Ashley Johnson

After the Puerto Rican Day Parade

It all started with a fight
like most history lessons do
Men clad in a musky scent of loss
donned patriot’s colors and not much else 

Parades in New York can be mile wide bar fights—
depending on the weather 

If you got enough sun in your skin
having pride is a riot— 

¡Despierta, borinqueño
que han dado la señal!
¡Despierta de ese sueño
que es hora de luchar! 
Arise, boricua!
The call to arms has sounded!
Awake from the slumber,
it is time to fight!

Explosions always start with cocktails or malta

Why can’t the Puerto Ricans just enjoy their parade
do they have to act like animals?

said three fifths a man soon to be ghost

A small girl made of paper crumbles
Her mother nods in disgust,
tries to console the child—
unfold her fear 

They say privilege is a veil

Puerto Ricans thirst for acceptance
an isle with less people than Manhattan
neither country nor nation
Our existence is a fist 

le dará el machete
su libertad…
le dará el machete
su libertad.
the machete will give him
his liberty,
the machete will give him
his liberty.

The boys in blue hear the cries of the crumbling paper people
and try to turn my brothers’ faces into flags 

The patriots just laugh
What is Fear to the lost—
those born fighting 

We will claim any territory we can
This is only one battle—
one loss 

We too, will fight to be free

Vámonos, borinqueños,
vámonos ya,
que nos espera ansiosa,
ansiosa la libertad.
¡La libertad, la libertad! 
Come on, Borinquen,
Let's go,
We wait anxiously,
Anxious freedom.
Freedom, freedom![1]

[1] Lyrics from the original Puerto Rican National Anthem

“How will you have prepared for your death?”
After Bhanu Khapil 

My brother smiles craters into my chest. He reminds me that the body is both strong and vulnerable. After losing a game of monsters I lie limp across the living room floor and he pretends to weep over my slain body. Trying my best not to laugh, I pop up when I feel his tears grazes my skin. I look into him and ask,

“What happened?”

I thought I killed you

“We were just playing pretend!”

I smile and hold him until he shakes off the trauma. We never speak about what it means to die because dead is a word heavier than either of our mouths can handle. 

A student today asks me what it means to be vulnerable.

Broken smiles are contagious
His body is too young to be corpse—
There are dead people sitting with me on the train as I write this.
Fear is a cold that seeps through to the marrow.

Ashley 'Ajay' Johnson
is a 21 year old Bronx -Bred writer and tea enthusiast. In a world where people rather spend time fighting against love than looking for it, a young cyborg by way of the Bronx is trying to fashion the romance back into our lives where it belongs: neatly in our shirt pockets. 

© The Acentos Review 2013