My aunt in the Bronx grows an island in Apartment 3C, learned it from her mother.
Titi Judy sits in her rocker within a labyrinth of leafy palm, amapolas pushing
their way through a wall of cigar smoke. Vine extends itself, tangles
in her graying curls. A hummingbird flits and I sit cross-legged
on her mahogany floor, waiting for her to begin after a few deep drags.
She recounts her instructions, how to plant Puerto Rico:
First, you need to lay seeds.
Your Abuela Rosa used exquisitely dapper dressed uncles
in white suits, bulbs in the bills they spread over her kitchen table.
Then, there is a recipe to read aloud, which does the growing. Careful
with this one, Ysa— they’re the same words my brujo cousins wielded,
grinding pestle to pilón. But, God knows
what’s being crushed in the mortar and if done right
an abundance of Caribbean jungle and fruit.
Done wrong, you won’t be able to rid yourself of the haunts in your hallway.
I can see her eyes now midst haze and green, looking behind me.
She smiles, nods. I turn, no one’s there.
I leave her to the cigar, walk towards the balcony, feel a cool breeze
through my hair, smell of salt, drops of water on my arm.
I look around and it’s no wonder ripened mangoes lay on the floor by my feet.
I grab one, toss it towards the woman waiting on the sidewalk for an express bus;
she picks it up, turns it over. Her sweet smile—that’s when I know
my aunt’s island can grow outside this apartment, too.
© Ysabel Y. Gonzalez. Published by permission in Centro Voices on 24 April 2015.