of a butterfly in el barrio or a stranger in paradise

By Jesús Papoleto Meléndez Jesus Papoleto Melendez
Home;
a place to rest your feet,
a place where you can sleep.
          Man,
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
away to save his beauty from these love-hungry
children

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

Biography

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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