Day camp in the summer of 1968:
The counsellors steered us to the roof
of a school building in Brooklyn,
slapped down soggy mattresses
and told us to wrestle.
A boy from Puerto Rico,
crazy as a spider in the bathroom sink,
heard my crippled Spanish
and decided I was not the Puerto Rican
that I claimed to be. With his thumbs
he tried to pop my eyeballs from their sockets.
The counsellors smoked and nodded.
The next day they matched me with Angel.
I swung my elbow back into his mouth
and he bled like a martyr.
If he could have flown home to the island
by leaping from that rooftop,
he would have spread his arms and jumped.
The spider-boy realised then
that I was Puerto Rican after all.
He stayed close to me that summer,
promising to jab his thumbs into the eyes
of anyone who disrespected me.
I never did aim my finger at the enemy
who should be blinded next.
I was satisfied. We were Puerto Ricans,
wrestling for the approval of our keepers,
inches from rolling off the roof.