claremont park ¿cuál monte claro? es claro monte although any amount of clarity is relative who claims the clarity in these foggy climes? there's the climate change inside anticlimactic like the denouement of my neurons in free fall free speech tortured lesson there is no free for all there is no festooning of the city at least not right now only the auto-tuning only the airplanes overhead only the midnights in mid-flight the flights that brought so many people here from unhomely homelands to these racquetball courts for what city can there be without a racket who can explain the city without airplanes overhead even in claremont park my voice still needs a spark something more than eating cuchifritos with a spork there must be other perks in these contiguous shores there must be spores there must be stamens there must be bark at the moon at the passersby from suspension bridges at the outlet malls in the suburbs we all inhabit the caresses we inhibit just texting our digits into our smartphones and heading home to huddle under covers with lovers also frigid naming the frauds of the self we see in the mirror no one's demurer than me in my yellow knit cap okay so maybe i exaggerate isn't hyperbole what builds a city? a poet i used to like once wrote “the bronx? no thonx!” i call that poet “¡cabronx!” you thought you owned the city but it devoured you spit out your corpse as mulch from its cement gulch the remnants of your culture turned to dust for future angels the ones who will occupy this park or whatever's on these grounds a hundred years from now the ones who can survive the eternal noise of air traffic overhead we're halfway into march and i've marched halfway through the park patches of snow fighting it out with the incipient green the groan of spring ¿qué te digo? ya pronto se va a poner bonito ya pronto vamo' a comer boniato en la barbacoa con la macacoa y la cocolería llena de algarabía sonando por las bocinas de las esquinas de tus colinas where todo rima or casi casi casi casi écfrasis everything almost rhymes in your climes in these times we are all somehow still sublime beautiful in out stillness in our illness of walking in place with home in our hoodies and our families as ringtones on our phones down with another mercurochrome winter! down with the scattershot spambot! the photoshop approach to urban renewal that turns every art deco jewel into a failed co-op i'm okay with destruction with disruption if it's done from within with awareness of the self as it fissures and flails all the ways that it fails i'm okay with singing tear the roof off the sucker tear the roof off the sucker tear the roof off the... (sumtin sumtin) with a bachata or dembow beat as long as we let the painful beauty of our streets work its way through us i guess i'm an adult viewfinder a bumpy grindr a snap chatterbox whose vlogs are never erased recorded forever and circulated on the social networks of the elsewhere the no longer here the ether that owns us that exceeds these dying breeds i need enough remarks to make my way back to the other side of the park that's the trouble with improvising you always end up capsizing such was the fate of your eyes on the beach that evening but i won't say more about that now speech is leaving me i can't reach that feeling i can't teach myself to preserve the meaning it will disappear become blurry no longer clear something no one can declare a bodily mark haunting my every step through claremont park i'm not saying i could claim a spark i'm not saying there's an epic project here in these improvisations the breeze and its cessation i'm not saying there's a lyric here either a panegyric on urban space a poem with a capital p or even some pounding drum and bass there's nothing here but walking working my way to the depths one erratic step at a time (that wasn't planned i almost fell there into the quicksand from which i came) i'm not the selfsame i'm not the one who wrote poems hoping to be redeemed through laughter looking for an irony that could map our disaster i don't know what i'm looking for now but i don't mean that sentimentally just in the rudimentary sense elementary perhaps my dear walkman for the digital age i've turned the page into clickbait but i still believe in print in language as changeable as exchanged in bargain basement rates i still believe in a poem that can map these states while acknowledging we're all stateless weightless in the expanse of city i'm working my way through the pain and even if it sounds new-agey like a cheap attempt at poetic resolution before my battery dies and you turn your digital eyes to other stimuli let me say that working through that painbeauty painbeauty painbeauty painbeauty painbeauty painbeauty painbeautypain is its own kind of freedom freedom from the very screen that names my body the freedom of speaking once there's nothing left to say the freedom of somehow no way the freedom to leave the park to face up to the dark to erase the trademark from the wrinkles on my face to name a place the bronx or a company my fresh shirt to let there be no doubt that there's always more chinese food to take out to show off your skills at the bar and grill to take care of two kinds of cleaning at once the clothes and the soul to get all your needs met the promise of neoliberal selfhood income tax internet notary color copies its own kind of free market its own kind of freedom as remarkable as the remarks we never make at the fried chicken places at 4am where they recognize our faces liquor stores and barber shops and international markets and delis of the smelly and not so smelly kind and repair centers i'll never enter what is the hardware of my stride? who plays ball on these fields? what happens when our bodies yield surrendering to space? this song is for all the despised bodies of which i have been one even in all my privilege i'm dredging the lake of language to see what i come up with but i missed the bus to the george washington bridge no fort lee for me tonight no jersey in my shores just me the good old digital harridan of sheridan avenue speaking into a phone i almost own or it owns me
Urayoán Noel is the author of the critical study In Visible Movement: Nuyorican Poetry from the Sixties to Slam (University of Iowa Press) and several books of poetry in English and Spanish, including the forthcoming Buzzing Hemisphere Rumor Hemisférico (University of Arizona Press). Originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, he lives in the Bronx and teaches at NYU.