Monday, August 05, 2019

Poesía at The Bronx Music Heritage Center by Xánath Caraza

Poesía at The Bronx Music Heritage Center
by Xánath Caraza
Los poetas
Founded by the Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDco), the BMHC is committed to preserving and promoting Bronx music, cultivating Bronx artists, spurring neighborhood revival, and providing free and low-cost cultural programs for the community. WHEDco is a community development nonprofit organization whose mission is to give the South Bronx access to all the resources that create thriving neighborhoods – from beautiful, affordable homes, high-quality early education and after-school programs, and access to fresh, healthy food, to cultural programming and economic opportunity. See for more information.

WHEDco’s Bronx Music Heritage Center (BMHC) is a performance and community space designed to showcase and amplify the Bronx's rich musical legacy. Envisioned as a “lab” space, the BMHC encourages artists and community members to gather, participate in performances, and express their vision for this cultural facility. Building off the success of the BMHC lab, WHEDco will open a permanent music venue and cultural center, the Bronx Music Hall, in Bronx Commons, its third affordable housing development, currently under construction—the Bronx Music Hall will open summer 2020. Bronx Commons will transform the final undeveloped parcel of the Melrose Commons Urban Renewal Area into a vibrant center for living, working, learning, shopping and entertainment – including 305 affordable apartments, a landscaped public plaza, places to eat and shop, all anchored by the Bronx Music Hall. For more information, visit

On Thursday, July 25, I had the opportunity to share the stage at the BMHC with three amazing Latinx Poets: Mercy Tullis-Bukhari, Modesto Flako Jimenez, and Carmen Bardeguez-Brown.  Today, I want to share with our La Bloga readers some of their poetry and thank Elena Martínez and Bobby Sanabria for their hard work and support at the BMHC.

Mercy Tullis-Bukhari is a poet, essayist, and fiction writer who is Bronx-bred Afro-Latinx, Honduran and Garifuna, of Jamaican descent. Mercy is a Callaloo Fellow, and obtained her MFA (her second Master's) in Creative Writing from The College of New Rochelle. She was named one of the “8 Authors Bringing Afro-Latina Stories to the Forefront” by Remezcla magazine and was a Pushcart Prize nominee in 2016 for her essay "Black Dolls for Everyone." She is also an English Language Arts high school teacher in the Southeast Section of The Bronx. Mercy is currently completing her first novel, having her third book of poetry edited, and lives in New Rochelle, NY with her two children. 

La Gringa’s First Ride to Los Hondos
by Mercy Tullis-Bukhari

Esta gringa flew to Honduras when she was five years old on
the lie that she was going to meet Mickey Mouse because
esta gringa could not stop crying while boarding this
monstrous-size thing that was supposed to stay afloat

high in the air. We flew from Kennedy Airport into clouds,
then over pineapple plantations and banana fields, cows
roaming and campesinos working, sand and beaches con
hondos strong as the ancestors pleading from esta grown

gringa to go back. When we landed, esta gringa asked, Where
is Mickey Mouse? Because, of course, Mickey Mouse should
be waiting for esta gringa on the tarmac. Her mami ignored the
question. She pushed her pass the initial slap of hot humid air,
took her down the aircraft stairs, walked her across the tarmac
into the building of the airport. We searched for our suitcases
in a room where suitcases were thrown at random places on
the floor. We were like roaches scattering when the light goes

on, looking for our bags, yelling across the room “encontre una”
when we found a bag. Mami, slipping a ten dollar US bill
to the woman who manually checked the suitcases we found,
patted the top of the tightly packed items of clothes and soaps
and shoes and more clothes and unknown ducktaped packages
from Tia Melba y Tia Lorna y Tia Carmen (all of whom were
not really mis tias), for abuelita, fulano y fulano y fulano. We

had to return to the airport the following week for one missing
suitcase. Esta gringa, played futbolito barefooted in the sand
that was her soil. Within the confused gaze of the neighbors,
esta gringa swam in the sand granules, and poured buckets of
sand on her head. Esta gringa washed the sand off her body in
the big sink behind the house, the same sink her mami used
to handwash our clothes. Esta gringa chased chickens around
the house, danced punta, ate la comida of split coconuts, and
heard her mami yell to curious passerbys con urgullo, “¡Ella
es Gringa! ¡Ciudana Americana!” Esta grown Gringa looks

back at a time when Gringa status mattered. Esta gringa watched
a Garifuna man walk to a canoe with a net, come back to shore
with fish in his net. She watched a Garifuna woman take a fish
from that net, scrape the scales of that fish, split it open, salt it
and fried the fish en aceite de coco. Her mami squeezed lime on
the fried fish and tajadas. Esta gringa, ate fried fish con tajadas

for lunch. Gracias a dios, Columbus said, that Honduras saved
his lost ass from the depths of the storm, y esta gringa was
saved from a contrived fantasy world of fake-believe dreams
and its minstrel mouse.

Modesto Flako Jimenez is a Dominican-born, Bushwick-raised theater maker, producer, and educator. HOLA Best Ensemble Award Winner for 2015. ATI Best Actor Award Winner for 2016. HOLA Outstanding Solo Performer for 2017, NY Times and Wall Street Journal profiled. Flako is best known for original productions and three signature festivals – Ghetto Hors D’Oeuvres, One Catches Light, and Oye! Avant Garde Night! – produced with his company Oye Group. Flako has appeared on TEDxBushwick, Esperpento (Sundance), Early Shaker Spirituals (Wooster Group), Last Night At The Palladium (Bushwick Starr/3LD), Yoleros (Bushwick Starr/IATI theater), Conversations Pt.1: How To Make It Black In America (JACK). Take Me Home (3LD/ Incubator Arts Project), Richard Maxwell’s Samara (Soho Rep.), Kaneza Schaal’s Jack &. (BAM/On The Boards). Modesto received the 2016 Princess Grace Award Honorarium in Theater. In 2018 he became the first Dominican-American Lead Artist in The Public Theater Under The Radar Festival with his show Oye For My Dear Brooklyn. He has performed at REDCAT and Z Space in California, St. Ann’s Warehouse, Brooklyn, Theatre Studio at deSingel, Antwerp, Belgium, Sound Live Tokyo festival, Spiral Hall, Tokyo, Japan, Centre Pompidou for Festival d’Automne à Paris, France. New York Live Arts, Walker Arts Center Out There Festival Minneapolis, MN, at Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center, BAM Next Wave Festival, Brooklyn, NY, PICA (Portland Institute of Contemporary Art), Portland, OR, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, IL, On the Boards, Seattle, WA and Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Gracias Margarita Agramonte
by Modesto Flako Jimenez, translated by Roberto Crespo

Ella aguanto mi maleta nueva
Mientras lagrimas bailaban sobre su cara.

Olvidadizo, yo miraba
Hacia los gigantes metales que se levantaban
Mientras asustaban las palmas dominicanas
A decir adiós
Hacia su gente.

No me di cuenta de las señales.

Sus lágrimas eran tibias mientras nos abrazábamos.
“Tú vas a ver
A América,” me dijo a mí,
“Compórtate bien.”

Su último beso de protección fue mezclado,
Con sus disculpas a los juegos
Que no podía comprar;
Sus últimas palabras de sabiduría,
“Tu abuela te comprará tu primer Nintendo.” 

Yo era indiferente a las preocupaciones adultas.
Mis ojos estaban llenos con los monstruos gigantes. 

Pronto escapaba de su agarre, persiguiendo los monstruos.
Después de este punto pasajeros solamente.

Sigo extrañándola.
19 años, 4 meses, 9 días, y sigo contando…
Que no la veo.

Thank You Margarita Agramonte
by Modesto Flako Jimenez, translated by Roberto Crespo

She held on to my brand new luggage
While tears danced all over her face.

Oblivious, I stared
Towards the awakening metal giants
As they scared the Dominican palms
Into waving
Goodbye to their people.

I didn’t notice the signs.

Her tears were warm as we embraced.
“Tú vas a ver
América,” she told me,
“Compórtate bien.”

Her last kiss of protection was mixed
With her regrets at games 
She could not afford;
Her final words of wisdom, “
Tu abuela te comprará tu primer Nintendo.” 

I was indifferent to adult concerns.
My eyes were still filled with the giant monsters.

Soon I was escaping her grip, chasing the monsters.
Passengers only beyond this point. 

Still missing her.
19 years, 4 months, 9 days, and counting…
Que no la veo.

Carmen Bardeguez-Brown es poeta y educadora de Puerto Rico y residente de la ciudad de Nueva York.  En los noventas se incorporó a la escena poética debutando en el conocido Nuyorican Poets Café bajo la tutela de Bob Holman, Louis Griffith, Miguel Algarin y Keith Roach.  Fue miembro del taller literario Stoop dirigido por Steven Cannon y Bob Holman.

Su trabajo fue documentado en Latino Poets in the United States, un documental producido por Ray Santiesteban, donde reconocen su trabajo como una de los miembros fundadores del movimiento poético The Nuyorican Poets Café a la par de Pedro Pietri y Willie Perdomo.  Ha participado, entre otros festivals, en The New York Poetry Festival en Governors Island, The Bowery Poetry Club, Sarah Lawrence College Poetry Reading series, Bronx Music Heritage Center y The Caribbean Cultural Theater Literary Festival.  Es parte de la exhibición itinerante Homenaje curada por Ricardo Muñiz y adquirida por el Centro of Puerto Rican Studies de Hunter College en la ciudad de Nueva York.  También ha sido antologada en Afro Latino Poetry, es miembro activo del taller de poesía Woman Writers in Bloom por varios años.  Su primer poemario es Straight from the Drums: Al ritmo del tambor, su segundo poemario es Dreaming Rythms.

by Carmen Bardeguez-Brown

   Soñando en la
Jungla de asfalto
En medio de la
Canción de cuna urbana

            El Bronx
         THE BRONX
Suéñame en dos
Dos por dos
Ámame hoy
Así, así

Me toca
Y Baretto
Me hace sudar la frente

En PS. 52
Los músicos gozaron
Creando sonidos
Que Obalatá y Shagó bailaron
¡Ay! Salseros del ayer
Los sonidos
Y el ¡ay, bendito!
En la ciudad de Babel

El Cross County Express
Nos dividió
Mientras el Caribe
Nos bautizó
Y sé que estoy aquí en Nuyol
No es Nuyol
Es El Bronx
The Bronx
El South Bronx
El South Bronx del Yankee Stadium del 73
Del Mambo
De sueños olvidados
En una maleta
En el closet
Hasta el Próximo viaje
El próximo viaje
Porque, tú sabes
Los puertorriqueños aquí están
Y allá
Pero no
Estamos aquí
En Da’Bronx
En Da’Bronx
En Da’Bronx
En Da’Bronx
Estamos aquí
¡¡¡¡¡¡Escúchame, mundo!!!!!!
Estamos aquí para quedarnos.

Es todo por hoy, queridos lectores de La Bloga. Que la poesía nos salve.

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