Diasporican Interview feat. Manuel Fernández Juncos, Rafael Hernández, & Don Omar

by Malcolm Friend

What is your homeland?

A graveyard that will not swallow my bones.

The flesh and tissue refusing to dissolve around them.

The ocean’s swelling thirst.

What is your homeland?

This tightness in my pulse.

A nation crowding my chest.

Throat closing around my cries

of patria.

What is your homeland?

I suppose I have no room left for anthems.

¿Qué carajo even is an anthem with no nations to claim?

There are no context clues anymore.

I scream Borinquen but can’t decide if it’s in rebellion,

agony, or pride. They all sound the same to me these days.

What is your homeland?

This music I’m not supposed to have,

how I carry it the only way I know how:

burying it so deep in my flesh

I mistake its tremor for my heartbeat.

Diasporican School of Poetry

after Willie Perdomo

We gave up on happy endings.

La isla became a myth—

tierra del Edén and all that,

a paradise many of us

would never return to.

New York became our San Juan

until it wasn’t or

until we remembered

the archipelago was always more

than just San Juan, that we had

Ponce and Mayagüez and Humacao

or until we decided all we needed

was a CD player blasting Lavoe

and Maelo, a chuleta sizzling garlic

in a frying pan next to a pot

stewing habichuelas.

Spanish became optional

as long as you could dance salsa

or recite Clemente’s stats by memory

or make some mean-ass coquito

come Christmas—or just hang a bandera

with the correct shades of red and blue

in your window.

To understand all of this—

el orgullo, la vergüenza,

everything in between—

picture me sitting in the car

with my dad. We are on the way home

from the airport, Eddie Palmieri’s

“Puerto Rico” blaring from my laptop,

and Dad has to resist the urge

to pound his hands on the steering wheel

like it’s a set of timbales.

And he smiles as another Nuyorican

praises an archipelago he hasn’t seen

in over thirty years. And for the first time

I see him in the only place he has ever known

as home.

Malcolm Friend is a poet originally from the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. He received his BA from Vanderbilt University and his MFA from the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of the chapbook mxd kd mixtape (Glass Poetry, 2017) and the full-length collection Our Bruises Kept Singing Purple (Inlandia Books, 2018), selected by Cynthia Arrieu-King as winner of the 2017 Hillary Gravendyk Prize. Together with JR Mahung, he is a member of Black Plantains, an Afrocaribbean poetry collective.