These faces are fifteen under faux diamond tiaras
and grandmother's smuggled brillantes;
these faces are pierced with the mango smiles
that dress hopeful Teresitas and Marías-
quinceañeras with coffee bean eyes;
these pearl faces are mother's taffeta dream,
a decorated anguish in painful pink manicures.
These young faces can't remember that last day-
the innocence of their small steps into the propeller
plane drifting above palms waving elegant farewells.
These barefoot faces are those red mountains
never climbed, a Caribbean never drunk,
they are a guajiro sugar never tasted.
These faces are displaced Miritas and Susanitas.
These faces are a 50s revolution
they are the Beatles and battles,
they are Celia Cruz-AZUCAR-loud and brown;
these faces rock-n-roll and roll their r's,
they are eery botánicas and 7-Elevens.
These fiery faces are rifles and bongos,
they are maracas shaking, machetes hacking;
these faces carry too many names:
their white eyes are toppling dominoes
their glossy eyes are rum and iced tea
their African eyes are gods and Castilian saints
haloed with the finest tabaco smoke.
These faces rest an entire ocean on Taino eyebrows;
they are Kennedy, Batista, and Nixon,
they are a dragon in uniform;
these faces are singing two anthems,
nailed against walls, the walls are chipping.
These overflowing faces are swollen barrels
with rusting hoops and corset seams straining;
these faces are beans: black, red, white and blue,
with steaming rice on chipped china;
these faces are pork fat and lace gowns.
These standing faces are a sentinel-
when the Vietnamese kitchen next door stops
when the alley veils itself and closes like a fresh widow
when the flower shop draws in buckets of red carnations
when gold and diamonds are pulled from late windows
when neon flashes relieve the sun over these fading faces.
These chromatic faces are nothing important,
they are nada we need to understand,
they will transform in their photo chemistry,
these faces will collage very Americanly.
From CITY OF A HUNDRED FIRES (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998)