Jacqueline Jiang

It is late
Y los niños dicen que they are tired,
Que ya bajó el sol
And they are ready to sleep by candlelight.

I should know.

The balcony is so beautiful
When all you see are the stars,
And all you hear is silence
& the sound of an old kazoo played
Across the street by someone half your age.

There is nothing left except hope,
And the stars.

Esperanza says
Wait until the coffee can be grown
It will take 5 years for the plátanos to be ours,
Until then, they come from La República,
Avoiding the storm,
Seeing the living.

My best friend in the city
Lost her father to la planta;
It sat in the middle of the bedroom
& he closed himself into it.

We sat in the dark,
Shared drinking water with our neighbors,
Watched historical buildings
Break into communion bread for hurricanes.

We waited for sun to come.
4,645 people never saw it rise.
4,645 people left their shoes in front of Ricky Rosselló’s home,
Said goodbye.
Their time had come.

I read books by Junot Díaz in la oscuridad,
Wondered how places like Paterson y El Barrio would survive sin luz.
I envision guns,
Asaltos Navideños happening at the corner store.
As if those things didn’t happen here.
As if we were immune to la desesperación.

The dead speak to us all.
Turn off the gas,
Step outside.
Inhale El Morro in its stubborn beauty.

It had been almost 100 years since a natural disaster
Came to remind us of our worth.

I hang my work shirts out to dry.
Jesús, María y José I overhear
The neighbor pray,
Deep in fervor.

It is late, the children say.
We are all so tired, murmuran los ancianos.
It is cold at nights,
Los mosquitos bailan en un sueño eterno.

We hope
That our island grows back into a nation.
We transform
To keep our loved ones together.

We fight
For our centers to be illuminated
Under turmoil, times of trouble, and darkness with no return. 

20 de septiembre

You said we should stay together, 
That natural disasters make people grow closer. 
(I thought, “Or sometimes tear them apart.”) 

You said that our people needed us, 
I agreed, 
And we went forth into the world, our island, 
Giving out water and food, fighting against fear,
Loving each other in lack of light. 

But how was I to know
That the heat would make us sweat
So much
That we would separate? 
Our atoms ripping apart,
The gallon of water a day, 
Not sufficient to make us feel full,

You bathed me with the remains of liquid life
9 drops of bleach to kill the bacteria
And as we rationed those last drops,
I should have known that what was natural
Was to separate. 

The disaster was our hands still held
When everything around us said 
fall apart. 

Jacqueline Jiang is an educator and a Master’s student at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras. She also works as a poet mentor in high schools throughout the island and offers creative writing workshops to middle school students. Her academic and creative work are both written with the goal of educating the outsiders about the current (and past) socio-political situation in Puerto Rico. She co-chaired the Caribbean Without Borders conference at the University of Puerto Rico and was most recently published in The Acentos Review. You can reach her at jiang.c.jacqueline@gmail.com.