Ariel Francisco is Performance Today's New York Out Loud Series Poet. He is the author of A Sinking Ship is Still a Ship (Burrow Press, 2020) and All My Heroes Are Broke (C&R Press, 2017). A poet and translator born in the Bronx to Dominican and Guatemalan parents and raised in Miami, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in The New Yorker, The Academy of American Poets, The American Poetry Review, and elsewhere. He currently lives in Queens.
Five new works by Ariel Francisco- one for each borough of New York:
FOR THE MARIACHI BAND PLAYING ON THE
QUEENS BOUND 7 TRAIN IN THE MORNING
Breath of the accordion swelling
in the emptying car: everyone
heading towards Manhattan in the AM
but the music heads east away from the city
with the few of us listening
to the guitar's caffeinated cries,
the miracle of violins vibrating
in unison as the car rocks
out of rhythm. How difficult
it must be to balance on this
hurtling stage for such a meger
audience that grows even thinner
with each stop. And still the singer
sings, leaving a little beautiful Spanish
at each stop, perhaps catching
the passing ear of someone driving
to work as they look up to the sound
just in time to see the train pulling
out of the station, blazing in the sun.
HEARING SPIDER-MAN SPEAKING SPANISH
IN TIMES SQUARE
Peter Parker has really packed on the pounds
but still the children approach him excitedly
asking for a picture, their parents holding up
their cameras with cash in hand as Spider-Man says
claro, claro, motioning them over. Maybe
it's something about the mask that makes it ok.
No echo in a photo, no accent, no remnant of identity,
no doubt in anyone's mind that this is Spider-Man.
Without the mask he would be harrassed,
told to speak English, told to go back to where
he came from, wherever that might be. But here
in the red and blue, under the neon and noise,
he's the hero for a few dollars, constantly reminded
of the importance of keeping his secret identity.
FOR THE CASITAS OF THE SOUTH BRONX
Small worlds grown to outlast
the change that ousts so many:
for every home torn down
for a condo, a plum, a pear
fruiting into fullness on the branch.
For every displaced voice, a grape
on a vine weaving so thick
through the trellis it blocks
out the sun, a new roof
that can't be caved in, that won't
feel a wrecking ball's fist, that gives
cover to singing and dancing
and music that will never fade,
that feeds the gardens that feed
the people that feed their people.
READING DEVIN KELLY'S "READING ARIEL FRANCISCO ON
THE STATEN ISLAND FERRY" ON THE STATEN ISLAND FERRY
On this bright orange boat
that could be a giant toy
the Statue of Liberty
plays with like a child in the tub
in the night's deepest hours
when she thinks no one is looking,
when the only sleepless person
in this sleepless city is the Domino's
truck driver dropping off those trash
ingredients beneath your apartment--
what is not yet pizza rattling you from sleep.
Every night I am awoken by potential
and I suppose even the flavorless
mediocrity of an unassembled
Domino's pizza, a disc tasting
of cardboard disappointment, is a kind
of potential. And maybe Staten Island
growing larger in the distance is like
the Domino's Pizza of places,
and the Staten Island Yankees are like
the Domino's Pizza of baseball,
(and baseball is, of course,
the Domino's Pizza of sports)
because they too are terrible and yet
there's something beautiful in the
trying, right? In a minor league dream,
in potential under flimsy lights
of the stadium like a round rust-colored
pepperoni on the island's face.
In traversing all of Manhattan
and New York Bay to watch amateurs
lose at a dying sport again and again.
Or maybe they win, it doesn't matter--
it's a beautiful night,
I think I understand now.
AT BROADWAY JUNCTION STATION, BROOKLYN
There's the man selling bootleg DVDs
of decade old films laid out on a rug
like holy relics catching the sunlight;
there's the woman selling churros with her
daughter, two for a dollar, a dangerous
deal that would rot my teeth if I ever
had any cash; the preachers, oh,
the preachers: in suits, in collars,
in Brooklyn Nets hats, some screeching
the demise of passers by heading
to the L or the J, the A and C,
trying to have their call of doom heard
over that of a rival, while others mumble
their end-of-days predictions,
staring at their shoes instead of staring
into the souls of the commuters
as though not quite as devout
in their beliefs as they should be,
dragging their feet under the stain-
glassed windows lining the walls;
there's the silence of the escalators broken
again, the silence of the looming three levels
of stairs-- no easy ascension here,
we all take the hard way.
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