requiem for summer

roberto santiago: requiem for summer

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Papí playing dominoes with the other fathers.
Mamí and the other women swapping
bochinche for recipes and “remember when” stories.

As a little Puerto Rican Boy growing up
in the Bronx there were several traditions
that the summer sun inspired:

My bike and the closed-to-traffic Concourse
stretching past Fordham. The endless
parades that floated past the courthouse.

The moment someone’s father cracked open
the pump, twisting the entire block
into the biggest water-park we’d ever seen.

Trips to Johnny’s Reef until the stars fell
silent.Trips to Rye Playland. A poor family’s Disney.
The pools.  The car-rides.  The beach.

Orchard beach wasn’t just a strip of sand on the sound,
it’s a collage of colour.
A stage.  A getaway.  A riviera for the Rivera’s.

As Salsa burned through the salted breeze
my single starred bandera would dance.
The boomboxes.  The live music.  The cooler
filled with recently bodega’d sandwiches,
Coronas sweating, and the fried chicken Mamí made
the night before which always tasted better the next day.

The spf and piña colada your Tia made
sure you slathered on before you did anything fun.
Even though she slathered her bronze with baby oil
to ensure she stayed beautiful. The sounds the waves made
against the shore. The sounds your Tia made as the waves touched her hair.

Never wanting to leave the cool of the wet sand,
The hopscotch you had to play to avoid
the dreaded barefoot sojourn to the lavahot of the dry sand.
The same sand that moved in with you for the entire summer
no matter how much you scrubbed.

Orchard Beach was my isla
before I knew la isla.
There I felt I belonged.
To the water.  To the sand.  To the people.

Everytime I return to that beach
the memories bomba to the plena of yesterday
and I begin to long for future summers.

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