Raquel Vazquez is a Puerto Rican and African American poet from Brooklyn, NY. Her poetry is inspired by her Black and Latinx communities, womanhood, and her work as an urban planner. Raquel is Founder and CEO of The Empowered Block, a community development consultancy and platform for people of color to promote our leadership in the industry. Her work has been supported by the Hurston/Wright Foundation and the New York Writers Coalition Black Writers Workshop. Raquel holds an MPA and bachelor’s degrees in Sociology and Latin American & Caribbean Studies. She is currently working on her first poetry collection.
Armor on the sidewalk
I carefully exit the train station.
I put on my invisible cloak again
and try to hide at a moment's glance.
I've got six blocks to walk.
I look both ways and I'm off.
My body paces forward.
My fists are clenched.
My muscles tighten.
Four more blocks.
I stomp aloud while I quietly float away.
My body gliding in a loose, long coat,
loose pants, a loose shirt
Denying any curve their right to emerge
to avoid those unelicited looks and those words
that land far from where they wanna be heard.
Two more blocks.
I hear a "Ay mami que chula que tu eres"
coming from near the corner store on 141st
My hair stands up on the back of my neck.
My arms break out goosebumps.
My palms start to sweat.
My shoulders press down
and their blades come together
as a bird prepares to fly away.
Another voice goes
"hey yo, ma what's good"
demanding my response.
I say nothing and keep pacing forward.
Now the second voice gets louder and comes closer.
"Oh you don't hear me? You didn't hear what I just said?"
I try to walk faster.
And just move.
Get out and keep moving.
Thumping away to my next step,
I steer myself forward like that
bird steady in motion as a speeding car appears
derailed from the path to its nest.
I toiled away from 9-5 for "the man"
to return home uptown
to get torn down all over again
by my own people
I slow down and I paint an offering on my face.
I muster an uneven nod and a forced smile
to ward off these birds of prey.
Satisfied, they nod back at me
and continue their stoop banter.
I'm mad as hell.
I engaged my smile as my armor.
I failed my spirit,
as I protected my body.
One more block.
My stomping feet feel heavier and feel heavier
as I push them to step again and step again.
I halt as I catch myself in front of my building.
A plane flies overhead.
I look up and pray I'm wishing on a star
For it to take me away
far from here,
to where I might not deal
with this shit anymore.
I shuffle into my apartment
and hang up my invisible cloak
for yet another day.