Denice Frohman


Denice Frohman is a poet, performer, and educator from New York City. She is a CantoMundo Fellow, former Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion and Leeway Transformation Award recipient. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Winter TangerineNepantla: An Anthology Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color (Nightboat Books), Women of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism (OR Books), and has garnered over 7.5 million views online. She has featured at over 200 colleges; hundreds of high schools, non-profits, and cultural arts spaces; and at The White House in 2016. She has a Master’s in Education and currently tours the country.

& mommy says throw me in the river when I’m dead

& don’t let somebody’s god / intervene / i suerga / get rid of my bones / give me ash    
give me powdered flesh / give me a new york city skyline / pour me in the Hudson / but
 only the middle / the clean part /
i tell her there is no clean / part of the Hudson /
it’s a landfill of things / that stay dead / & like it  / that way & don’t you /
wanna be reborn / on the other side / of hunger?

     well, put me where it goes & goes & never stops / & i say what about Lares /
     & she stares at the tv / long enough for us to drown / in it / until her
     tongue washes up like driftwood / …it’s gonna rain in new york today /
     (but what about Lares) i have so many things to do / (but what about
     Lares) / have you called your father? / it could be Lares / or Adjuntas / it’s
     somewhere / in the middle / listen / i don’t really know where i’m from / okay /
     all we had / was green bean soup / & the dirt / between our toes / & since i
     didn’t have no shoes / I don’t want any in the next life / just put me in the river /
     where death / is an interlude / & heaven / is a quick name change / at jay street /
     call me: butterfly with leopard coat / call me: Ceiba with wild hair / call me
     anything / but 6 feet under / this is the only ritual / I want.

          on wednesday i call her about a hurricane / & no, I’m not 
          talking / about a man / though that will come soon / she says 
          our family is fine / i know this is the language of / pain says they 
          know what to do / i know this is the language of survival

               we grew up with that, nena / but let me tell you / when everything 
               is gone / even the buried / feel it / don’t you
               dare / let me keep my body /
               you hear me.

A queer girl’s ode to the piraguero

Oh, Piraguero! My first lover.
The only man I ever wanted
anything from. I sprinted half blocks for you, got off
the bus two stops early, took the long way home
just to see: your rainbow umbrella. 

Oh, Piraguero!
Candy-cool syrup god

When the viejitas ask for the 10th time whether I got “un novio”
the closest name on my tongue was you! Who else made me break
my neck in two? Who else gave me so much…for a dollar?
Who raised hell when they nicknamed your island
snow cone, (or worse) shaved ice? 

I trusted you! The hallelujah work of your bare hands
the dirty white kitchen towel you laid over
a fat block of ice & never once did I ask questions.
& when they pushed you off 9th ave, when you packed up
on 96
th, I only saw you after ball games on 131st & 5th. 

When the hipsters threw ice in paper cups,
added nutmeg & real ingredients like,
mint leaves, called this an “upscale makeover”
for a poor man’s treat. I wanted to shout out:
Leave my man alone. 

Who else could turn a blue shopping cart
into a 57’ chevy? Or a mom-n-pop shop? Maybe the elotero
on El Centro, the churro ladies by the A train. Maybe my mama
once, the nanny, who sowed curtains for a couple upstairs,
made an office out of her hands, like my pops 

who cut his saxophone into the velvet flesh
of night, rearranged the altitude
of a Paladium dancefloor & then:
a plump wad of cash, a worn rubber band
a 401(K) shoe-box, which is to say
praise everything       we build 

under the table—the underworld
of workers & wielders, America’s
thumping baseline, the chorus
of a country where 2-for-1
is the best hook to every good song I know 

         like the way you turn my tongue
    into a red carpet, like the first woman
                                   I ever loved.

Oh, Piraguero…
you winter my whole mouth,
you conductor of cool 

you’re the only one I know,
the only one who can govern
the thick heat, like a DJ scratching
a glacier, you make the whole city




















© The Acentos Review 2018