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Sonia on Hope Street
This is where I live,
at 1352 Hope Street
with mamá, tía Mari, tío Leo,
and my brother Milagro
we live here, the five of us
packed together in a box
where there's no hot water
windows don't work
plumbing don't work
heater don't work
nothing here works.
But this is where I live
in this lopsided brown building
that sags like an old face.
Tía Mari says it's gonna fold
into itself one day and come
down on us, a giant toothless
wrinkled mouth swallowing us
whole. Says she'll be glad
when it happens too
cuz she's waiting for the Big One,
the 8 point earthquake
that'll crack sidewalks open
and crumble freeways,
turn skyscrapers into chalk dust,
she's waiting for the earth to move
beneath her feet. But my mamá,
she's living on bent knees,
cleaning rich people's houses,
wiping clean white tile floors
and toilet bowls. Walking on bent knees,
making pilgrimage, holding sacred
holy apparitions on street corners,
underground metros, churches,
trees, tortillas. Mamá is waiting
for Jesus to come back
from the dead, for La Virgen
de Guadalupe to send her a sign,
for her cemetery of candles
and saints to rise up like riot
flames among the living.
She's waiting for salvation on Hope
Street. Tío Leo laughs, says
God in the USA is TV and money,
is a rich White slum lord living
in Beverely Hills, is the Border Patrol
asking for papeles, is the police officer
who shot Turo from down the street
and got away with it. Says
the bullet whole in Turo's back es la huella
de Dios. Somos cucarachas, he shouts
y el zapato o la mano que cae del cielo
a darte el madrazo es tu Dios.
Scares us when Tío Leo starts saying stuff
like that, Mamá shakes her head and asks:
¿Qué, no crees en nada? He says he believes
in numbers. In 2 roaches + 2 roaches = 4 roaches.
In 3 days sin chamba + 6 days sin chamba = 9 días de desesperación.
In 8 hours worked + 4 hours work = overtime.
In numbers typed in at the right hand side
of his paycheck = never enough.
He's waiting to win the lottery,
for God to @#* up and accidentally
call his numbers:
13 52 4 28 7.
Me, I'm waiting for something
as soft as my brother's name
to come raining down on me.

I'm waiting for for a miracle
cuz we're 5-to-a-room here
cuz there's a muerta on the 1st floor
and a deaf woman who eats mice on the 3rd.
I wait for miracles cuz here
roaches have wings and fall
from ceilngs into bowls of soup
and cereal. Here, we can't get
rid of them, even with daily sprays,
those roach motels, that Chinese chalk,
and the manager won't fumigate
says we got roaches cuz we're dirty.
All 126 tenants have roaches
cuz all 126 of us are dirty
and lazy and poor and well
everybody knows that roaches come
with poverty and poverty with roaches.
And the other day
when I told the manager
we needed mouse traps
he told me, aquí no hay ratones
and he said we should
leave him alone because after all
he wasn't God and he couldn't solve
all of our problems and anyways
we were all crazy,
seeing things
all 126 of us who live here,
seeing things
I pray for miracles
cuz I live smack in the middle
of this city's aneurysm,
where drunk disenfranchised men pee
against cracked walls and shoot heroine
up swollen veins, where the unwanted
leave their dreams lying around like syringes
on sidewalks.
I pray for miracles
cuz I'm only 17
and I live among all these roaches
these mice
these men.
©1998 Olga Angelina García Echeverría
 

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