Two Poems


She asks me what her shirt says.
Sirena,” I tell her.
She pauses.
Her wrinkle-less face furrows.
Even at five years old,
she finds it odd
that someone del otro lado
would send garage sale clothes
that accuse her of being
half fish, half woman.

Her sister—two—
big league chews
a blue balloon.
She stops, pulls it out,
inspects the holey latex
shining in its saliva coating;
pops it back in place.
She wears pajama pants,
ripped up the seams;
sin ropa interior,
sin verguenza.
But her pants,
boldly printed
“futbol soccer futbol soccer,”
seem to suggest redundancy/
saying the same thing twice
bilingualism as a solution.



there were kids.

I know
because these swings still
sway as fiercely as if
three small boys had rode
them like a hurricane,
found themselves parallel
with the gravel beneath them
and propelled themselves from
these waxen swings; hovered
for one second, surveyed
the colonia with pensive comments
on the situation from which 
we are helpless
to remove ourselves.

As they thought and talked
they fell. Their momentum
pushed them forward
onto their knees, gravel
breaking their skin, painting
their knees with touches
of blood and sand.

They told me to avoid this park.
“Walk around it,” they said.
Hay muchos cholitos allí.”

Today there are only
empty swings.

—Peter Joel