A LADY

rro0035's picture

A LADY

THERE’S A LADY/ IN HER 50’S 6O’S/ SHE’S DRESSED ACTUALLY MORE SWADDLED IN LAYERS/ SWOLLEN

IN OVERSIZE BLACK SWEAT PANTS/ LIME GREEN JACKET WITH NEON WHITE STRIPES/ HOOD COVERS

HEAD UNDER SHE WEARS A BLACK SKULL CAP/ WHITE PUERTO RICO LETTERS STAMPED ACROSS ONE

SIDE TO THE OTHER/ I DON’T KNOW SHE’S A LADY/ WE PR’S JUST SAY LADY A LOT/ THE WOMAN

STANDS A BLOCK BELOW CANAL NEAR POST OFFICE/ SHE HOLDS AN ORANGE FLAG SHE NOW AND

THEN WAVES/ MAYBE SHE’S A SCHOOL CROSSING GUARD/ BUT IN THAT PART OF SOHO ONCE

FACTORY TOWN THERE’S NO SCHOOL YET ON THIS BLOCK NOT EVEN A POSH PRIVATE ONE AS BEFITS

CURRENT NABE/ WHAT THE HELL/ WHY IS SHE STANDING THERE IN THE BITTERNESS OF THIS

MIDWINTER DAY/ I LOOK UP SEE THEY’RE PUTTING UP ANOTHER FANCY HIGH RISE  BUILDING FOR

HIGH RISEN FANCY PEOPLE/ GONE THE PEOPLE WHO WORKED IN FACTORIES THE MANUFACTURING

AND PRINTING BUSINESSES/ GONE SHOPS FULL OF TRIMMINGS AND BUTTONS ONCE OWNED BY

HASIDICS/ THEN IT HITS ME SHE’S THERE TO WARN ANY ONCOMING TRAFFIC OF BUILDING GOING UP/

CAUTION PASSERSBY CARS ABOUT ANY HEAVY METAL SCAFFOLDING PIECES/ HAMMERS THAT MIGHT

RAIN DOWN/ SOME UNFORTUNATE NON UNION IMMIGRANT LABORER PLUNGING UNINTENTIONALLY

KILLING MORE THAN JUST HIMSELF/ I CROSS WOOSTER AND GRAND TO CANAL ST P.O. A BLOCK AWAY

IN HATEFUL WEATHER/ NEED TO PICK UP A LETTER/ PACKAGE/ PAPERS TO SIGN/ MAILPERSON LEFT A

PINK SLIP IN MY BOX/ SHE WON’T COME AGAIN/ ALREADY KNOW HER/ GOT ATTITUDE/ SO MUST PICK UP

OR  IT’LL GO BACK AND NOT SURE WHAT IT COULD BE/ SOMETHING I DON’T WANT A SUMMONS A BIBLE

DON’T NEED JURY DUTY/ SOMETHING IMPORTANT/ PASSING THE GUARD I POINT TO HER CAP/ IN

ENGLISH SAY THIS SURE AIN’T PR/ SHE LOOKS AT ME UNCOMPREHENDING SO I REPEAT IN SPANISH

ESTO SI QUE NO ES PUERTO RICO!/ STILL STARES LIKE CAN’T MAKE OUT WHAT THE HELL I’M  SAYING/ I

REMEMBER THAT I DON’T LOOK PR (SO THEY SAY)/ MAY THINK I’M NOT SUPPOSED TO SPEAK SPANISH/

THAT I’M SOME WHITE WEIRDO IN MY LONG DESIGNER COAT OF MANY COLORS DIFFERENT FABRICS

PATCHES SEWN TOGETHER/ IT TIES AND LOOKS LIKE A BATHROBE/ MAY BE THINKING ONLY UNA

AMERICANA LOCA WOULD WEAR THAT/ OR MAYBE SHE COULD CARE LESS ABOUT DESIGNER COATS/

FROM THE BIT OF SKIN I CAN SEE SHE’S LIGHT SKINNED TOO/ TO ME SHE DOES LOOK

PUERTORRIQUENA/ AND THE HAT/ BUT MAYBE I’M WRONG/ COULDN’T SHE BE A BRIGHTON BEACH

RUSSIAN SOME RECENTLY ARRIVED EASTERN EUROPEAN IMMIGRANT/ DOESN’T THEIR ADVANCED

EDUCATION LAND THEM THESE PLUM UNION JOBS RIGHT AWAY/ FASTER THAN MANY PR’S HERE SO

MANY YEARS/ LIKE THIS ONE WHO GETS TO STAND IN THE COLD AND WAVE DANGER AWAY/ MAYBE

SOMEHOW THIS RUSSIAN LADY OR WOMAN  CAME ACROSS THE WARM CAP SELLING FOR REAL CHEAP/

SO CHEAP SO A GOOD DEAL SO WHAT IF IT SAID PUERTO RICO/ WE STARE AT ONE ANOTHER EACH

WITH HER OWN PRESUMPTIONS/ THEN SHE FINALLY SPEAKS/ SAYS QUE / SO I REPEAT IN ENGLISH

THEN IN SPANISH/ HOW DIFFERENT THIS WEATHER IS FROM PR’S/ I POINT TO HER CAP AND SHE THEN

PUTS DOWN HER HOOD/ PULLS THE CAP AWAY FROM HER EARS/ REMOVES HER EAR BUDS/ HOW

COULD I KNOW SHE WAS LISTENING TO MUSIC/ SHE SMILES SAYS OH SI ESTO SI QUE NO ES PR MIJA/

NO VEO LA HORA CONSEGUIR MI SOCIAL SECURITY/ ENTONCES RAPIDO RAPIDITO ME REGRESO A MI

BELLA BELLISIMA ISLITA/ I SMILE ALMOST HUG HER/ IN ENGLISH I WISH HER A GOOD DAY/ SAY

CUIDADO KEEP WARM/ SHE SMILES AGAIN PUTS THE FLAG UNDER HER ARM RUBS HER GLOVED

HANDS/ SHE SAYS THE SAME BACK TO ME CUIDATE TAKE CARE/  THEN ADDS QUE DIOS TE BENDIGA/

ONE CAN’T GET MORE PUERTO RICAN THAN THAT/ I’M MOVED TO TEARS BY HER WORDS/ EVEN IF I

DON’T BELIEVE IN GOD IT’S SUCH A KIND CARING BLESSING/ COSA DE FAMILIA.


© Lydia Cortes. Published by permission in Centro Voices on 10 April 2015.

Centro Voices (ISSN: 2379-3864).
The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of Centro Voices, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies or Hunter College, CUNY.