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
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,
and Boricuas with frayed, singed nerves
feel they’re about to implode.
Houses built on pillared legs
fall to their knees.
like tents of cards.
Thousands of people sleep under the stars, afraid
they’ll be crushed by their homes.
And every blackout chafes
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
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.