It’s the shit commute,
the hour-long drag from the Cubans I live with
to the blacks I work with.
The slog of cars—passing
dollar stores and bakeries and gas stations and
old women selling Dasani from a neck-strapped cooler;
back-packed children mocking the stalled and the flat,
laughing at the slouched bodies, shielding their eyes,
in the bus stop of the abandoned.
These old men on scooters putt between cars.
It’s just another week stocking shelves at the grocery,
but in two little years, the monthly checks kick in;
then the sweet sound of salary passed under the table.
On any given block here,
I can buy weed, a bag of mangoes, a woman.
At the red light, half-way to work,
I see her attempt at crossing six lanes of traffic.
She’s got twelve seconds before the crosswalk signal
will demand she stop.
But she’s late today and the left strap of the electric
hangs down around her bicep.
The skin, blue-blacked by decades of sun, ends
at a pair of faded orange flats.
There’s no time to walk here like a lady,
like she practiced for days before crossing the stage
that commencement year in Trinidad.
In Miami, she’s running late to her own shit job,
a staggered parakeet,
a swirl of tropicalia in this drive-thru ghetto.
When the arrow goes green and the guy behind me honks,
she startle-taps the hood of my car.
Moves on ahead.
I’ll notice she’s left behind faint fingerprints of sweat and dust,
of the many many days of this journey to here,
the fat from last night’s fried fish.
Leave me the deep smudge memory of who she is now,
of who I once was—
before I tamped it down hard.
Rafael Miguel Montes is a Cuban-American poet and Cultural Studies professor working and writing in Miami. His work tends to explore the two worlds that he seems to consistently inhabit—Little Havana and Academia. The ultimate irony is that although his family was exiled from Cuba and brought to the United States, he now teaches English as a Second Language and American Literature to students who have also been exiled or made refugee from turbulent countries. His poetry has been published in a number of journals in the United States, the Caribbean and the UK. He has most recently appeared in The Caribbean Writer, CONCLAVE: A Journal of Character, Prole (UK), and The New York Quarterly.