Malcolm Friend

Issue 15 • Spring 2015


Portrait of:
Golden plátano bowl
drenched in broth
like a heart in blood.

Portrait of:
Girl ready to pay
for the dish,
clutching paper green
as the plátanos
that made it.


In Spanish class,
Patrick is confused,
wants to know why
dead American presidents
haunt Puerto Rican currency.

The instructor,
Catalonian by birth,
her accent more
paella than mofongo,
either does not know,
or does not care—
once told me to use
“real” Spanish, that
español real,
when I wrote boricua
to denote my origins.


El Estado Libre Asociado
translates into “World’s Oldest Colony.”
Don’t trust your Spanish-
English dictionaries
or Google translate
when you get
“The Free Associated State.”
Puerto Rico is U.S. territory.
As in, this land is your land,
this land is…
your land.

When Scott says “Commonwealth,”
I am wrong
not to correct him
with “Colony”.


I can navigate
being the only Black kid
in class.

It is reluctance to speak
during lessons on slavery.
It is teachers asking me
if I am uncomfortable
with Twain’s use of nigger
in Huck Finn.
It is jokes about the neighborhood
I grew up in
being gang territory.

But being Puerto Rican
is this squeeze
of my heart,
this eruption
of brothy blood
when being told
I am Third World,
when being taught
I am not good enough
for First World American
when learning mofongo,
for all its glitter,
is not gold.

For the first time
I am Puerto Rican.