Marco Navarro


Vivid memory still speaks.
Monday. MLK Day. 2006.

Parents unable to visit.

Pops got sick, typical for
this time of year.

Only it’s different now.

Mom’s voice quivers, uncertain,
nervous, tears held back.
Maybe you should come.
So I make plans
I go.

Call at 11:03 on train platform.

Dad’s last rites given.
“I need you here. Please hurry.”

Heart skips 17 beats
wondering what on Earth happened
Mind races 10,000 marathons
in three-hour trip,
seemingly timeless.

Entering emergency room
I wonder

what to do, what to say
Aunt and Mom waiting
to hug, to console,
to guide me to pops as I

I crawl on tippie-toes,
feeling 9 again.

Entering solitary room with
beeps, whistles, and bloated man
I don’t recognize,
man whose vocal stature
shadows my demeanor.
Pops cannot speak,
for contraption in mouth
to keep air circulation
cuts his adjectives and activist dreams.
Father, always there to soothe me, 

screams with his eyes,
leaving me helpless to hug and hold,
for doing so may cause more
internal bleeding.

So what now?

I stay.

I stay    and stay    and stay.
I get frustrated, petrified, with
quivering lips
I whimper, I scream
and stay some more.
I visit I laugh
I sigh I cry
and when it’s time to leave
I stay again next week.
I stay for seconds
minutes   hours   days
and months
I stay.

I stay so much I can’t remember
when I wasn’t there.
Tube in throat now, still weak
and weighing 90 pounds,
Father greets me with brilliant brown eyes,

upward thumb.
I chat, I dance, I joke in ICU so much,
nurses are amazed at my levity.

No worries, Pops understands
and when he wills shoulders and head

just enough to sit upright
I nap, resting head on his lap.
He rests his hand on my forehead.


Marco E. Navarro (aka EngiNoet, wordplay on the title of “Engineer Poet”) has been an avid karate practitioner for 24 years.  He is also a licensed Professional Engineer in the state of New Jersey, currently working in traffic engineering and electrical contracting.  He holds a B.A in Puerto Rican & Hispanic Caribbean Studies and B.S. in Civil Engineering from Rutgers, as well as an M.S. in Civil Engineering (Transportation Systems) from North Carolina State University.  His work has appeared in Mad Poets Review, Left Behind, Love’s Chance Magazine, and The Montclair Times.  A lover of poems capturing conflicting emotions, sounds, internal thoughts, and the urban experience, he resides in Bloomfield, NJ. 

Security Blanket

I Read Puerto Rican Obituary

(A Tribute to Pedro Pietri)

I read Puerto Rican Obituary page by page
not just the poem, more than the mere words on
parchment, but the full book
I read it because it’s a rare find on the public ‘shelf
located no place close except this sanctuary in
Battery Park City, hugged by other bound verses
it’s out of print, deemed irrelevant, past its time
no one writes obituaries for Puerto Ricans anymore
I read it because I need stimulation after my subway

getaway, having chauffeured friends to Newark Airport

en route to a distant Motherland
I read it to ease the lactic acid of my 7 mile a.m. walk

I read it to digest my ham and scrambled morning
eggs, regular color, not green like Doctor Suess’
I read it to concoct a new metronome in my head

for a downtown Manhattan stroll, the background beat

as I go people-watching in search of vibrant corners

of unexplored minds

And it helps, you know, it helps
provide me with enough of multi-orgasmic throbs

between ear ducts and heartbeats to lubricate
the slow passage of mixed fruit morsels between
esophagus and stomach
it helps test the limits of my concentration, knowing
that poetry books are never meant to be read
page by page, much less cover to cover
it helps reinforce this notion that poetry is my drug,
words are my fix, and books my dealer, with
Poets House my drug cartel nirvana
it helps to be reminded that we don’t need largesse

to create artistic relevance, for beauty is innate
even under the guise of sarcasm, narcissism, bluntness,

between too much alphabetic abuse and nearly-overdosed

reality, making me a jittery mess, fiendin’ for a new

prompt, another hit to get me through the next

written stanza because it’s true, this Obituary, it’s all

true in some way, thought-provoking, and pure,
enveloped by time, absorbing this bliss, that metaphor,
reflecting on new visions that incite yet another mental
erection, similar to one underneath board shorts, watching
beach body beauties in bathing suits being
showered with sunrays along Rockefeller and Penny Parks
perusing fashion magazines and paperback novels while
listening to tunes on iPods at a pristine urban landscape,

alien mirages to some in other sectors of Gotham City who

are just looking for a chance, another chance, a first

chance, a better chance, because in this economy, those
opportunities happen to be mutually exclusive

I read Puerto Rican Obituary page by page
and I remember
I remember stories of cold apartments with no heat

from the radiators, leaving warmed ovens open for coziness
I remember telephone booths on every other corner
at a ten cent charge, followed by rows of public phones
demanding case quarters
I remember gasoline drum fires keeping the outdoors warm,
street rubbish accessorized by flying multi-colored leaflets,
platoons of squeegee men requesting tips for unsolicited

windshield washes at red lights
I remember dope fiends, homelessness, cockroaches,
sewer rats the size of Chihuahuas and Pugs
I remember payday meaning eating chuletas for once this week,
while listening to Papi talk about my migrant abuelo picking
apples in fincas near Philly instead of San Lorenzo Puerto Rico

I read Puerto Rican Obituary page by page

under overhead lighting in climate-controlled conditions

allowing nary a bead of sweat to trickle from my brow

unto those tattered, donated sheets, lest I pay for a book

out of print out of circulation at a priceless cost
a memento of author activist protagonist antagonist
El Reverendo Pedro Pietri, Nuyorican cultural icon

truth preacher of all-black garb and sidewalk urban fame

I read Puerto Rican Obituary page by page
and I think of Burgos, Piñero, Perdomo, and Espada
other Boricua poets whose writings remind me of family,
of strangers I’d hope to meet, of majesty and tragedy,

comfort and strife, of a life of words filled with love even

if the journey pained the heart,

I think of this and I smile, reading with back straight, for
this text reminds me of life, not death, of our persistence

and resistance, our successes and transgressions, for

in this browned work in my even browner hands, I read

a man’s love of our selves, legitimizing our worth and

experiences, if for no other reason than we continue to