First: Roberto Carlos Garcia – Three Poems

Elegy in which grief sends me

in search of dream in search of amber

& pounding a sandalwood tambourine

to soothe fellow travellers in the dark

Mami, when I journey backwards I leave

the lamp—so much of life is seeing,

& memory— that blind knife thrower—

demands faith, nakedness, open hands held

softly against the heart—I’m searching

for wonder, & from, for womb, & from

for the melting candlewax of mothersong

I mimic the song as best I can

hoping to hear a chime echo back in the dark

but even the sweet runnel of darkness is tiring

Mami, I look at what I’m running from,

the palatial estate burning inside me

the world wants me to ignore it—

I realize that to remember is to grieve

so I wiggle the tambourine,

I am my own parade steadily advancing

chanting—tambourine slapping my thigh

the grief, so terribly long—remembers

the greed, so terribly long—remembers

& the chint chint of my tambourine breaks


Elegy in which “Happy” by Pharrell sends me spiraling

Mami, I’m doing Couch to 10K because I’ve let myself go

& it is best to get back into these things slow & because

I’m seeking the untainted joy of sweat & endorphins

& the song changes & I’m asked to clap along if I feel—

& I do, I see us dancing in the kitchen—even Alzheimer’s

couldn’t steal the words to your favorite bachatas

or steal the muscle memory of your easy two step,

& was I happy because I remember us dancing,

was I happy because you never forgot how to dance

was I happy because you never forgot how to sing

or was I happy because in those ten fog filled years

you were happy all the time & unaware of how we clapped

along to any glimpse of the old you—


Elegy in which is hidden an ode to your beehive updo

What does a Caribbean woman free from the shackles

of Trujillo & machismo dream upon stepping

foot in New York City? In the photo you are kneeling,

one arm across your thigh & the other holding your purse,

staring past the cameraman into a future you couldn’t possibly

know would include me, your oldest daughter’s son—stuck

on you & I don’t know the appeal of a beehive updo

except that you look so beautiful, so confident, so like me when

I’m wearing new sneakers & starting out in the evening

Mami, if you only knew there’s a pants suit revolution happening

now but you were rocking pants suits in the 60’s with beehive updos

& platform shoes & as I burn a hole in this crinkly sepia photo, seeking

details within details I wish I could just pick up a phone & ask

you to head over to Wal-mart with me & we could laugh at the fake updos

on sale & I’d take advantage of the moment to say no one rocked it like you,

A different kind of crown for a new freedom—for a new queen


Back to First: Table of Contents                       Onward to Rene Simon: Poem

RCG Author Photo 3

Poet, storyteller, and essayist Roberto Carlos Garcia is a self-described “sancocho […] of provisions from the Harlem Renaissance, the Spanish Poets of 1929, the Black Arts Movement, the Nuyorican School, and the Modernists.” Garcia is rigorously interrogative of himself and the world around him, conveying “nakedness of emotion, intent, and experience,” and he writes extensively about the Afro-Latinx and Afro-diasporic experience. His second poetry collection, black / Maybe, is available from Willow Books.  Roberto’s first collection, Melancolía, is available from Červená Barva Press.

His poems and prose have appeared or are forthcoming in Bettering American Poetry, The Root, Those People, Rigorous, Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day, Gawker, Barrelhouse, The Acentos Review, Lunch Ticket, and many others.

He is founder of the cooperative press Get Fresh Books, LLC.

A native New Yorker, Roberto holds an MFA in Poetry and Poetry in Translation from Drew University, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.