January 23, 2018

Noel Quiñones

PERMISSION

With lines from “Inside a Suicide Prevention Center in Puerto Rico,” a New York Times documentary

You have my permission to grieve.
If I hear wind, I might think they’re on a balcony
How long have you wanted to hurt yourself?
We all want to escape but there is no map.

If I hear wind, I might think they’re on a balcony
when I say Puerto Rico. I mean an opening in the skin
I want to escape from but there is no map.
This type of call is very common.

When I say Puerto Rico I mean an opening in the skin
where gold turns green under my scalp.
This type of call is very common,
María, like a buzzsaw, shaving off the top of the island

where gold turns green under my scalp.
She says Yo quiero volar. To fly. And she will do it
like a buzzsaw, shaving the top half of the sky.
This is part of the process, I cannot let you go.

Yo quiero volar. To escape. And I will do it
if no one can remember my name.
This is part of the process, I cannot let you go
until you feel like you are suffocating.

If no one can remember my name
it means another Hurricane has come.
I feel like I am suffocating
but sometimes I just can’t find the words

to name another Hurricane.
I sing Despierta Borinqueño, de ese sueño
but sometimes I just can’t recall the words
in 119 syllables.

Despierta Borinqueño, de ese sueño
you have my permission to grieve.
In 119 syllables, tell me
how long have you wanted to hurt yourself?

from Poets Respond
January 23, 2018

[download audio]

__________

Noel Quiñones: “In the aftermath of Hurricane María, Puerto Rico has been struggling to rebuild and been denied federal grants to do so. While reporters and news stations have focused on people’s access to food, water, and electricity we are seeing a new crisis develop. The New York Times published a mini documentary entitled ‘Inside a Suicide Prevention Center in Puerto Rico’ at the beginning of January highlighting the mental health crisis now taking hold. As a third generation Puerto Rican, I have never been able to shake the pain of being from a place that is not quite a country and not quite a state. We have always lived in a precarious identity and while many state Hurricane María as the beginning of our traumas, we have suffered since America’s invasion 119 years ago.” (author suggests donating here)

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