~Sarahi Yajaira, 2009

i can’t deny

August 19, 2009

i can’t deny
i am my
mother’s only daughter.

i can’t deny
the reflection in
the mirror stares
back at me…

a spitting image
a splitting image
a constant reminder
not just physical,
but spiritual, emotional,
and without shame
psychological: good, bad.

i can’t deny
i carry mami
in my words
in my veins
in my heart.

she is heavy
the ghost of
her past actions,
inactions, distractions –hell,
even her contractions
mold, scold, hold
all that is
me, myself, i.

her love lifts
bearing her gifts
forgiveness, compassion, kindness.
i unwrap each
one with care
to remind me
and remind me
that she is
always with me.

i can’t deny
that she is,
all her own.
and i am,
on my own.

but always, always
we will be
reflected and connected.
the umbilical chord
will filter that
which keeps us
from fully evolving.
and the beauty
of our individuality
and our duality
cannot be denied.

~Sarahi Yajaira, 2009

bruised angels

August 18, 2009

my favorite aunt was a victim of domestic violence.
bruised, battered and beaten
both physically and emotionally.

she woke up every morning in pain
and went to bed hurt.
in between ironing his shirts, brewing his coffee
and preparing his food.

she had two daughters and a son from her first marriage.
and with him, she had two more daughters.
witnesses to her sorrow-
they tried to protect her.
but they were too young to block the punches.
too young to break down the door.

his anger taught her son how to be a man.
her silence taught her daughters how to be women.

as an uncle he was among the favorites.
with us he was different –always kind and generous.
he would treat us to eat after church services,
take us to the park on sundays.

we knew who he was inside and outside of the apartment.
and most of us wondered what was going on with him.
what made him so angry? why would he want to hurt our aunt?

we would whisper behind closed doors-
listened to adults say he was “possessed by demons.”
i felt anger towards him.
despised his dual personality.
and wondered why the adults never stopped him.
they said, “those are marriage issues they must work on.”
“we just have to pray that God intervenes.”
these were just excuses…
the stuff i thought was bullshit.

but Titi and my cousins,
they lived it every day.
and only they can actually
express the truth.

we all carry the weight of our past
and some of our experiences we hope to bury along the way.
today, he is still an ex-husband, a stepfather and a father.
time has taken a toll on him.

what i admire most
is this family’s forgiveness.
they survived–
it has made them individually and collectively stronger.

they didn’t have to bury their past to lift the weight.
they simply acknowledge it as “part of life.”
they overcame adversity… and it seems as though God’s finest pencil
etched wings on each of them…

…and today, they are living angels among us.

**dedicated to the then residents of 105th street… i love you all dearly!**

~Sarahi Yajaira, 2009

spirit

August 17, 2009

I have never been “in the closet” except to pick out my clothes and such… but I have never been IN THE CLOSET. When I learned that what I was feeling had a name to it, I simply stated a fact: I am a lesbian. I choose at the tender age of fifteen (sixteen years ago) to let it be known. Whether my family, friends and others liked it or not, was entirely irrelevant to me. And much to my human nature, I decided that I wasn’t going to give those who claim to “love me no matter what” much of a choice. It was simply, “This is who I am.”

With this in mind throughout the span of the last sixteen years of my life I have met many a closeted people -including women I have been in relationships with. To some extent, I found it difficult to be in some of these relationships because in some instances, I had to quasi-jump in a closet or omit information or alter some facts because well, I was in love and I did what I had to. I have also experienced the closet from a friend’s perspective. I have heard all the reasons why people are in closets: “I am not ready,” I could loose my job,” “My family will disown me” and a myriad of responses and reasons that I have always respected but never fully understood.

I am not sure if I have ever fully understood the reasons because I never had to experience being in a closet. Perhaps that is the main and only reason. But aside from my desire to get all of those who live in these confined spaces (which I presume can get quite comfortable given some decoration, a bed and even a small window) out and about, I have wondered what it does to a spirit to live in silence.

A spirit that is not free cannot live as a spirit.

When I stated my truth the only door that closed was a door that was barely open -my mother’s. And while it was very difficult not to have her support, I went on about my life because I sought to be around those who did support me and the new beautiful spirits I have met along the way. I am fully aware that not everyone is as fortunate as I have been. I have heard horror stories that have included beatings and death. But what has been playing in my head for about eight months now is a question that goes beyond the rhetoric of “coming out,” it goes to a place that’s intangible: the spirit of a person.

I wonder what a spirit feels when it must remain silent (whether in a relationship or not).

Everywhere in the world you see signs of people in relationships through a family picture on a desk, a wedding band on a finger, a conversation about a vacation or a telephone call reminding someone to bring home milk and eggs. It is in these small details that I find myself frustrated with the idea that my closeted sisters and brothers feel that they must remain silent.

The individual who is not in a relationship must experience this two-fold because I believe that at least the one who is in a relationship (when the doors are closed and the curtains are drawn), can experience a free spirit within the confines of a bigger space than the closet.

Again, I do not know what it feels like to live in silence -shit, I came out of my mothers womb one-and-one-half-months early and screaming. My mother said then, that she knew I was going to be very expressive and forward. But since I do not know what it might feel like to live in silence I can do nothing but come up with what I would imagine myself to be experiencing if I had felt that I had no other choice but to remain silent. I try to put myself in the shoes of my closeted sisters and brothers.

My first thought is that the shoes are tight. You see I have long feet (actually, long toes). My second thought is that I would feel like a wilted spirit trying to grow with the little light that sneaks through the window in my closet. I feel suffocated. Claustrophobic. Ashamed. And my biggest fear… alone.

“Alone.

And I don’t even have my self.”

That’s what a young student told me at a presentation I made in October of 2008 at Rutgers University. She said she,”felt as though [she] didn’t even have [her] self to turn to.” That, “[her] spirit had somehow left [her] side.”

It was one of the few times I was left speechless. And my only response to her at that time was, “Your spirit has not left you. It’s just standing outside the closet door waiting for you… all in due time.” And she half-smiled.

In December of 2008 I received an email from her subject title: “knock, knock.” The email read, “I talk to my spirit from the inside of my closet. It feels a little better knowing I am not alone. It’s not time yet… but at least I breathe easier. Happy holidays!”

As I recall this conversation, this email and my thoughts these past months, I realize and learn two things:

(1) That as much as I try to put myself in those shoes, I could never fully express the feeling of silence because I cannot digest what I do not consume.

(2) That spirits live and survive in the most threatening environments because the spirit is transcendent.

NOTE TO THE READER: The word spirit comes from the Latin word spiritus, meaning breath.

~Sarahi Yajaira, 2009

i grow within

August 16, 2009

i’ve been here
42 days.
at first,
i called it home
this, my birth place
this air, my first breath
this sun, my blanket
this moon, my lullaby
this
this
this
memory:

remembering
recalling
trees climbed
knees scraped
first day of school
papi’s hugs
raggedy mun~ecas
that i ignored

i relive
these scents
these sounds
these sights

that moment

i was pulled
my seed
barely sprouting roots
cut
reimplanted
in a new place
i would learn to call home
that, my growth place
that air, my second wind
that sun, my comforter
that moon, my song
that
that
that
memory:

remembering
recalling
monkey bars climbed
bruised knees
school daze
mami’s anger
dolls that i would keep
naked

i relive
those scents
those sounds
those sights

that moment

i was told
“this is not your home.
this fertile soil cannot feed you.”

that seed
trying to grow roots
under the concrete floors
of the big city.

there
amidst droughts
cold winter days
waiting for spring
a bud sprouts
cracks
through the spaces
of the concrete
blooms
the impossible

a caribbean city flower

displaced
misplaced
replaced

we learn, whether by nature or nurture
to revive and survive.

we do not assimilate,
instead we create
familiarity
in the spaces where we stand.
the sounds, the scents, the sights
mimic
the places we were pulled from.
we make our own ecosystem,
as our grandmothers plant avocado seeds
into pots that will never bear fruit
and our mothers import seasonings
that loose their taste in transition
(still, the essence of their flavor
lives on our tongues).

we were created to survive.

and while neither place may be home
i can live and grow in both places.
i am mobile.
i sit at the center of my heart
and rest in my soul.

i’ve learned that my veins are my roots…
i grow within.

this and that sun are the same.
this and that moon, keep the name.

~sarahi yajaira, 2009.

god’s intentions

August 16, 2009

yesterday
driving
my eyes fixed
on the beauty
of the landscape
that is this
Dominican Republic

i saw you
in your school uniform
your little hand
extended
on the side of the road
asking for a ride

hitchhiking
is the only way to get
to school for you
and thousands alike.

‘cause papi walks six miles
to work
a twelve hour shift
in the sugar cane fields.
and mami can’t leave
your little brothers
under that tin roof home
alone
to walk you
four miles
to school
and back
under this hot
caribbean sun
that burns and turns
hope into ashes.

stop.
your school
on the left
is falling
and failing.

your abc’s
become POW’s.
prisoners of a war
you didn’t wage,
prisoners to a system
that keeps you caged.

you sit in the car
i ask “what’s your name?”
“Rosaury,” you smile
(that beautiful smile).
you’re just ten-years-old
and you tell us you’re
in first grade.
i do the math
quickly
i realize that you’re behind.
logic tells me
it has nothing to do with your ability to learn,
but in this government’s unwillingness to provide
the necessary resources.
science tells me nature and nurture have abused you,
while geography displaces your dreams.
history will repeat itself in the womb of your offspring
and religion will make you question God’s intentions.

this government
in disorder
robs your future
then punishes you
for the crime it commits against you.

this landscape
can not hold beauty
if it’s just a backdrop
for what really lies behind.

~Sarahi Yajaira, 2009

words evolve the soul

August 15, 2009

i am a poet child
of the ghetto
el barrio
las islas

my words are my gazette.

and all the news that’s fit to print
does not always make the headlines.

this is why i write
so that the untold stories may be read.

i write
to birth a memory
to bury a tragedy
to defend truth
to offend hatred

writing
distills love

my pen is my weapon
of mass reconstruction

words build hope
words mend
words restore

at the turn of each page
…words evolve the soul!

~Sarahi Yajaira, 2009