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London in San Juan

A London midnight on New Year’s Eve

handed me a gift in the hotel piano bar.

They dedicated En mi Viejo San Juan to me,

the sort of song a friend calls emigrant grief.

Being away forever wasn’t in my plans,

it was a stopover, and my resolutions included

getting back to the Caribbean and the high walls

where San Juan and the Atlantic face off.

When I returned to Puerto Rico, I began to live

with tales of Bobo Johnny, Mama Glo, la diablesse

and others who’d survived the Middle Passage.

They thrive in this area, especially those douens

who lured me into the urban forest,

taught me to walk with my feet on backwards,

turn ways to advance and retreat on their heads,

and stake no claim for Limbo in memory.

Now when they play that song on these cobblestones

I check for London’s footprints in Old San Juan.


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