Un/Living Los Sures and other poems by Isa Guzman



Un/Living Los Sures


Los Sures:                               moon lost in the morning above Kept Street.
Neither nocturne or dirge,                            but bodies swinging in duende.
A losing in paradise.              Streets forever made of longing, undoing itself.


Births lead procession straight through the desolated path of falling red leaves.


These streets are made                      of a haunting time.


Ghost children race               in circles         to the bodegas no longer here.


Hector Lavoe still echoes his death tunes while the viejitos, alive & dead,
                        slam down their capicus on flimsy wooden tables – charlando
                                                over the broken wine bottles of their hearts.


The pigeon wings are scattered everywhere.


Abuelitas still carry their groceries through this rubble of bones,

while the plumas tangle in their hair.



Never mind the tearing down of our immaculate brick.
Never mind the tomb glass towers rising out of blood.

Every empty room here peers out like a skull, but there is still the possibility of poetry.


By Stagg & Roebling & Driggs & Havemeyer:
The kids still stare out of windows waiting for poetry to come.

They hear the bolero of 5B bellow a love song against the J train’s screech.

They hear the growing wails of mothers & the desperate silence of fathers.

They hear the bullets shouting for the sacrifice of their young minds & bodies.
                        They hear the absent myths rage in laughter in front of the last botanica.

 They hear the tombs in the tumbao / the bombs in the bomba.
                        They hear for the violent haiku of cats chasing rats.
                                    They hear the dying Jibaro decima for pennies.

                                                                        They hear the shattering of asphalt.

They hear & they wait for poetry to come.

                                                                                    We keep going in our fragments.




Conjuring the Cementerio Viejo
                                    Juncos, Puerto Rico


I felt the bursts of distant stars run up my spine like scorpions.

My pale flesh shook and shattered in convulsions. Painters
held down my sterile canvas made from sheets of bloody linen.
Kudzu wrap themselves around my feet and wrists. A boa’s
squeeze puts me to rest. The moth steered clear of my eyelids.


A buzz of cicada: a relic of hearts. A rush of hooves:
old photographs of abuelos. How do you connect when
you can’t understand the firmament inside your body?
I spilt my own marbled blood and traded my eyes for gold.


How does one die here? When was the last time I did? I laid
my head against a bed of wingless pericos. Donned my crown
of ceiba thorns. I become a prayer for rain overtaken by nimbus
clouds. I am the mountain no one lives on. I am an empty house.


When the night comes, I leaned onto my moon. Surrendered into
the shadows of sugarcane. I saw them cry sweet fires with ancestor
faces. I saw them fight free with machetes made of forevers.
They told me I could stay here among the tombas painted white.

Image by Dora Maar

Image by Dora Maar





My mother / is the worn  memory / of a dead sea
Terrified / with dreams / & never writing / poetry
The waves / of life / wash over / her fleshy / shores
She spends / hours / picking our shells/ from her back
Predicts / the funerals / taking place / across/ her thoughts
Wears / her hair / in a hurricane / able to break / stone
Screams / against / the difficult / language / of sand
Prayed / for / an Aphrodite / to help her / interpret / the grains
                                                Instead / she had / a son