Spanish Harlem

Fine Fare

they keep the pedialyte and infant formula
behind sliding locked plexiglass
or they will be stolen by people who want
to keep their babies healthy
but don’t have the money

Dollar Store

that dollar store was a theatre once
foraging for table cloths I saw in the back
red cinema seats of the upper circle
no people sitting there
just cardboard boxes filled
with mop parts and chipboard
quietly facing a frayed curtain
pressed tin ceiling
I like that store
I get our shower curtains there


chicken wire around an empty lot
sleek stray cats
look like convicts or dancers
according to my mood
sometimes they leave to walk through the hole in the Sandy-crashed fence
                                under cars
                                                                 or go where they go


in the spring banana yellow
bandeau tops set off brown skin in every tone
but it’s a special yellow:
not mustard not daffodil not Hamptons yellow
a yellow with a sharp glow:
mangoes and bananas sold off carts
plus a dash of neon

Tree Pit Garden

pick out crushed cigarette carton, burned butts, plastic and metal bottle caps
bread crust, pink and blue chewed gum wad, delicate green weeds
pour extra dirt from plastic bags you rip open yourself
make a hole with your hand if you don’t have a trowel
hold flower roots lightly, suspending in the middle of the hole
while you fill with dirt
bring buckets up the stairs
heavy with water as you go down and wrestle out your building door
cast a circle of water around each flower
without taking their petals off
take advice from a grandmother walking by translated from Spanish
by the granddaughter holding her arm
she says you should pinch off the flower so those leaves grow better.
Do that.


when I come back from a trip I don’t carry my own luggage
up the subway stairs because a quiet man
not sure I speak Spanish
lifts it without a word
all the way
to the


a thousand starlings occupy a tree outside our window
our daughter Alice says they
say Jayson Jayson Jayson
at night the flat street echo
of half drunk arguments
goes wide and high into living room windows
that face the street.
The actual words are hard to make out
through thin screech, low booming swear
but it’s always about heart break, heart break,
this heart breaking right now
and how dare you not care about me?
I might turn the TV higher
or go to the back bedroom
to try and fall asleep.

Ana Silva