Journalism in Verse – EST. 2016

puerto rico elle aviv newton

In Utuado, Blanca Mops [AUDIO]

in Audio/U.S. by


I mop, loosen the flood-
waters’ grasp on the couch,
push the muck out the door.

The couch is a green raft
rocking inside
these walls, keeping Mamá
from melting.

she was my teacher.
Now the quebrada clogs,
belches into the river; the river
can’t find its path. These pink walls
suck like a lung,
draw in sand and caca-pampers.

I mop. The river claps
shut the door to my mother’s past.
There’s nothing to recall,
not the beheaded ceibas,
not the river whose turtles dreamed us.
Not even her hands can speak.

All we make
is makeshift. I am
feeding my mother
through a tube
powered by a car battery,
the pump’s ruby pupil
our only light.

When the hurricane
broke my sister
drifted off toward Ponce.
I wring my
mop out the window;
where did the flaming cups
of the tulip tree blow?

Rain tocks the roof. I mop
below my mother’s floating feet.
Under the pump’s red pulse
her insteps glimmer
like young gobies.

She glances up
when I curse —
but not at the water:
I curse these walls.



Poet’s Note: With thanks to an article by Elissa Nadworny on NPR from October 12th, from which some of the words were borrowed, and whose living persons I have conflated. My poem only scratches the surface of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria that Ms. Nadworny deftly reveals.

Lis Sanchez has written for or has work forthcoming in Salamander, The New Orleans Review, Prairie Schooner, The Greensboro Review, Puerto Del Sol, The Journal of Wild Culture and elsewhere. Awards include a Writer’s Fellowship from the North Carolina Arts Council; Prairie Schooner’s Virginia Faulkner Award for Excellence in Writing; Nimrod’s Editors’ Choice Award; the Greensboro Review Award for Fiction, and others.

Editorial art by Elle Aviv Newton.

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