I.PrimaveraSpringPsst. Ven acá. Illuwah.
Let me whisper you a story.
Way back in the spring of 1993,
Hannah met Angel in the heart of Jamaica, Queens.
They were crossing Union Turnpike in da blue of the night
when they caught eyes. Froze like winter headlights.
It was shock at first sight, loud as lightning, da charge
between them nearly stopped traffic
as the city slipped away like a raw silk dress
~stood two wingless angels, a lovely mess
but desde el primero, Love was put to the test
Hannah kept Angel hidden from her strict parents,
nestled in his twin bed, imagined them a rebelRomeo & Juliet
(the book slept dog-eared in her JanSport as she cradled
his head, & dreamt a wild new life: star-crossed, star-blessed).Perfect
By second grade, Hannah learns how to please.
Sits first row, hand raised like a timid daisy.
96% on math, 100% on spelling.
Ms. Olive wants her to skip a grade.
Perfect, except when she turns mute,
when her eyelids droop like deadweights.
No one knows her father robbed her sleep,
kicking her mother at night. How she stood between,
a boxing referee, sobbing, Hajimah!
. . . voice crumbling like chalk.
Next morning, her mother pulls Hannah’s hair
into two high, happy pigtails. Clips her OshKosh dungarees.Be good girl
, Uma asks. Yes, Uma,
Hannah says, voice bright
& thin as her classroom’s sick fluorescent lights.Little Soldier
In second grade, Angel’s a small, inept soldier,
shoved daily by Alex, one head taller, one year older,
who calls him Red-bone, Spic, Rice n’ Beans.
Cokebottle glasses enlarge Angel’s eyes as he finger-traces
words in Lassie. Bark
Consonants loom like pines.
He’s sunless, compassless
in the last row’s backwoods. No one
searches for him. Mr. Heller, lost in crosswords,
sips coffee. Snaps, will ya shut up please?All of you—heads down! Keep reading.
Under his desk, Angel breaks a pencil . . .
a quiet pressure of thumbs — crackk! —
Mr. Heller’s head shoots up, a startled buck —Who did that?
Silence. Alex’s spitball
grazes Angel’s ear, a white bullet.Before Angel
The neighborhood whizzes past her. Hannah flees.
Rides her ten-speed to the bay, air tinged
with gull-squawks and salt-wind.
A tongue of rock laps into water. She
walks barefoot over crevices, stinkweed,
a stone with Tony & Gina forever inked
in Wite-Out. A rat clinks past a Heineken.
She stares out to where the sky bleeds
blue into water, to the very edge
of herself. She wishes herself there. Past
the low slurp and suck of ebb & tide,
past Apa’s backhanded slap,
fist choked with Uma’s hair, where a crescent
moon thins like a daughter pedaling into air.BedHannah lies on a bed of books at night.She enters them, portals to escapethe sad, repressed air of her parents,she flies on a magic carpet of wordsout the window over wild, lush gardens,to fat gold pear trees. Leaps off fire escapes,to moonscapes where a stallion huffsand paws at the broken silver beneathher hooves, she feels their ghost snortson her neck as she nuzzles them,the stallion crunches fat green apples, wordslike duende, hearth, tribe, flute her ears . . .thin book ~ spines press against her spine,and shadowy pages billow with her breath.Aviation
Angel goes to Aviation High School,
cuz even though he rarely leaves his hood,
he dreams of soaring sky high, a cool
legend in control of flight ~ he can
taste the sweet wind, when he makes a fleet of paper planes
in class, but Mr. Heller misunderstands
his daydreams for disrespect, claims
Angel aimed the paper missiles to hit his balding head.
Suspended for three days. Teachers are all the same,
he thinks, while rolling up a Philly blunt.
He’ll get his high another way now, blowing
O’s of gray smoke out his kitchen window for fun.
Inside, he feels a small despair growing,
but keeps his guard up, no hurt showing.
Copyright © 2021 by Ishle Yi Park. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.