Maritza in the Pulse of the Street

Brick buildings tired above courtyards,
like aging prison guards
wheezing in the New York City heat.
Their glares protect the neighborhood

from trees. Air packs
fried plantains and roach spray
in a moldering bag, then lingers
in alleyways.

Her pleather shoes leave
streamers of red childhood
against a sizzling asphalt. Friends
pull by the arms, towing her body
behind their laughs. Feet drag

and thump against concrete
in syncopated sound,
a weak backbeat to shrills
from the open volume
of a fire hydrant.

Maritza resists the tugs
of her friends, until the spray
covers her head, torso,
and skin-stretched legs.

Shrieking as the water hits
her new dress, she clings
to her candy-red
cellophane wrapping, then giggles
street-innocent in this
on-the-way-home moment,
where she cools
her urban smoldering.

The children’s wet play
reverberates,
down the block, congas
beyond sunset.

Grandmothers look out
from tenement windows
predicting weather they already know.

 

Originally published in Ellipses… Literature and Art, 2012