J. M. Curét



J.M. Curét is an Afro-Latinx poet, writer, and author whose short story "Papi's Stroke" was published in The Acentos Review May 2020 issue. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area where he teaches high school English and Ethnic Studies and lends his voice to several local salsa bands.

Statement:  It feels like a non-stop exercise in proving my worth and relevance as a human being and making people understand how conditioning has made some of them less than human. It also feels like I am one of the most blessed and fortunate human beings on this planet because of my flavors, perspectives, and ancestors. It is a struggle worth every battle, every tear, and every bout with nihilism. Pa'lante.

I remember. An American white man in uniform once asked me my name. I told him it was Mario Jesús Cora. He asked me what kind of a name was that for a nigger? I told him I was Puerto Rican. ‘Same difference,’ he said. At that moment America made perfect sense to me. Even the phrase, same difference summed up the U.S - the acknowledgement that what is said, thought or believed isn’t necessarily true or all together accurate but that ultimately, what makes it untrue or inaccurate doesn’t really fucking matter in the big scheme of things because of the amount of people that truly don’t give a fuck. This is why I’m not surprised to find myself confined, monitored, and scrutinized. I’m surprised there aren’t more of us in here.

Even at a young age, I could tell there was something wrong with me. My aunt always made sure I knew. There was something in her too, something sarcoma-like steadily eating at her insides. I worked so hard to stay in her good graces. I longed to be the one to slay the dragon of despair that tortured her and made her so difficult to be around. But, how could I when I was partially responsible for the dragon, when the color of my skin brought her such angst and disappointment?

 “Listen,” my aunt Zulma would say. “If daddy had married a proper gringa or a natural blonde instead of my nappy-haired mother, I wouldn’t have to resort to the bottle for my hair. I wouldn’t have to resort to a lot of things, for a lot of things. Still, praise the lord for daddy’s strong Anglo genes.”

These were the early signs.

My real parents were dead before my first birthday. White policemen pulled my father over one night and claimed their lives were in danger when he reached for his wallet so they killed him. My mother’s death was ruled a mugging gone bad with no suspects or arrests. Her brother Frank and his wife Zulma raised me. They avoided conversations about my parents like many avoid talk of race and class. They were very American in that way. I remember.


The call for lights out bounces off pale gray tiled floors. One by one the fluorescent bulbs overhead are severed from their energy source. Darkness comes in intervals. Clicks and static muffled by padded walls. I remember. A bullet traveling through the right side of my body. In and out. I recall, “Drop your weapon!” after the fact. Everything before that day is a lie. I am constrained. Restrained. I lie awake remembering gunshots and fallen comrades.

We were from the diaspora.  Gringos with family ties to towns bearing Taino names. Yabucoa, Cayey, Humacao, Arecibo, Guayama. We were colonizer-cursed. Our true names replaced - Sanchez, Torres, García, Colondres, more lies, hidden beneath beautiful black and bronzed faces and bodies. A lost tribe of glorious brothers and sisters called to take back everything stolen from them, starting with our enchanted island of Borinquen. We were chosen.

When did I first hear the call? A dream.


Before I know it, the rock is leaving my hand and landing forcefully on the left side of the policeman’s head. The impact brings him to his knees and he drops the gun. “Run for your life!” I yell to Eugenio and that’s exactly what he does. Word on the street is that justice is defined by impartiality and objectivity in a rigged system of definitions so I sprint toward the officer and kick his gun as hard as I can and watch it disappear into a storm drain opening, I bellow a great big laugh then run down 19th make a right on Bryant and keep on going until my lungs burn.  Once safe I text Eugenio to make sure he’s okay and I can’t stop grinning. I see it all like a spectral projection of past and future and death assured, and I think not today you evil motherfucker. And then it dawns on me he didn’t see my face and I’m bent over, consumed in giddiness. I’m an anonymous avenger! I want my cape to be purple. Earth, Wind and Fire’s Fantasy is blaring through the clouds.

         Eugenio is dead. Whatever the headlines, another unarmed, unwhite man is dead, and damn it if he doesn’t look like me! Again! He’s shown in a picture taken for his yearbook: toothless smile, eyes already suspicious of it all yet, gleaming with the fire and promise within, collared shirt bought at Ross, his tio’s tie and a maroon velvet jacket his mom found on the sales rack at Urban Outfitters after asking Omar at the corner grocery to please wait until next month for what she owed. His name is Eugenio, born of a certain hue broke and betrayed, marked before being. America is like heaven, except when you’re being shot, caged, beaten, berated, belittled, blamed, and bullied.

Some cops really do enjoy hurting black and brown folk—but if you ask, who could possibly enjoy doing something like that, you are asking the wrong question. I think of myself an idealistic pragmatist, a patriot, except when grandma asks whether I’m Puerto Rican or American, then of course I say “Boriqua hasta la muerte, abuela!” with my clenched fist in the air. (She doesn’t quite get the concept that Puerto Ricans are American citizens). Isn’t it about power? Eugenio was always better than me at standing up to racists.

The U.S. is an unmovable object being slammed by the unstoppable forces of change, evolution and good ‘ol cosmic karma and I am a law abiding minority—except for in my soul, right in the center of my essence, is a bit of reckoning, recklessness, a patient knowing. Another bullet off his shoulder, another in his chest. Then he’s drifting away, (Papi;Eugenio) his life draining out before him as he disappears, forsaken. Another day in America. The dream, the experiment, the melting pot of humanity simmering under the violent flames of isms —it burns to touch, to taste. I emerge from my hiding place. Swish, go my Nikes on the puddled pavement. “Hasta la victoria, siempre!!!!” I shout. Hate is a bullet in my belly.



© The Acentos Review 2020