Three Songs from the 50s

By Victor Hernández Cruz b. 1949 Victor Hernandez Cruz
Song 1
Julito used to shine the soul
of his shoes before he left for
the Palladium to take the wax
off the floor while Tito Rodriguez
flew around the walls like a
parakeet choking maracas
It was around this time that
Julito threw away his cape
because the Umbrella Man and the
Dragons put the heat on all the
Ricans who used to fly around
in Dracula capes swinging canes
or carrying umbrellas
Even if there was no rain
on the horizon
That same epoca my mother
got the urge to paint the
living room pink and buy a
new mirror with flamingoes
elegantly on the right hand
corner because the one we had
was broken from the time that
Carlos tried to put some respect
Into Julito and knock the
party out of him.
Song 2
All the old Chevies that the
gringoes from upstate New York
wore out
Were sailing around the neighborhood
with dices and San Martin de Porres
el negrito who turned catholic
Hanging in the front windows.
Song 3
There was still no central heating
in the tenements
We thought that the cold was
the oldest thing on the planet earth
We used to think about my Uncle Listo
Who never left his hometown
We’d picture him siting around
cooling himself with a fan
In that imaginary place
called Puerto Rico.

Victor Hernandez Cruz, “Three Songs from the 50s” from Maraca: New and Selected Poems 1966-2000. Copyright © 2001 by Victor Hernandez Cruz. Reprinted by permission of Coffee House Press.

Source: Maraca: New and Selected Poems 1966-2000 (2001)

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Poet Victor Hernández Cruz b. 1949

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life, Money & Economics, Race & Ethnicity

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Victor Hernández Cruz


Victor Hernandez Cruz was born in Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico. He moved to New York City with his family when he was five years old, but he didn’t start learning English until two years later when his family bought a television set. He started writing poetry early and at seventeen self-published his first book, Papo Got His Gun! And Other Poems, on a mimeograph machine. Since then, more than a dozen collections of his poems—among . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life, Money & Economics, Race & Ethnicity

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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