When my husband dies I freeze in time
July of 1967, my salt sweat back
seals me to this couch. Two weeks
swallowed by waves of the passage:
a nest in a Japanese cargo ship.
Colon, Panama to Brooklyn, New York.
I leave adorned: bracelet of daughter’s caress,
necklace of baby boy’s breath.
With factory smoke I build myself
a man. Name him Julio. Tostón
to his mouth. Nipple sucked
and licked. My body is a curve
for three little hook-mouth children.
One cannot escape the shadow
of his hand laid heavy—no soothing
drunken words to comfort
so soon begins the fade. First,
a bent finger, right arm
till two eyes float
in a mass heaving.
My children wail. Chant.
Dance in circles.
The middle one reaches
for what may be a hand,
whispers to what
may be her mother:
He left. We will say
he died in Puerto Rico.
Photograph of Puerto Rico by Oscar F. Helvia.