Andrés Castro

Abuelo’s Last Wish: Independence


1.    The Mainland 1970


Abuelo was tall skeletal thin with thick wavy black hair,

dark brown eyes set deep above his nose and square jowls,

shaven with marbled soap, straight razor, and bay rum.

He wore Chinese laundered shirts, Bogart grey cuffed suits,

a vested time piece, fedora, and brown wing-tipped shoes;

but shirtless, he would climb jerry-built wooden scaffolds

set against his old wooden two-story home in the Bronx.

Seemed his happiest days were spent hammering, painting,

or shingling the roof; maybe Sundays were best: breakfast,

La Iglesia Christiana, singing hymns softly on the porch.


2.    Borinquén 1971


He returned to a dirt road that snaked by open fields,

abandoned plantations, palm trees, finally disappearing

in a lagoon. His corrugated tin-roofed shack sat atop stilts

on a stony plot of farmland fenced in by thin uneven slats

and chicken wire. Black-spotted mangoes hung from short

bushy trees; his orange-red chickens trotted around piglets;

little green lizards played tag on the brown outhouse doors;

the old goat with wise feminine eyes nibbled at the rope 

that collared her. Behind a large screened porch window,

Abuelo, shirtless, hunched over a sun-bleached workbench,

listening to an antique radio, smiled at me; his long gnarled

fingers rolling cigars he would almost never sell in town.


Notes: 1. Borinquén is the pre-Columbian name given to Puerto Rico by the native Taino people. 2. A de facto colony of the U.S. since 1898, and denied independence or statehood by the U.S. Congress. 3. The island remains a U.S. government subsidized haven for corporations that heavily influence and often corrupt local politicians and policy makers. 4. The local island government currently finds itself bankrupt. 5. Over 45% of the population is living below the U.S. poverty line. 6. On December 9, 2015, the GOP blocked a proposed bankruptcy bill that would allow the Puerto Rican government the opportunity to restructure its debt. 7. I encourage readers to check my facts.


There are Fellow Travelers and then There are Fellow Travelers



Ruben choked on his vomit today;



felt the urge to vomit before; but today


he tilted his head back and guzzled. He


had begun to vomit months ago—a little


at first: barely perceptible squirts attributed


to clams. When trickles turned to mouthfuls


he knew something was truly wrong…so bloody


wrong, thoughts of getting to a doctor made him


laugh. What MD could save him now? He knew


vomit was no joke; not to be played with; not


ignored. Rubin remembered a student who


vomited herself to death after boyfriend


said she was too fat to be his girl. She


wasted away, her eyes black pits,


sitting still in Introduction


to The Romantics


at NYU.




Ruben’s friend Jim, 


the cook, had drowned 


in vomit in his reclining chair. 


Had told Ruben and whoever listened


that he dreamed himself an intergalactic traveler


stranded on Earth. Jim grew old saying the human species


was ruled by reptilian aliens enslaving and consuming — Listen,


these colonizers are everywhere! He threw up in the soup of everyone 


he thought collaborator before leaving The Sky High on the Upper East Side.


Ruben's vomiting had begun in the teacher’s lounge after getting news his son


committed suicide — had begged his boy not to enlist—saying more to fear


from a homegrown racist with a bomb. His son had crowed he was proud 


to be an American—laughed the bitches love medals on hard Marines!


Ruben went mad with his son’s death; all the new lies called victories


in Afghanistan and Iraq finished him. His epitaph: I learned too late.




The young teacher that jumped into Ruben’s shoes


was straight out of college and a tender heart—did


not complain at all about the smell of vomit, vomit


on the floor, or the crusty yellow stains on his desk.


Told his Principal: sure, the Common Core is a great idea!


These kids need discipline and middle class values!     

© The Acentos Review 2016