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This week in our series highlighting the poetry of Southern Latinx writers, we share two spectral and tender poems by Ariel Francisco, "Eating Dinner Alone at the 163rd Street Mall" and "My Mom Tries To Convince Me To Buy Her House", which explore the concept of home, belonging and impermanence. "But the machines constant / plea reminds me that I'm doomed / to be Earthbound"
Read more from 'This Work Will Take Dancing' here.
Eating Dinner Alone At the 163rd Street Mall
As a kid I wanted to be
the first man on Mars,
pictured myself planting the stars
and stripes into the god of war's
face for all the universe to see,
I never imagined myself
at twenty-six grabbing a slapdash
dinner after class at the half-
abandoned 163rd street mall,
a break from bargain hunting because
it has both a Ross and a Marshalls
among the bootleg shops,
the vacant spaces, the coming
soons that will never be.
It's just me and the cashier
of The Florribean, the singular knight
in what passes for a food court,
and my order echoes through
the wide halls, the three-storied
ceiling the way a death-
rowers last meal request
must flood the stale air
of his concrete cell. I pay
in change and take my styrofoam
container of mismatched
island food to a table surrounded
by kiddie rides hungry for coins—
a killer whale, sad as the real thing
wasting away at SeaWorld,
and beyond it a gleaming white
rocket ship, its strange, futuristic voice
calling out to me, please
insert coin, please insert coin,
and for a moment, I smile,
consider cramming my adult body
into that tiny command center,
let the rocking seize my imagination
into ascent through atmospheres,
until sunlight falls away, leaving
only the naked sphere surrounded
by the blackness of space.
But the machines constant
plea reminds me that I'm doomed
to be Earthbound,
star-crossed, having spent
my last quarters on this cold
jerk chicken, rice, and beans.
My Mom Tries To Convince Me To Buy Her House
I tell her I have no money
and she says that's fine, you
don't need money to buy a house.
I say my credit is shit, she says
that's fine mijo, someone will finance
you, it's the American way. I groan
Miami will be underwater in forty
or fifty years, so what's the point?
She laughs and shrugs and says
that's fine, I'll be dead by then and—
I mean— checkmate, right?