will & testament

January 12, 2012

on may 3, 1993
abuela had her homecoming.
at the time of her death,
eight of her eleven children
were alive.

they headed
to her one bedroom
apartment on the 4th floor
of 1295 amsterdam ave.

her silver spoon collection
had airline logos. so did
some of her plates.

she had seventeen jars
filled with buttons.
she fastened love
on coats, and hats, and gloves
that kept us warm.

each of her daughters
kept one of her batas.
my mother kept a red wool
bandana she wore around
her head all-winter.

one of my uncles
just wanted the cassette tapes
where she recorded herself
singing church music.

they found ten dollar bills
wrapped in napkins in all sorts of places:
in pockets, in books, in vases.
almost a thousand dollars…
it was used to fly her body
to Puerto Rico.

my mother kept a hairbrush
(hairs included). the siblings split
up photo albums. her rocking chair
was the most coveted item…
her “favorite” son got to keep that.

trinkets. figurines. plants.
pots. pans. mugs. furniture.
they all wanted something
tangible to hold on to…

when our parents die
there are no assets to discuss.
no lawyer who will ask
to sign the dotted line.

our inheritance is debt.
the heirlooms
are untangibles:

memories. lessons. Love.

i’ve forgotten the sound
of my grandmother’s voice.
‘cept i remember the raspiness
of it like an old friend.

i remember her words.
no matter how harsh their truth,
her advice was always gentle.
i cannot forget her faith,
it was unshakeable.

if it took a while to see better days,
my grandmother created them
through laughter.

she had a noncupative
will & testament:

her will was that we remain a close family.
her testament was the way she lived her life:
humble. honest. faithFULL.

may i always honor her will and may my life be an extension of her testament.

 

my love

October 21, 2011

gracias por el regalo de esta hija, que sera el maximo exponente de nuestro amor

when i was born, my father brought my mother flowers. the card read, “thank you for the gift of this daughter, who will be the maximum exponent of our love.”

growing up, we knew “got nothing” days. i have known days without a plate of food, but i have never known a day without love. in my lifetime, regardless of the circumstances, i have never missed an “i love you,” a warm embrace or some words of affection from a parent, a cousin, grandma, an aunt or uncle or a friend. i have been fortunate and blessed to always feel love (physically, emotionally and spiritually).

the following words were expressed to me “…sometimes i wonder, who is all that [love and attention] for?”

…and then i started rethinking that some friends and family, have often expressed that “[i] give love too quickly.” that i should be more “selective for my own sake.”

pero mis amores… i have no idea how to do things differently, nor do i want to.

i have no idea how to not love, if that is what i am feeling; regardless of the love (love of family, love of friends, intimate love). even as a child, those who have known me since, will tell you that i have always been the same.

i have a very difficult time being upset with those who hurt me; i forgive almost instantly. i have always been of the belief that i don’t have time for that shit. i don’t have time to hold anger so close that it doesn’t allow me to love and be loved. i don’t have time to be pissed off at the world for what it has brought me, because quite honestly, it drains me exponentially. it keeps me from evolving.

………..

then my brain goes haywire. is there some truth to the idea that perhaps i do “love too quickly?” too intensely? is it possible that repetitive love becomes obsolete? that it almost becomes “habit” if it is something i express with ease? and if i am questioning all this, there has to be a message for me.

could it be that perhaps my parents’ love, in some pre-hogwarts-era-way cursed me?

(forgive me for rambling reader, i am literally writing this out).
Besos, Felo 15-5-78

is it that, like my mother has told me so many times, “the majority of people in this world are not ready for your love, mi hija.” or does she say that to make me feel somewhat “normal” in my expressive ways? or my biggest fear, is it that perhaps, i don’t really know what love is because somehow it has some sort of rules of engagement that i have not followed?

i don’t know how to not express sentiments and feelings. i don’t know how to hold back and be reserved and not tell someone what i am feeling because i feel as though i will literally implode.

and i don’t do it because, i have to —as my uncle says, “i ain’t gotta’ do nuttin’ but be puertorican and die. 

…………

the repetitive act of my sweetness (be it words or a gift), doesn’t diminish the sincerity of the sentiment.  life is too short to limit how often acts of love take place.

i am this way because quite simply… there isn’t enough love in this world. and for some reason, i have some rare “surplus” and am willing to give it with ease and without reservation because fuck, you deserve to be loved! i give love to those i make connections with along the way. and with this love came honesty… if i don’t feel it, i don’t give it.

but i don’t know any other way except love’s way.

call me a poet. an idealist. a hopeless romantic. a sappy, mushy fool. it doesn’t matter.

i will stand beside you as long as you let me. and when you don’t. i will love you from a distance. love is a compromise. come what may, you keep love and it keeps you.

this isn’t poetry.

cooking lesson

August 21, 2011

“jamas le niegues a alguien tres cosas:
un vaso de agua, un plato de comida,
el uso de un baño.”
-Doña Juana Rivera

in 1985.

my abuela juana was a Mother. to her eleven children, forty-six grandchildren and a little six-story tenement building that sat in the middle of a spanish harlem, new york city block in the 12 o’clock shadow of the taino towers.

218 e. 122nd street.

on sundays my abuela cooked. and when i say she cooked, i mean she had the cucharones banging on calderos, el horno encendio’ making music in that kitchen to the rythmn of my aunts chatter and chismes. while the men played domino talking pelota y lo’ yankis o los mets… and the kids ran up and down las escaleras.

sunday was another way of saying family. if we weren’t at randall’s island, we were at abuela’s or at Titi Isabel’s. but cooking was happening. and so was eating. and Love.

when it was time to eat… my grandma would lead us in prayer and she would always say something along the “… y que aquellos que no tienen de comer, encuentren el camino a mi cocina.” (…and may those who do not have a meal, find their way to my kitchen).

cooking lesson 101: we are responsible for each other (blood related or not).

this is something that has always stayed with us… as the cousins have all grown older, we always tell each other, “stop by there’s always a plate for one more.” and we remember abuela. it was never a lesson that we were taught in the sense of sitting us down to tell us… it was just a natural way of nurturing.

between the pernil, el pollo, arroz con gandules, ensalada de papa, y escabeche de mollejitas we realized we had enough to fill our bellies and our hearts and those around us.

…you’d always see a few of us bringing somebody else. “this is my amiga from school…” you didn’t even have to finish saying her name, who she was related to, how she got here… when she was already being handed a plate. and then someone shouting, “quien falta de comer?”

abuela fed more than just our bellies. she fed our hearts with a sense of responsibility that lives in each of us eighteen years after her physical body left us. but her presence is still present in our meals.

feeding the collective familia is not just culture… it’s a commandment. food is just food if it has no nourishment that goes beyond the one it provides the physical body.  if you cannot feed the soul, don’t even bother to cook.

on sundays and every day… may i always feed souls.

~Sarahí Yajaira, 2011 ©

writer’s note: a special thanks to Marvin Bings and Antonio Robles for inspiring my sunday muse.