Poetry No. 44 – Katherine Lutz

A la criolla puertoriqueña

The water lays flat like
A plate of glass ready
To rise up and stand
Between the sun and me.
The sand is a fine,
White powder dappling
My feet as I walk
Across the sandbar like
A water bug.

On the island of Vieques
Where a bomb dropped from the sky
And created beaches like the Plains—
A flat, people-less expanse—
I wade in the radioactive space
Between my tourist experience
And mainland colonialism
And ask myself, is the water so warm and lovely?

I eat beans tender with the
Spices of my mother’s
Louisiana youth.
I read a la criolla on the menu.
I breathe in blue with each
Bite of mofongo.

I watch for signs of Taínos
In the locals’ blue jeans
And fried chicken.
Like seeing Choctaw in
The roots of sassafras.
I search for shards of pottery,
Hollowed canoes
In the powder beaches
And crisp, blue water.

When Santa Maria comes
I see white visions
On a stage, three weeks after
Mom died. My rage
Laid waste to the city
Folded in my memory.

Katrina did not take as many
Lives as Maria. She only took
A city while Maria took an island
Both painted grey and flat
And ready to rape. Is this
The end of creole-style?

Can the puertoriqueños go home
To New York, Pennsylvania
Or Chicago? Make their
Island anew on asphalt and tile.
I will not tell them what I know—
What they know—
Of exile and carrying a culture
In the smallest
Corner of your heart.

I will not sing the emptiness of a creole girl,
A husk-less canoe
A grounded pecan.

Katherine Lutz holds a B.A. in Biology and Spanish from Wellesley College and an M.S. in Science Journalism from Boston University. She is a longtime, Boston-based science and health writer and a more recent poet.

© Katherine Lutz

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