Mountain Building

By Victor Hernández Cruz b. 1949 Victor Hernandez Cruz
The mountain have changed to buildings
Is this hallway the inside of a stem
That has a rattling flower for a head,
Immense tree bark with roots made out of
Mailboxes?
In the vertical village moons fly out of
Apartment windows and though what you
See is a modern city
The mountain’s guitars pluck inside
It’s agriculture taking an elevator
Through urban caves which lead to
Paths underground They say Camuy
To Hutuado
Taino subground like the IRT in
Constant motion
 
The streets take walks in your dark eyes
Seashell necklaces make music in the
Origin of silence
What are we stepping on? Pineapple
Fields frozen with snow
Concrete dirt later the rocks of the
Atlantic
The sculpture of the inner earth
Down there where you thought only worms
And unnamed crocodiles parade
Lefty stands on a corner
Analyzing every seed
Squeezing the walls as he passes
Through at the bottom of the basement
Where the boiler makes heat
The flesh arrives out of a hole
In the mountain that goes up like a
Green wall
Bodies come in making maraca sounds
An invisible map out of the flora
Bees arrive in the vicinity and sing
Chorus while woody woodpeckers make
Women out of trees and place flowers
On their heads
Waterfalls like Hurakan’s faucets
Caress the back of Yuquiyu
God to all whose tongues have the
Arawak’s echoes
 
Hallway of graffiti like the master
Cave drawings made by owls when they
Had hands
You see the fish with pyramids inside
Their stomachs
Hanging near the doorways where
San Lazaro turns the keys
Villa Manhattan
Breeze of saint juice made from
Coconuts
Slide down the stairs to your
Belly and like a hypnotized guanabana
You float down the street
And win all your hands at dominoes
 
The Moros live on the top floor eating
Roots and have a rooster on the roof
Africans import okra from the bodega
The Indians make a base of guava
On the first floor
The building is spinning itself into
a spiral of salsa
Heaven must be calling or the
Residents know the direction
Because there is an upward pull
If you rise too quickly from your seat
You might have to comb a spirit’s
Hair
They float over the chimneys
Arrive through the smog
Appear through the plaster of Paris
It is the same people in the windowed
Mountains.

Victor Hernandez Cruz, “Mountain Building” from Maraca: New and Selected Poems 1966-2000. Copyright © 2001 by Victor Hernandez Cruz. Reprinted by permission of Coffee House Press. www.coffeehousepress.org

Source: Maraca: New and Selected Poems 1966-2000 (Coffee House Press, 2001)

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Poet Victor Hernández Cruz b. 1949

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Metaphor

 Victor Hernández Cruz

Biography

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 Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Metaphor

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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