nails claw at the balloon beneath my collarbones,
the threat of my air floating away, each finger
a child with too many eyes, admiring
the possibility of being lost forever,
the first time i watched
my sanity fly
i placed each brown cell in a row
against the wall of my veins,
shot them a look saying
we don’t die this way.
they will call it a
i will know
it as the day my
body made a party
of blood, all confetti friends
telling of the sorrow i must have
owned like a collar.
i, collared boy,
with a bridge burden
beneath my fingernails,
fly for the glimpse of a sun,
throw up string to tie my limbs
together, lighten myself in seconds.
know, i am forever followed, yet breathe
Male pattern baldness comes
from your mother’s father
so you’re fucked nene
but I was fourteen once
hair a close curl of unwant
so I mixed aguacate and
mayonnaise into a thick paste
washed my hair in it for weeks,
scalped the ocean, smoothed
I call an Afro a bramble of broom edges
Cornrows, fingers of a ghetto still choking
us. Not many people know you can change
the texture of your hair in two weeks.
I can’t seem to remember
who taught me this but Abuela
had an aguacate tree in Toa Alta.
As if the fruits of our labor
wanted nothing more
than to give us back
Noel Quiñones is an AfroBoricua writer, performer, and educator born and raised in the Bronx. He has received fellowships from Poets House, CantoMundo, the Watering Hole, and Brooklyn Poets. His poems have appeared in Pilgrimage Press, Kweli Journal, Winter Tangerine Review, Asymptote, and elsewhere. Visit him @NQNino322.
Photograph by Christie MacLean