Please help the Black Earth Institute continue to make art and grow community so needed for our time. Donate now »

a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Susana Praver-Pérez


Time as Construct, Garden as Time

I’ve crumpled my calendar,
days folding into themselves
without demarcations—
like a world without borders
that divide

rivers
down
their
middle

as if a country
could own the water
could own the wind.

My wild garden keeps time for me.
Yesterday, the first freesias appeared
like a quiet explosion
or magician’s act—

And I knew it was February.

I placed a few fragile stems in a jar,
breathed in
the perfume of persistence.
In a world swaying like a rope bridge,
the scent steadies
my feet.

It’s still winter, but we haven’t seen rain
for months—
orange nasturtiums are curling,
lavender blooms turning gray.

But the oxalis don’t seem to care—
their bright yellow faces
drinking sunlight
as they spread green arms
across the lawn
as if any kind of calendar was nothing
more than a puffball in the air.


Navegando

Yesterday didn’t feel like Navidad as I traveled

through the stratosphere, seven miles in the air,

navigating two worlds.

 

Christmas dawn, a hammer pounding concrete

startled me from sleep, an aguacero let loose

turning blue Borinquen skies to gray.

 

Rainfall amplified the coquis’ call,

cicadas added their trill, and the day danced

to Atabey’s song.

 

Island climate is a carousel —

el cielo escampó, the sky sang turquoise

while the sun hummed harmony.

 

************

 

Boxing Day, I wake to Oakland’s quiet chill,

a lone robin chirping, muted by glass,

raindrops swirling on the window.

 

Close to the Central Valley, Salad Bowl of the World,

my morning goal — fill my fridge with greens —

lettuce can be luxury in San Juan.

 

************

 

Island-grown produce takes tortuous treks to the table.

Santa Isabel’s tomatoes breathe Caribbean air until picked

and sent across the sea to the States.

 

There, the auburn globes are put in crates and shipped

back to Puerto Rico’s SuperMax and FreshMart

for consumers who scrape thin billfolds to buy.

 

This is the shape of colonialism in a shopping cart —

ricocheted tomatoes, Kellogg’s corn flakes,

pink-cheeked Santas & snow-flecked pines.

 

This is domination spooned like sugar in our coffee

and the dulces the alcaldes throw from their cars

to kids on the corner at Navidad.

 

Outside the supermarket, a white-haired woman

bangs a ladle on a soup pot, shouts ¡Basta ya! ¡Basta ya!

And the coquis loudly sing the chorus.


Still(with)Life—Woman with Rooster

Eyelids droop—
not like tecatos
slumped and scratching
scabbed and sun-burnt skin,
but with sober silence
soaking the air after storm
turned all to ruin.

Body bare—
not like sunbathers
on Condado’s beach,
curated bodies
coated with Bain de Soleil,
but the nakedness of wind and want
and the bitter scent of dread.

Rooster in arms—
not a blue-plumed gallo de pelea
wearing spurs, sporting men
betting next month’s rent
for a better chance,
but a gallo that dreams
a gallina and golden eggs.

On a tall concrete wall—
not a factory facade
in Trastalleres, barrio peppered
with printers’ and mechanics’ shops,
but a wall turned auburn phoenix
on Santurce’s rebirthed streets,
acrylics flowing like amniotic fluid
in the muralist’s hands.

 

 

 

 

 

NOTE: This is an ekphrastic poem written in response to the mural by Luís Pérez that appears on the front cover of my book, Hurricanes, Love Affairs, and Other Disasters, as well as a tribute to the Santurce Es Ley street art movement.

Share: 

Susana Praver-Pérez is a Pushcart-nominated poet and a winner of  the San Francisco Foundation/Nomadic Press Literary Prize for Poetry (2021) who divides her time between Oakland, California and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Susana is an alum of Las Dos Brujas Writers’ Workshop and has studied creative writing at Naropa Institute, UC Berkley’s “Poetry for the People,” and Berkley City College from which she received a Certificate in Creative Writing with a focus on Poetry. Susana’s work has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies. Her first full-length book of poetry, titled Hurricanes, Love Affairs and Other Disasters, was released by Nomadic Press in June 2021.

Other works by Susana Praver-Pérez »


©2022 Black Earth Institute. All rights reserved.  |  ISSN# 2327-784X  |  Site Admin