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About this poet

Sandra María Esteves was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. She is the author of Bluestown Mockinbird Mambo (Arte Publico Press, 1990) and Yerba Buena (Greenfield Review, 1980). A member of the Nuyorican movement, Esteves is a founding poet of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and the former executive director of the African Caribbean Poetry Theater. She received a poetry fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts in 1985. She has served as a teaching artist for over thirty years and has conducted literary programs for the Bronx Council on the Arts, El Museo del Barrio, and the New York City Board of Education, among other educational institutions. She lives in the Bronx.

Autobiography of a Nuyorican

for Lela

Half blue, feet first
she battled into the world.
Hardly surviving the blood cord twice wrapped,
tense around her neck. Hanging.
Womb pressing, pushing,
pulling life from mother’s child.
Fragil flesh emerging perfect in blueness,
like the lifeline that sustained her,
yet limp, almost a corpse.

Her mother claims the virgin interceded.
Invoked through divine promise, in prayer,
that caused her dark eyes to open,
her tongue to taste air like fire,
as the blueness faded,
tracing death on the tail of an eclipse.

And as in birth from her darkness,
the free-giving sun inched slow to visibility,
revealing all color and form,
a great teacher, generous and awesome,
silent and reverent, loud and blasphemous,
constant,
sculpting edges of definition
in the shadow and light of multiple universes.

Half blue, feet first
she battled her way.
The world did not want another brown,
another slant-eyed-olive-indian-black-child.
Did not want another rainbow empowered song
added to repertoire in blue,
or azure, or indigo,
or caribbean crystal.
Did not want another mouth to feed,
especially another rock-the-boat poet,
another voice opened wide,
fixed on a global spectrum of defiance.

The meaning of war defined her.
Gasping and innocent,
before she knew her mother,
before she discovered herself.
Barely alive.
Gathering weapons into her being
with each breath that filled her.
Growing stronger.
Determined to beat all the odds.

From Bluestown Mockingbird Mambo (Arte Publico Press, 1990). Copyright © 1990 by Sandra María Esteves. Used with the permission of the author.

From Bluestown Mockingbird Mambo (Arte Publico Press, 1990). Copyright © 1990 by Sandra María Esteves. Used with the permission of the author.

Sandra María Esteves

Sandra María Esteves

Sandra María Esteves is the author of Bluestown Mockinbird Mambo (Arte Publico Press, 1990) and Yerba Buena (Greenfield Review, 1980). A member of the Nuyorican movement, she lives in the Bronx.

by this poet

poem

Believe in yourself.
Be all that you can.
Look for your fate among the stars.
Imagine you are your best when being yourself
the best way you can.

Believe in yourself. Be all you want to be.
Open your mind, a window to the world,
different ways of thinking, seeing,
but be

poem

Being Puertorriqueña-Dominicana
Borinqueña-Quisqueyana
Taina-Africana
Born in the Bronx. Not really jíbara
Not really hablando bien
But yet, not gringa either
Pero ni portorra
Pero sí, portorra too
Pero ni qué what am I? Y qué soy?
Pero con what voice do my lips move?

poem

Nina Simone, Celia Cruz, Billie Holiday, and Bessie
were all sistas growin’ up,
keepin’ her company through only-child-blues.
Afternoons spent laughin’, cryin’, dancin’ motown gold,
harmonizin’ are-’n-be teen sweet melodies.

Aretha Franklin, La Lupe, Diana and the Supremes
stayed up