Artwork by Cameren Harper @CamHarpArt

Artwork by Cameren Harper

“I’m a Black Puerto Rican,
Yes I am,
Making some peanut butter and some jam…” (Composed by Marcus P., circa 1981, age 10)

My childhood was marked by our knowing moments
that brought us to our bedroom windows at night
to speak silently across the darkness
with our faces, various antics, flashlights,
and disappearing & reappearing acts.

I was eight years old
when his family moved in,
when the boy my age toed the weeds on my front lawn,
as I watched him from my bedroom window.

Because he was black,
my first memory of seeing Marcus
has been misshapen by a lifetime
spent enslaved by the vernacular
of the prevailing collective.

Subtexts of color for a child
are still primal, unchained.
Whatever difference signified
in that commuter tract neighborhood,
we forged a bond
that was soon cemented in familiarity.

I loved how his hair sprung back like a sponge,
& how his mother groomed him
with Johnson’s Baby Oil & Q-Tips.
I loved his height, his scent,
his lanky, strong, athletic arms,
catching his blazing pitches,
& how we proudly wore matching t-shirts
with our names and baseball jersey numbers
that our moms made with iron-on decals.

Even more, I loved his infectious laugh,
his smart, brow-raising impressions
of Mighty Mouse, Woody Woodpecker,
Speedy Gonzales, and Foghorn Leghorn’s failures
to thwart his young chicken hawk nemesis,
that routinely had us both in teary,
asthmatic hysterics,
sputtering milk out of our noses.

I know my mind’s eye
has since learned to see the conjured rift
between black & white;

I perceive a difference
that even my love
because it is love
won’t deny,
though my heart tries to remember
from a place beyond sight.

I was eight years old
when the boy my age scattered dandelion seeds
outside my bedroom window––
when unsullied, my roots trembled,
& love sprang up
& leaned toward his sun.