Text of the Poem

(Poetry for Students)

for my father
When the mountains of Puerto Rico
flickered in your sleep
with a moist green light,
when you saw green bamboo hillsides
before waking to East Harlem rooftops       5
or Texas barracks,
when you crossed the bridge
built by your grandfather
over a river glimpsed 
only in interrupted dreaming,                   10
the craving for that island birthplace
burrowed, deep
as thirty years’ exile,
constant as your pulse.

This was the inheritance                         15
of your son, born in New York:
that years before
I saw Puerto Rico,
I saw the mountains
looming above the projects,                     20
overwhelming Brooklyn,
living by what I saw at night,
with my eyes closed.