Journalism in Verse – EST. 2016


Cartography of the Caribbean [AUDIO]

in Health/U.S. by


Once, during “the discovery,”
mapmakers placed Borinquen
              at the center
              of the New World.
North America, not fully explored,
              was mapped like a snake dangling above
              the island renamed Puerto Rico
              for riches the Spaniards found.

The snake grew voracious teeth.
Gold was devoured.
              Ore became sugarcane
                            then petrol
                                                        a tax haven
                                                                      a post-hurricane clearance sale
                                                                      Se Vende signs seen everywhere.

So it sounds like old news when geologists explain
shake after shake of earthquake swarms:

              The North American plate is pushing hard
              against the Caribbean, apretando
                            till fault lines jolt,
                            rocks explode,
                            and Boricuas with frayed, singed nerves
                                          feel they’re about to implode.

Houses built on pillared legs
              fall to their knees.
Schools collapse
              like tents of cards.
Thousands of people sleep under the stars, afraid
              they’ll be crushed by their homes.

And every blackout chafes
              half-healed wounds
              a year without light,
              months without water,
              weeks of waking to tell your daughter
                            Eat your rice mi amor–
                             No hay nada más.

Cascades of disasters reshape
                            inner landscapes
              like swarms of quakes reshape
                            Puerto Rico’s topography.

In just fifteen days, the city of Ponce sunk
              fifteen feet, slid westward towards the setting sun.

On Día de los Reyes, Guayanilla woke
              to find Punta Ventana shattered–
                            porthole in the stony cliff
                            now jagged row of teeth.

And in Guánica, point of entry when the U.S. invaded in 1898,
                            the ocean trembles.

On the shore, a woman watches
                            a meteor streak across the sky.
              Her house is a mound of rubble
                            but she’s still standing
                                          listening to the coquis
                                                        singing in the mangroves. 


Susana Praver-Perez is an Oakland-based poet. By night, she can be found at open mics across the Bay Area. By day, she works at La Clínica de la Raza as a Physician Assistant and Associate Medical Director.

Image by Chris Grogan.


Puerto Rico earthquake aftershocks again rattle coastline as residents deal with disaster after disaster
[Washington Post]

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