jorge’s journey by Louis Reyes Rivera

jorge’s journey by Louis Reyes Rivera


ChickenBones: A Journal

for  Literary & Artistic African-American  Themes



Scattered Scripture

Reaching, Claiming, Lunging for the Universe of Things




Books by Louis Reyes Rivera

Who Pays The Cost (1978) / This One For You (1983) / Scattered Scripture

 Bum Rush the Page (co-editor) / The Bandana Republic (co-editor)

Sancocho: A Book of Nuyorican Poetry by Shaggy Flores (edited by Louis Reyes Rivera)

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(jorge’s journey)

By Louis Reyes Rivera


having passed through benny’s embrace—

after having kissed at the screen that

separates a visit from the cheeks of

his cousin benny

jorge the younger

lingers for a century beside this public cage

then lifts his stride with a strange

longing to join with hundreds more who

pull & squeeze at anything that moves

& hopefully he may find a home waiting for him somewhere


& so, sawbuck loose in denim suit

jorge the younger

boards the bus at green haven

watches the earth change face

from barbwired trespass signs

to rolling grass & rainbow fields –

            paved road speeds

            neath hot bled rubber

from stop to diner to sideroad ditch

dug with a twig behind the brush to

pass his waste or fertilize

a morning’s urge beside the bush

& into the soil — & when you can’t ride,

you walk on the same

side as hunger looking for a hit


jobs come rare to a record carrier

but every one he gets becomes a meal

between a fast –

                        cotton row / potato sack

                        peach orchard / orange grove

                        melon patch / cold nights

                        strained back / textile farm

                        tobacco leaves held & baled

                        by mosquito stings / burlap twine

                        migrant camps / tired wheels

& army-navy store stolen boots thread these

southern states stringing past an evergladed

marsh – until finally . . .

dilapidated merchant freighter from miami offers

jorge the younger room with mush on a bed of beans

a cargo hold to nap away the stink of northern coffee bags

taxed with duties from polluted slums –

            swish & roll to old san juan

                        (sun bended rays seem

                        much closer than before)

            rock & splash &

            roar & swing &

            splattered waves beat hard against the shore

nature’s port

san juan bay

:once etched deep

from the recess

of jagged mountains edge

now easing round

smooth cut flow

slurp burp slush

then chop against a petrified pier


these alien mariners stand on deck

twitch & twist tween bell bottomed panting

testacles tightened on a two-nite crave:

            soaken rum & silken squirms

            timid screams & sunken head space

            pushed into “oh, my god! Can these women sail!”

& jorge, too, would have stood by the stern to welcome

himself home but with the stench he sweated

until told of the time to disembark

                        “hey, you! pile those crates up on the platform lift;

                        holler when you’re done; take them each to the

                        warehouse on the left; get this bill of laden signed

                        by that Cuban with an exiled twang; bring me back

            the papers to the bar up on the right & maybe then . . .”

& jorge looks –

imagines this bridge full of red itch faces

laughing at the gangplank running toward the

town. the glare within his nurtured hate

rises with the scowling sound of barking orders

from deck to pier & crate to rig

with only a hint of a promise from the

captain’s breath,            “. . . maybe then you might get paid.

                                    but don’t hold past the fifth bell

                                    cause I may not have all day”


& jorge the younger, twelfth in the line of the first son

scares himself with his own concession: sideway nod

                                                            load the raft

                                                             hook that forklift

                                                            pull the rope

                                                             holler ‘HOLD’

                                                             watch it soar

                                                             catch the rim

                                                            drag these crates

maxwell house united fruit sugar coffee peas and rice

different brands from outer lands

                                                             high-low dolly

                                                            load again &

                                                             yell, ‘YES’

                        botado en la calle, pero sigo, compai . . .

                                                             push handle truck

                                                            four at one time

                                                             stop that Cuban

                                                             get him to sign

                                    “ha ti fue quien mandaron!”

                                                  “man, sign the damn thing!”

                                    “heh/heh, mira, que con el no se hace na!

                                    ni pa’ la leche del nene se hace na!”

                                                 “esta bien, muchas gracias, pero. . .”

clipboard clung beside his chest, jorge’s labor

ends as he walks these duty brick burned streets

                        botado en la calle, pero sigo, compai. . .

stops at the door / peeps inside the sailor’s bar

signals to his tormentor,

sky cap tilted back laughing at the joke

                                                “here’s a ten spot. Wear it slow

                                                 thanks for the job not that well done”

            Ten?                            “ten”

            TEN!?                         “ten!”

            Muthahhh. . .                (slap that bill from out his hand. beer bottle

up against foot raised rail. jorge’s hand circles neck swinging wide splatter

cap, thumb captain smile “SHIT!” screaming loud shattered glass. “grab that

bastard!” dim-lit joke & a jab push dim-wit choke. elbow grip round jorge’s

throat – jerk pull back jorge’s free – crack a fifth against spittoon glitter

sharp jagged cut cut slice & shout out loud)

            HOLD IT!

            move another & you’ll move no more!

easing steps jorge makes backwards to the door

eyes full fixed & once outside drops the bottle


                        botado en la calle, pero ando, compai

                        botado en la calle, pero sigo, comai

                        siempre estoy mirando, buscando my pai

                        siempre encontrando mas de lo que hai

                        botado en la calle pero. . .

jorge the younger           

twelfth in the line of the first son born from

the seed of Caguas heads for that highland town

near the center of his island heart throb desire

in search of his father’s crime

& hopes a home is waiting for him there.

Source:  Scattered Scripture: Reaching, Claiming, Lunging for the Universe of Things (1996)

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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.” We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 4 October 2011




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