Poems by Angela Maria Spring

The Lone Panamanian in the East Village

A relentless search for plantains leads me down
numbered streets, from the hundreds of Harlem

counting lower to East Fourteenth Street, the Food
Emporium in Union Square off the 6. New York

offers more Caribbean Latinos and lower Central
Americans than New Mexico, la raza its backbone,

ready to reclaim the homeland. No place for a gringa
Panamanian, pale skin declares me outsider. In

Albuquerque, a cashier asks what to do with these
huge un-bananas. Lean in to whisper, wait a week,  

‘til they turn from green to blackest black, a bruise
in reverse. Take a paring knife and slit them down  

the sides, peel off the skin, slice diagonally. Fry in oil
until golden.
When I first cook for a lover, it is this

curved fruit. Split open, hold the sweetness to his mouth.


Saint of Aguadulce

One p.m., Panama City wrapped in clouds as we gather
at the table in Tía Abuela Olga’s balmy apartment. Mi famila’s
strange version of poverty a sprawled three-bedroom,

balconied. A banana plant leans augustly by the balustrade,
white paint chips off its iron rail. Our aunt, so tall,
holds court inside. My brother and I, perceptions still

culled by mythos—el mito fundador de nuestra familia—
adore Olga, our Spanish stamped down by a West
Virginian father, who says gracias as if grass grazes a hilltop

in Morgantown. Third eldest of Mamá’s seven tías, her eyes,
knife sharp, pierce past la Virgen’s secretos. the only English
she knows is I love you. We sip black bean soup as she holds

court, son at her right, my teen brother to her left. Santos
stare hollowly from each wall. Faded gold halos around each
wooden head flashes off Miguel’s blonde hair in a blade of sunlight,

Tío Alfredo’s mouth slides up beneath a heavy mustache. Men
of this world smile too easily. Smooth fingers over the lace tablecloth,
recall Olga’s husband’s amante, how my uncle left his wife for a young

secretary. Yearn to shed the hot urge that snakes through damp
afternoon, to snatch my brother to my side as her gaze drags me back.


Soledad. The End of the World:
December 31, 1999

America will leave Panama. Midnight
when the deal finalizes, so we watch
las noticias while my mother prepares ropa

vieja. This piece of history personal, our blood
helped build the canal, but to me Panama
is still a grainy grey photo of an engineer

great-grandfather next to a woman, serio,
surrounded by eight girls and one boy.
Third youngest of that brood, Tía

Fredes, heavy with breast cancer, fries
plantains, sets the table one less place
as my brother disappears with friends.

A small bag of pot sits at the police
station, evidence. His arrest touched
razored fingertips to my aunt’s diagnosis,

phone calls each a week apart. Here
I am, transferred colleges, East to West,
Back la Buena hija. Now this, New Year’s

Eve in New Mexico to witness the end
of the world. Family, from Aguadulce to
New York turn on televisions. Tonight

Panama celebrates as U.S. troops eye
computer clocks. Seconds tick down,
a ship sails closer. 


Angela Maria Spring is a first-generation Latinx of Panamanian and Puerto Rican descent. Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, she currently lives in Washington, D.C., where she is the owner of Duende District, a bookstore by and for people of color, where all are welcome. She holds an M.F.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and her work has appeared in various publications, including District Lines, Prick of the Spindle, Naugatuck River Review, Revolution House and Tar River Poetry.




Posted on March 27, 2018 .