Sestina for Street-side Sorrow

1 March 2018

Nothing famous ever came out of Cuatro de Julio,
The street that always interrupted the sleep
Of its inhabitants, including my grandmother’s,
Who had to listen through the bawling sorrow
Of drunkards, the scampering of the police,
All of us under their mercy: our inheritance.

Largely debt and unhappiness, our inheritance
Was not visible to those living outside Cuatro de Julio—
If it were, other people, especially the police,
Would have been more forgiving, allowing our sleep,
Our silence and our poverty. Exposed to sorrow
Like salt, we swallowed our tears, like grandmother.

Setting up a house by the street, my grandmother
Soldiered through a husbandless life, her inheritance
From God. No one was a witness to this sorrow
Except her five children and Cuatro de Julio
Which, in its early years, was conducive for sleep.
They would be meddlesome decades later, the police.

Once, on my way to public school, I saw the police
Chase my cousins for drug pushing. My grandmother
Never intervened. Soap operas and afternoon sleep
Were her chosen companion, her inheritance.
For living so long in a street called Cuatro de Julio
She should have been spared from this kind of sorrow.

Sometimes, like shabu or cough syrup, sorrow
Could be addictive. Even the steadfast among the police
Are honeycombed by it. Patrolling Cuatro de Julio,
What wild sadness were they storing? My grandmother
Could teach them a thing about this native inheritance
So instead of beating their wives, they could sleep.

In a riot or in the stoning of our house, I feigned sleep.
There’s a limit to a boy’s body in containing sorrow;
Feverish, I once wept complainingly over this inheritance.
They were busy searching another’s house, the police
But I knew she heard me loud and clear, my grandmother.
In shame, I would write my address as Fourth of July.

Grandmother, forgive me for forsaking my inheritance.
I may have left Cuatro de Julio but not its sorrow.
The police have one less thing to worry about now. Sleep.

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