Saturday, December 19, 2015

Loss and Gains and Living too Well

The day after I came to the United States from Santo Domingo, I had a good job waiting for me. This factory paid minimum wage but hey I needed the money and I know how to use a machine and sew. I wanted to get away from Santo Domingo, not only because there was no future there for me but because the past was stinging. To get away would release me from my painful memory of my ex-husband who left me when I hadn’t had a child after a year of marriage and his new girlfriend got pregnant. After months of suffering humiliation and loss I decided I was ready for a change, something to give me a future where I didn’t need a man. I could start fresh. Have a new life!
There were no jobs back home that suited me and as much as other Americans complain about this type work, over where I came from I wouldn’t have a TV, or steady electricity to keep the TV going so like other young girls I came here to Woodside Queens.
I’d had bad luck before with men so I was looking forward to living independently. And I did live independently for a very long time. I came to this country when I was 20 years old, in 1962 and didn’t speak a word of English but I got along. The stores in my neighborhood were bodegas and were run by Hispanics.
After living alone for five years I met Jose. He seemed like a decent fellow and he pursued me. He was a single Dad and he worked in a European Car repair shop. I liked being with him and he liked the things I liked, good movies and good food. I never met a man before who cleaned either but every Saturday Jose got up and worked till the floors shone. Not to brag but I’m an excellent cook. We finally moved into a decent building, a state subsidized Mitchell-Lama co-op and for the first time, we owned something decent. Working in a sweatshop for thirty years isn’t the greatest but now we could look forward to our golden years. I planned to retire in five years and he said he’d wait an extra year to earn more and get a better social security benefit. I helped him raise his two sons, and his ex wife was grateful, occasionally sending gifts or presents and seeing her son rarely. She was not very stabile and had enough sense not to look a gift horse in the mouth.
The time had finally come when we were rewarded and could enjoy the fruits of our labor like the bible promises.  First I retired and a year late, according to plan, Jose retired.  We were both retired and collecting social security, plus had our savings. We’d always put money into an IRA plus saved what we could, scrimping everywhere we could. His social security was much more than mine. Mine was only $958 a month and his was $1469. That’s probably, God forgive me, the one good thing about Jose being gone, is that now I collect his social security, which makes life easier for me.
About a half year before he died, he began to argue with me all the time, which had never happened before. He accused me of looking over his shoulder when he was doing his banking. I had always done so before. After all it was both of our accounts. My looking over his shoulder had never bothered him before. We’d always done these things together before, usually over his shoulder since it seemed too much a bother to drag a chair over to the computer. We’d done everything together, including two yearly vacations, one at his son’s house in Cape Coral and the other week we spent with family in Santo Domingo, near Puerto Plata, for two weeks every winter. These holidays were good times for us. We didn’t have to pay for a hotel, and the basically the extras were only gifts. After all, one eats wherever he goes so it didn’t come from our savings.
Thirty-nine years we were married. It would have made forty years in two more months if he’d stayed alive and hadn’t died. The pain and ridicule feel as strong today as they did the day he died. Can you imagine falling for that young woman? Jose was seventy years old and she is only thirty-eight years old. I am sixty four years old. The day he died I had grown very suspicious about what was going on between Jose and Donora. Donora is the managing agent in our Co-op.

Six months is a long time to go completely deceiving one’s self, but that’s been my entire M.O. these past few years so in actually – in comparison – six months is short. It’s been difficult to hide the truth from myself, but I gave it my damnedest. Now, finally, I’m ready to accept the truth. I’ve lived with this secret so long and been hiding it for over a year. The only other person who knows works here still where I live plus my sister knows but she lives downtown. That’s it. Today for the first time, a year from the day he died, I told another neighbor. I know she will tell at least one other woman who she is close with, a religious Jewish woman, but I need someone to help. I told my neighbor because she is the one who always helps me when I need, like going to surrogates court to fill out papers. Every time I share the truth of what really happened it feels less painful. I’m not sure if this is really true or if I say it to delude and justify myself from telling someone.
Married all these years and Jose had never disrespected me before. I raised both his sons. His ex-wife and their mother had been a ditz who really didn’t want to spend her time bringing up children. I remember she said, “You can have them. I know they’ll love you more than me because you’re more stable plus I know I’m not a great mother. As long as I see them once a week or so is good enough for me.” Ava always seemed grateful and appreciative. The children lived with us. I trusted Jose. He was my life, and even more so since retirement.
I didn’t see what was right in front of my eyes. He even brought Donora to my table to eat and I cared for her two children for free, fed them while she worked late. I did it for Jose, because he asked me. She and her children sat at my table and ate the food I cooked. Black beans and rice, fried fish and salad with bread. I served them too.
           “What are you trying to see?” Jose yelled! So cranky and short tempered, said in the same ill-mannered way, the same way which characterized his tone and behavior towards me during the last year of his life.
           “Don’t you trust me anymore?” Jose said exasperated with me, as he now always seemed.  Jose continued, “We just discussed what I was gonna do and I told you I was moving some money to our bank in Santo Domingo. You said OK do it so we have money when we’re there. So what is the problem now? Why are you looking over my shoulder? Don’t you believe that’s the truth? That I’m doing what I say I’m doing? What are you standing over me for?”
           I backed off. I retreated to the kitchen or another place where he wouldn’t target me that I’m trying to spy on him. I tried to show him the respect we’d become accustomed to before hoping he’d return to his former ways with me.  I’d always allowed Jose to be man of our house. Do I have to say more that that – you know what I mean – old –fashioned Latinos in spite of living here in NYC. We’d both moved here in our teens from DR, and our neighborhood in Washington Heights is like a little Santo Domingo.  
           Jose had last say and he seemed so agitated.  Not wanting to make matters worse, I retreated to the kitchen to prepare rice and beans. Jose had to have his fresh rice and beans every day. They had to be cooked the same way. It had to have racaito, cilantro, onion and garlic plus one large spoon only tomato paste. It was unusual for Jose to pick fights and be so aggressive.  I wondered privately if it was due to the sexual incident between us. I guessed it was the sex thing because the last time we’d tried, he’d been embarrassed when he went soft. The following day, he changed. He began to spend more time in the bedroom next to mine. I think he was afraid of a repeat performance.
           It occurred to me he could see a doctor but Jose is so macho I feared humiliating him, so I thought I was leaving well enough alone. I wish I’d thought twice and in retrospect, I wish I wasn’t so old fashioned. You know pregnant and in the kitchen was familiar and although I’d been barren I had fostered Jose’s two sons, from the time they were four and seven years old respectively.
           I admit I still had no clue why his behavior to me had changed. Before, every morning he went to the gym at 6 a.m., then return by 8 to make coffee for me. I’d cook and shop while he cleaned the house. I liked our little domestic routine. Jose liked the floor to shine. He was immaculate when it came to cleaning house. He’d shine those floors to a spit. I still miss him. Jose was handsome, strong, enigmatic, cheerful and outgoing with light skin. I’m dark and wouldn’t call myself anything but Negra. Not so pretty but definitely not ugly. Standard I’d judge. Nothing special except for homemaking skills, managing being a mother to two children who weren’t mine plus working a full time job and cooking for all of us daily. Serious stuff, women’s work is never done.
           The past week, I’d noted he’d seemed a little distant and came home around noon, kind of shamefaced to be so long, and always with a new story. ‘I ran into Joe, (our local senator), and we had a long talk,’ Jose said with a straight face. ‘Joe asked for help to get Nancy Rodriguez on the ballet as house representative. I couldn’t just walk away. You know I have to help him. This was one story, then there was, ‘I ran into Carol, my sister at the big gym and we had coffee and she took forever she had so much to tell.” I did notice that over the past two months he gradually stayed away from home more and more and seemed more irritable, ready to pick a fight. When I tried to reason with him he yelled at me and as he walked out the door, said he was going somewhere. You fill in the blanks as to what.
           The next day while vacuuming the run I picked up a little blue pill. I wouldn’t have believed a word Irma had said if I hadn’t found that pill on the floor the day before. I brought that little blue pill to the pharmacist to identify.
Irma first brought it to my attention. “Do you know he brings breakfast to the managing agent in the office every day?”
I didn’t know so I conspired to watch him more. I also got mad at Irma. You know what they say about kill the messenger. In retrospect I understand she wasn’t to blame, but it made me not trust her too. Over the next two weeks, every time Jose left the house around 8:30 in the morning. I waited until I heard the elevator close and took the next elevator down. I arrived in the lobby just in time to see him enter the locked door where our managing agent worked. Then he’d go get coffee and sandwiches and go back. I managed to watch undetected.
I bought the pill to my local drugstore. “Viagra,” the pharmacist identified. “Generic kind.”
I accused Jose and he said I was imagining things.  He said, “We have lots of neighbors drop by and one of them must’ve dropped the pill, wasn’t me.” I wanted to believe him.   
            After spending his morning out, Jose came home expecting his dinner. We eat early so I had the rice and beans with roasted chicken ready at 4 p.m. He ate and said his stomach hurt and he was going to take a nap. I left him alone.  I called him a few hours later to see if he wanted coffee. No responses, so I went to see if he was still sleep. I touched him and his skin was cold. I started screaming and my neighbors began ringing my bell to see what was wrong. The coroner’s office came and took his body. My neighbors stayed almost all night. I sat there in disbelief crying.
When Jose was buried, I went through all our papers and a friend helped me go on line to see our bank accounts. Forty-two thousand missing from the last time I’d looked ten months earlier. Yeah, I know it doesn’t sound like a lot if you have millions, but to me – working all my life in a sweatshop - sewing stuff for others since I am came to this country as a young girl, it seemed like my life.
            Like I said the only good thing is that now I get five hundred dollars more per month but that doesn’t make up for my loss or the forty two thousand and who knows what else he gave her.
          The topping on the cake was Donora sending me a card. The card read, “I am sorry for your loss, but your loss was also my loss.” How gross and unfeeling can one get? Unless, I guess, she just had an urge to share, throw it in my face.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

City Scapes or Dream Scapes

I’ve lived here all my life, to be exact. I’ve lived away, but always come back. I lived in Minnesota, out in the boondocks halfway between Brainerd and Bemidji. My son was born in a town called Hackensack, population 208. I went there to help my husband escape his drug habit. It actually worked until we came back to New York.
I Lived in Dominican Republic too for a year, in a rich mansion in Santiago belonging to his parents surrounded by small hovels of poverty throughout the nation. I lived in that rich house for two months. His sister despised me but wanted a body suit given to me for Christmas by my stepmom. She offered me more and more money but I wouldn’t give it up. I didn’t even like it that much; it had sentimental value only.
When I couldn’t take the richness anymore we traveled the entire country, visited Puerto Plata and Rio San Juan where he was born. We went to his aunt’s farm and stayed there for half a year doing Yoga and eating fresh fruits everyday. A man down the road heard I liked oranges and brought me a bag of oranges bigger than me. Workers climbed coconut trees so I could drink fresh coconut water and eat the sweet meat. I never had anything so delicious.
When I worked September through June, I traveled for 14 years during July and August.
No matter where I’ve gone, I’ve always returned home to Washington Heights here in New York City.
I stand by my southern window watching the lights on the George Washington Bridge. They flicker red and green Christmas colors and even though I’m a mile away, I enjoy the sight from my 16th floor perch.
The city spouts spires like golden castles. I live and survive, worry perpetually about land mines. My mind is a seascape. I live in a dream of primordial instincts. Sounds from traffic from Fort George hill fill my ears. Once several years back the hill was dangerous. A man was raping a woman in a van and I was home sick. I called 911 but couldn’t remember the name of the hill and kept screaming, “Snake Hill,” since that was the name I’d always called Fort George Hill. It was named Snake Hill because of all the curves you can’t see around when you near the top of the steep incline. 911 reporters couldn’t understand where I was talking about even though I gave the other coordinates, the address at the top is Audubon and 193rd and bottom of hill meets Nagle and Dyckman Street. “Calm down,” they urged. In desperation I screamed out the window, “You son of a bitch, leave that woman alone. Everyone can hear what you’re doing.” He must’ve heard me and took off in his big white van. I didn’t see her get out. I wonder still if he left her alive. The cops arrive 12 minutes later. They finally understood where I meant. Back then no one parked on Snake hill or rarely because if you did you’d come back to find your car without tires or worse, no car. Now people search daily for a parking spot on the hill. A year ago kids held car races there. It is safe.
A siren breaks through the relative silence of traffic. There is no night in my city of dreams. Traffic is constant.
Was I born here for a reason? To cause me pain or is this a trick of mind?

Saturday, November 28, 2015


Follow the line of the wool yarn, literally
Focused on untying, using my ability
Struggling to unravel the unkempt threads
Hoping to get it done before energy’s dead
The yarn in knots like the threads of my life  
Keep the line in sight, maintain life’s rife
Each strand disappears, like life’s roads
Each strand represents a code

Feel like I’m about to implode
Another episode losing blood
I die inside, another life buds
Still a young blood in my head
My body betrays numerous threads
Cry about all that’s left unsaid
Can’t go back in time to retread
Step ahead, can’t forget the dead

Blood turn my panties bright red
My body dreads being overfed
Think I’ve forgotten my purpose
Mundane concerns usurp us
Overwhelmed by the burden
Can’t throw out the wording
Remain in my brain absorbing
Memories like they are hoarding me

Sunday, November 15, 2015


Fallen leaves chatter to the ground
Autumn’s gold petals sweet sound
A pleasant fresh chill fills the air
Happy to feel a day so fair
Evening sings, temperature drops
Season's preview, pull out winter socks
Dark at four thirty, tranquilized
Sun arrives at six forty five
Clocks schedule set back an hour
Quarter moon, Fragrant mists flower
Bloom in autumn's last hurrah sun
Salutations drive us, survive one
More rotation around our earth
One more round of birth and death

* Author's note: This is actually in sonnet format

Monday, October 26, 2015

What The Fuck?

If life is a song or blast,
I’ve Got No Luck at all.
Brand new silk panties get mussed in the dryer
Stuck on Velcro, silkiness totally ruined
Left with puckered withered drawers
Panties advertised to be all fine silky sweetness
My hard sweated buck consumed!

What the fuck? I’ve got no luck
With men I’m totally yuck
All I get is shmucks.
No need to misunderstand
Feeling all alone
He’s never there when you need him

What the fuck? I’ve got no luck
Like a lame duck things happen in my life
No rhyme or reason
Feel like an alien
Lost and isolated in Britain
I don’t belong here

What the fuck? I’ve got no luck
Stuck in one crisis after another
A blur of bummer events, 
Lose people I love
Without saying goodbye

OK I admit letting time fly fast
One blast, cast running thru life’s asphalt jungle
Watch boastful people on TV
A plea to humanity to see who we really are, who I really am
Part of we, long lost glee of society, trinity of three
Me, myself and others, a presence of Thee

What the fuck? I’ve got no luck
Standing here, a muse in society without face
Displaced, disgraced, no one cares about my race
I’m doubly screwed, woman first, then Jew, Greek, Spanish, Turkish and Persian,
a few dollops of North African mixed with Middle Eastern.
I’m nobody, nothing to you, you’re nothing too.

Either way I lose
So why does it matter to you what I do.
I’m fucked out of luck no matter what I choose to do
What the fuck? I’ve got no luck
Clock’s struck one. I’ll turn into a pumpkin
Moon struck, sun struck and awestruck
Life should be a well-struck bargain

Instead of what we’ve done to it

Friday, October 16, 2015

A Funny Memory

Florence said, “He’s nice enough, he’s got money, he's a doctor and all but he’s not a lot of fun. Worst of all his dick is so small it’s like a button. I can’t do anything with it.”
“Like a button,” I say unbelievingly, “you mean like this?” and I hold up my pinky to show her.
“No, Florence says, “more like the nail on your pinky. What am I supposed to do with that?”
I look at her in disbelief.
“Oh, I know he’s in love with me,” she continues, “but I have to have something to work with.
“That is just too much to have it so small. Even rubbing on it can do nothing at all. The first time I saw it I was shocked. If I weren’t a nicer person I would have laughed. Maybe he could get a skin graft to enlarge it or if he had some skill or craft, but all he’s got is that little button without a shaft. I’m not a glutton for punishment so I can’t continue to see him no matter how much he loves me. He calls me every day. I don’t know what to say.”
“Is it the same size when hard?” I ask.
“Yes, it’s no prize, a hard little penny he rubbed on my thighs. I don’t want to see him anymore. I’m not shallow. I know the score, but what can I say to him? Your dick is good for nothing, it’s too small?” 

Although this conversation happened in 1998, I recall it like it was yesterday. It's strange how these conversations stay in our minds and replay themselves day after day, even long after the person who said it has passed away. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Reinvent The Universe ...

Need alone down time
To survive threatening circumstances
Need to listen to the hurt, hear the cries
Regrets I try to forget, leave behind
I turn a blind eye to the answer
Vow to leave doubt out of the question to my answer
Lies survive my lips deny my heart
Fear a mishap on the horizon
An angel forsaking our great nation on the verge of denial
Does Gehinnom exist? - Jew’s purgatory
Refuse to accommodate doubts about heaven or hell:
Intensification exists no doubt
Fingertips feel my heart beat with passion
Sensation alive in my drive
Pain sears through my womb
Pain, rips my soul from a concentration camp
Revive a better nation based on the assumption
That they do what they want to and we do what we’re told
Secrets we hold near, they hurt but they stay there
I deny what we live through
Live outside my head in the grip of a constant illusion
Hear conversations that never occur
Survive the delusion I live inside my head
Rich imaginings of what was said
What never was nor will be
Die and I never said what I meant to say to you and now I never will
The pain never stops
I keep moving my feet to a beat only I hear,
I try to help someone hear,
Please hear but no one hears but me
Standing alone in a grim bleak reality, coming and going alone
Solutions flash by and are slashed off by reality as 
I follow the path of Dorothy unafraid of what precedes me, lays in wait 
In a roughened bush burning by the side of an elegant brook 
In forest of deceit I wander hearing innocent animals slaughtered 
Cries calling out in my head instead 
Reality frozen in a time frame 
Waiting for a way out of the underflow 
I call to every passer by I see
Please, I beg, a hand please, I beg you don’t hurt me 
I’m only a first time offender 
I didn’t mean to raise my hand, 
Absolution for the abortion, 
Please stop the pollution, 
I hear the cries of an ancient race of animals now all dead, 
There’s no more of them to kill, only a lab created animal exists 
Please father, a benediction before I go and leave this universe
Can you give me a calculation of where you think I’ll be?
Father I have sinned, 10 hail Marys and go your way and sin no more 
I promise, father I have sinned
Afraid there’s another life waiting somewhere to find me 
Explore, seeking to find my way out of mischief into a glance of an inner richer universe
No exsanguination please
Try not to cry but the tears build in my eyes betray me
Water builds but doesn’t flow, yet you see me
I explode into another me who is she? 
I don’t know 
I didn’t make her 
She is I bubbling beneath the blood 
Warm ready to burst forth in flames fires 
Burst forth from my mouth like a dragon breathing fire I
Explode into a new me
Once more a reinvention of whom I want to be