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It’s June and Jaime Luis
is selling Puerto Rican flags
from the trunk of his Bonneville.
Men old enough to be his grandfather
sit in a sliver of shade playing
dominoes. He reaches into
the cooler, digs to the bottom.
Four white girls with no make-up,
no asses, rise out of the subway,
shade their eyes and search
for street signs. The one in the lead
glances at a scrap of paper
in her fist. Jaime Luis
doesn’t need to read her lips.
820 Nevins Street, between Warren
and Wyckoff: His cousin’s house
until the landlord tripled the rent
last December. They’re standing
on the corner, his corner, not sure
which way to go, wondering
if he speaks English, if anyone
remembers their high school
Spanish. He doesn’t know
when the rice and beans restaurant
his aunt half owns will turn
into a sushi bar, the Bodega
down the block will become
a Patisserie with fresh cut
flowers, tiny sidewalk tables.
But he knows all about August,
its unraveling string of dripping
eighty degree nights, the power
blinking off and on, the next cop
shooting the next unarmed nigga,
and he sees those girls standing
behind their curtains at night,
scurrying to and from the subway
like fucking cockroaches. He steps
toward the women, removes his hat.
“Por favor?” They look at each other,
the ground, before one of them
picks up the smallest flag
and hands him a ten. Without
waiting for change, they walk
away in the wrong direction.
From THE LAST LIE