let us take two commodities such as
50 years of work and one debt
accumulated over 50 years.
as proprietor of the first
you decide to take it to caribe hilton banking
where i offer my life to pay this debt.
but they explain that it’s not enough:
just as the debt and the fifty years of work have use values that are qualitatively different, so are the two forms of labor that produce them: that of the investor and that of the colonized. your life is not enough. you will have to pay with the labor of your children and your children’s children.
let’s say you tell them i never had any because
i never wanted to make heirs of those who
barely know the difference
between milk and coquito.
but they explain that even if you don’t have a lineage
your neighbors, the dog that plunders your trash,
doña sophia with her luminous rosary, your abuela
that barely leaves the house to go to the pharmacy,
angelía that still awaits your book,
luis that finally has a job but still has debts to pay,
that guy who mugged you for ten bucks
that you come back with your neighbors,
with your abuela, with the dog
that sometimes searches your trash,
with angelía, with luis, and say
here are my heirs.
do you accept our payment?
will you terminate our debt?
will you erase our names from the system?
but they say where are the rivers?
el río guajataca, el río camuy,
el río cibuco, el río de bayamón,
el río puerto nuevo, el río grande de loíza,
el río herrera, el río mameyes,
el río sabana, el río fajardo,
el río daguao, el río santiago,
el río blanco, el río humacao,
el río seco, el río maunabo,
etc. etc. etc.
they will be your heirs.
this time you decide to get ahead.
like a specter you haunt all of puerto rico.
you grab handfuls of whatever:
gasoline station umbrellas, limestone,
birth certificates, shutdown shops, etc.
you go back to the bank with your island
so densely ingested that
you cough up burials and streetlights.
you say here i have all that fits
between the caribbean sea and the north atlantic.
here i have: my imaginary.
but they say you owe nothingness,
your account has a negative balance.
in exchange for this debt
we only accept coats,
but this you definitely don’t have
because it’s almost never cold
in puerto rico.
let’s say you go to philadelphia
to look for the coats much needed
by the abuelas, the angelías, the río maunabo, etc.
you work hard, look for a license
with a renewed address, buy three four
five hundred coats, go to the local branch
and say here they are;
i would like to pay that debt.
but without looking up they answer
here in philly we don’t accept coats.
let’s suppose that in the pasteles box
you send the coats to your mother
with a note that reads payment: puerto rican debt,
and mami [after decoding your handwriting] carries
the box to the local branch of the banco popular, caribe hilton banking or loquesea bank, where they give her a look and—before she can say a word—indicate to turn in coats, use line number three.
imagine that it is a long longer almost interminable line,
a line that spans 50 years.