Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.
Our poetry editor, Joe Pan, has selected two poems by Urayoán Noel for his series that brings original poetry to the screens of Hyperallergic readers.
* * *
“a shit-ton of bats”
—Javier Zamora (Austin, July 2015)
for my fellow cantomundistas
Our freestyle flows like “a shit-ton of bats”
(to steal a phrase from Javier Zamora).
Taxonomists of capital flora,
we barnstorm the city with verbal gats
and take aim at the hedge-fund plutocrats
trolling us on social-justice fora.
Freedom is a flick of the fedora
(they own our land but not our poets’ hats).
Looking for a city to get lost in,
we were dreaming when we came upon it.
Its border? The bodies that we crossed in,
cursing in street Spanish (not “doggone it!”).
Much like the Chiroptera of Austin
we tag a bridge with our sonar sonnet.
What’s in a shit-ton? (I’ll ask Zamora.)
It’s hard to count amid the faceless frats.
After a few palabras and true dats
we explorer-poets channel Dora.
No map. No app. Surveying ahora.
Where are the bodegas and laundromats
amid the loft-conversion ziggurats?
What gives a place its iconic aura?
(Hint: it’s not about ironic flannel,
artisanal cupcakes or IPAs,
a meme workshop or a hashtag panel
for zombie PhDs and MFAs.)
Our dream streets broadcast on a batchannel
whose batsignal reverberates for days.
Barrio echolocution sounds like bats,
bachata Petrarchs wail for their Laura,
Tejano dive bars bleed raza sonora.
Must mohawk’d jípsters with designer tats
sip ten-buck drinks to wax DJ ersatz?
We want sounds not streaming on Pandora,
beat-spelunkers aiming for aurora,
moonwalking in chancleta hi-heel flats.
In Spanish bat’s murciélago (blind mouse?),
I see us all in the bear-soaked moon though:
we bump and grind and Lupe owns the house
and Sandra swings, that reggaetón tune though…
so much floricanto in our mundo
because there’s no teoría without caos.
El Gúgol says they’re “Mexican free-tailed,”
the bats that “migrate” to that Congress bridge
not called my back but someone’s privilege
(think Congress and the suits they’ve never failed
and the corporate corpses they’ve retailed).
Electorally they’ll speak “our” language:
“Yo jablo un poquitou.” (Not a smidge.)
But who are the deported and surveilled?
Who owns our urban archipelagos?
Words privatized. Once the escuela goes,
nostalgia factories hard-sell agos
like Big Macs at the maquiladora
but no one bats down us murciélagos!
Let’s swarm vanilla streets till glam Gomorrah!
Running out of rhymes ending in -ora
and going batty from a lack of bats,
I map the spirit’s wordless habitats,
free-riffing, like Williams on his kora
(son of a fierce Boricua señora
as am I, one of many Rican brats
all born too late to be bugalú cats,
watch Clemente bat or Julia score a
run-on line.) My broomstick bat will shatter
(that Klemente rode a wooden stallion).
I’ll invoke the island’s antimatter,
the hemisphere’s populist battalion
that claims its peace, beautiful rebellion
of bat-shit particles born to scatter.
I among many in the deafening overpass
it’s demolition time the doable, forgoable self
Y LOS CALABOZOS
I occupy this ambit, this annex
the amber of sunset the clunkier remix
DE MIS OJOS BORROSOS
my body as is like a bus never full
sad or sidewinding a function of exhaust
CAVADORA DE FOSOS
through hoists and cranes and my eyes a semblance
of premoistened ocean no wells around
SOCAVADORA DE GNOSIS
this walled machinery of hate to invoice
of sickness to spreadsheet signal lights into the ozone
GRABADORA DE VOCES
no remedies to post no theories to posit
houses unnumbered the welt of nations
EN EL TERRENO SIEMPRE AJENO
parked in alleys no thru-route before me
and longtime after the swipes of empire
DEL YO Y SUS DESGLOSES
I’m too old to be carded becoming these cordoned-off territories
mine is the skin’s tether too loose-tongued to linger
HACIENDO LAS PACES CON EL DETERIORO
in an atmosphere of harrows my history of landings
on the outs of the moment missed screenings
DE LA CIUDAD Y EL SIGNO
I clamber the ember the numbest of numbers
lowballs the remainder of touch on the flesh
CUANDO APENAS SE EXISTE
no skylights to open no searchlights to warn
when the body was born I for one was burning
A FUERZA DE CHISTE
foreclosing the tremors no view of the river
I asked to be coursing the hemisphere’s causeways
AFUERA DE LO VIRAL
instead doubly stranded as fuselage fragments
I crash the contingent as mute and as mutinous
DE LA SUCURSAL DE LA IMAGEN
as a castaway blogger ghostwriting new entries
on old motifs like you know, the lyric self and stuff
ENTRE FLAGELACIONES COTIDIANAS
it’s hard to buy this lyre nobody wants it when it’s free
when it falls it makes a thud that sound is us
Y CANCIONES DESEANTES
confessional/confectional gimmicks, jimmied locks of text
the self’s presentation in congresses and roundtables
ABRIENDO EL FRASCO QUE DICE “RENAZCO”
lugging laptops to dive bars in search of interconnectivity
for where there are widgets the self is legible
Y LANZÁNDOLO HACIA EL MAR
whether the analog folds or holds all depends
on the digits appended to the hands interlocking
DESDE EXTRAMUROS SIN CIUDADES
in theaters and beachfronts where I’ve never been to
and will never go because going is finally a no-go
CAUTIVO DE LA HUIDA PROMETIDA
meaning’s where I am this litter as is
collage of bricks ah, the sandlots of this land
Y ES QUE CUANDO NACEN LAS NACIONES
it’s hard to play these days alone, besides I’m running out of days
the fires that transpired did not spare these latitudes
ES DE CABEZA Y DE TERROR
and somehow the injuries must become an example
a particle’s teachable moment as if moments could do more than shimmer
COMO UN ACERTIJO ESCRITO EN EL TAJO
can the shimmer be taught, shared? is there co-presence
in this promisedland of voice where we read with silencers-in-hand?
EN EL BRAZO MECÁNICO DE LOS PARQUES URBANOS
must we disband the shock troupe that called for
a new sense of urgency embedded in this loss?
QUE SE LLENARON DE AGUANIEVE Y BALAZOS
how to wear the despair like an emblem we’ve made ours
lacking a larger scheme? all I can do is lobby for your touch
Y HAY CUERPOS MARCHANDO Y MANCHANDO ACERAS
pretending the outside hasn’t always looked like this
and serve up this stridency that flows up the windpipe, this air
Y HAY DEVOCIONES QUE SON TAMBIÉN HORAS DURAS
my state is uncharted and I’m ready to face the dying day
traders unlocking the shudder becoming the ungovernable shadow
O SEA QUE DESENSAMBLEMOS EL SEMBLANTE
the ether’s theremin there, I’m in
* * *
Originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, Urayoán Noel is the author of several books of poetry in English and Spanish, the most recent of which is Buzzing Hemisphere/Rumor Hemisférico (University of Arizona Press, 2015). Other works include the critical study In Visible Movement: Nuyorican Poetry from the Sixties to Slam (University of Iowa Press, 2014), winner of the LASA Latina/o Studies Section Book Award, and The Edgemere Letters, a multimedia collaboration with artist Martha Clippinger. Also a translator and performer, and a former CantoMundo and Ford Foundation fellow, Noel lives in the Bronx and teaches at NYU. Learn more at urayoannoel.com and wokitokiteki.com, an improvisational poetry vlog.