This Is the City That I love
This is the city That I Love. Habichuelas bubbling on the stovetop. The kitchen door opens to our backyard. My father cuts out a piece of the campo and plants it here in Brooklyn. There are neighbors who knock on the door with a broom to let us know they’re selling pasteles. The train rumbles into a screech in the background, “This is Gates Avenue, the next stop is…”
Where are the gentrifiers now? Who watch us, ignore us, copy us, deny us, reject us, shame us, question us, kill us, laugh at us? Who fight for their claim to be New Yorkers because they waited for the train for like 30 minutes that one time. Saw a rat pull out a pizza slice that one time. Stepped into a bodega and bought a baconeggandcheese that one time.
Where are the gentrifiers now? The ones who suck this city dry. Chew at it and spit up its bones. They say they love this city. But they never loved us.
We have always made this city breathe. Pumped its heart with our bare hands. Pressed our lips against the concrete and brought air into its lungs. Held up its rib cage and spine even as our own skeletons were crushed by factory machines. Our lungs punctured by the chemicals in the dumps. Our blood rising against our arteries in protest of the food deserts, the stress, the generational trauma.
Here it is. Here is New York. Here is the poor, the working class, the immigrants, the undocumented, Black and brown, the descendants of a Jim Crow south and invaded continents. The dead.
Have you finally caught the pain of this city? Felt it lodge deep in your throat?
I call my mom and she tells me that the ambulance sirens are a constant. They run down Broadway towards Woodhull Hospital, raising her skin into goosebumps.
An essential worker. She goes on to tell me stories of her job in the senior home in the Bronx. How she’s learning to transition to online masses and prayers and English classes too. I hold her face through the screen. She smiles and laughs. I ask for her blessing, “’cion Mami.” She responds,
“I pray for you and you pray for me mija.”