Maiming the Island



oppression lives in my last name
a name that identifies
the trunk I branched from
with roots anchored
in Puerto Rico

Morales, from Aibonito
surname of Spanish origin, meaning
‘one who’s lived by a mulberry bush’

and mom’s side, Nieves
from Arecibo
‘Our Lady of the Snows’

la Isla where great-grandma
was forced to flee, with
ten kids on hips and back
because discrimination
said her fair skin ought
not to link with black
she birthed brown babies
abandoned and
chased across the ocean

Papa, my grandfather
loved la Isla
in a shared tin house
nestled in
the middle of the island
but colonialism is tough
a family needs more
than white rice and eggs
he flew to New York
in the fifties
and ran a bodega

Puerto Rico was enslaved
stripped of sugar cane
and coffee crops
where people were massacred
on Palm Sunday
and restricted to vote
for president
today’s debilitation
speaks the same dialect
intentional disabling
restricting resources
maiming the people

over 4,000 Puerto Ricans dead
4,000 human beings, blood
same that flows through me
veins, impassioned vessels
an oceanic causeway
for the ancestor’s voice
that’s bubbled in rage
for basic human rights
as people are sucked
into the mouths of hurricanes
the president plays golf

my people struggle
to keep afloat
half-baked under
Caribbean sun
casas, no roof
no electricity,
no running water
the mountains care more
than the U.S. government
paper towels thrown at us
and FEMA, aborted

heart monitors cease
dialysis machines stop
intubated lungs deflate
life support loses breath
thousands of people die
they even lie about that
a genocide formulation
as their eyes peer our land
gluttonous fingertips
reaching, to swipe our soil
while bodies perish in despair
they ignore the screams
entangled in palm trees
and the straining gurgles
that ebb and flow ashore

politicians are thieves
a ravenous culture
profiting from our deaths
and destructed properties
eyeing opportunities
from our misfortune
narcissists with agendas
look to capitalize
on coquis and
beauteous beaches
indigenous wail
as gushing wounds
are preyed on
and gasping breaths

lack of humanity scares me
this level of disconnect

chains are still clanking
the Jones Act snickers
oppression is real
and has lived too long
but our spirits
won’t allow us to give up
because our family names
remind us of those before us
and the fight they fought
to the fight we fight
with spines split forth
bent and hung over
a shattered land
but ancestors uplift
with valor and strength
to bolster our souls
above the peak
of Cerro de Punta

so, let it be known
we will figure it out
we will revive the soil
and plant new seeds
earth will reciprocate
all that we’ve sown
what’s ours is ours
and so it is.

©Liza Morales


Sweetener 27/30


I like my coffee hot, real hot. I prefer it bold and robust and lightly sweetened. Sometimes, I use flavored creamers to sweeten it, other times I use organic raw sugar.
I must say, every time I use sugar, I can’t help but think of my island, Puerto Rico and its rich production of sugar in the 19th century. I can’t help being reminded of the hourless days they toiled under grave conditions, for pennies a day. I can’t help but think of all the slaves that were imported for the greed of gluttons. I can’t help but think of how Puerto Rico’s sugar industry was manipulated, drained of their resources and ultimately dominated by outside capital, the United States.

sugar industry
arable land, plantations
stolen molasses.

©2016 Liza Morales

(Haibun poetry)