of a butterfly in el barrio or a stranger in paradise

By Jesús Papoleto Meléndez Jesus Papoleto Melendez
a place to rest your feet,
a place where you can sleep.
a place where you can shit,
and no one can complain.

          My Home /      el barrio
where people rest their feet
outside on the fire escapes,
where i have a place to sleep
with my brothers, sisters, cousins
     oh yes, and Rover
all in the same bed.
                              / where no can smell shit
                                 'cause we've been living in it
                                  all our lives
     (we're immune to its stink)

          My home;
where on hot summer days
people gather on the grandstands /
                                                                  the fire escapes
and in the box seats/
                                       the stoops
and cheer our home gang's stickball team
          (they call themselves "the new york junkies").

and on those cool summer evenings
we hang our legs from the windows /
the roofs /      the fire escapes
while eating pop corn and sippin coke
/ or snorting it   / shooting it
and watch the Saturday evening gang-fights.

          yes, this is home /      our paradises
and you're always welcomed
as long as you're poor.

and it was here       / in my home
that a butterfly happened to wing by
he was easily spotted as a UFO
because of all his beautiful colors

                he flew over the buildings /
                through the lots /
                around home plate      a sewer top
                in the middle of the street

he flew
in his dance about manner.

and i almost cried when i saw children reaching
reaching out for him      reaching for hope
for love /
for that lost dream

and he continued dancing /     or maybe flying
away to save his beauty from these love-hungry

he flew        he flew
and i cried
when he fell down the sewer /
                                                       now he was part of us.

Jesús Papoleto Meléndez, "of a butterfly in el barrio or a stranger in paradise" from Hey Yo! Yo Soy!: 40 Years of Nuyorican Street Poetry A Bilingual Edition. Copyright © 2012 by Jesus Papoleto Melendez.  Reprinted by permission of 2Leaf Press.

Source: Hey Yo! Yo Soy!: 40 Years of Nuyorican Street Poetry A Bilingual Edition (2Leaf Press, 2012)

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Poet Jesús Papoleto Meléndez

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

 Jesús Papoleto Meléndez


Raised in New York City’s east Harlem, poet and playwright Jesús Papoleto Melendez is one of the founding poets of the Nuyorican poetry movement. His short-lined, quick-turning poems engage city life through a mosaic of metaphor and song. In a 2013 New York Times article, David Gonzales observes, “The poems of Jesus “Papoleto” Melendez have a bopping rhythm, where words cascade down the page and—when he recites them—swirl around . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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