En Memoria: Miguel Algarín

Miguel Algarín era Poeta.  Lo escribimos con mayúscula porque era su nombre propio. En su casa en Manhattan se reuneian los poetas. Tantos que tuvieron que buscar un local donde estuvieran más cómodos. Junto a otros Poetas como Miguel Piñero y Pedro Pietri cofundó el Nuyorican Poets Café,  que hoy es una de las institucionesculturales  más importantes de la comunidad puertorriqueña y latinoamericana en Estados Unidos.

Algarín era promotor de la poesía y la cultura. Su voz e influencia llegaban a la radio, al cafee, y fue editor de varias antologías que le dieron impulso al género. Sus libros meas conocidos son Mongo Affair , On Call (1980), Body Bee Calling from the 21st Century (1982), Time’s Now / Ya es tiempo (1985), Love Is Hard Work: Memorias de Loisaida / Poems ( 1997, Poemas / Recuerdos del Lower East Side) y Supervivencia Supervivencia de Prensa Arte Público. 2009, del que presentamos una selección.

Rafael Acevedo/En Rojo

“Always throw the first punch”

 My uncle always insisted,

“strike the first punch,

put your enemy on the run.”

I always threw the first punch,

I remember,

“attack, attack, attack,

put the hurting

on his limbs,”

I remember,

I remember

the night my uncle

got angry because I said

his wife thought his nuts

were christmas walnuts

and that she cracked them

every day of the year,

his left arm twitched,

I leapt at him

and struck first.


Miguel Algarin, ““Always throw the first punch” (1980)” from Survival Supe


Elections and . . . : second part (1985)

 “People go out to vote

but the guerrillas obstruct them.”

That’s what’s said on Channel 4 in Manhattan.

On the 28th of March we’re made to understand

that Democracy is being obstructed

by the left, “the guerrillas

fire against the Salvadoran people,”

but that chaos was invented in the White House

and it doesn’t afflict the public in Chatatenango,

there aren’t any guarantees

for the public to take hold of!

although some go out and vote pretending

that the machinery is not fraudulent,

that Duarte doesn’t repress,

not withstanding that it’s written in every man’s bible,

that in El Salvador Christ has not yet

freed his folk.

HIV (1994)





We tell in strength. “The telling,” when to tell, leads to a discovery

between the teller and the listener. Acquiring knowledge; the teller

holds his/her information as a tool for health, movement towards truth.



To converse as an attempt to recuperate, a holding on not to die.




To acquire “language” for talking about a plague in the self.


Sharing Secrets

Who to tell? Is there someone? The search for what to tell.



Mature Masculinity

Welcome the responsibility to do the work of building verbs, adjectives

and nouns for mortality and its subsequent eternal breaking of concrete.


  1.                    Revelation    

Revel at ion,

rebel at I one a course

to regret erections,

to whip the cream in my scrotum

till it hardens into unsweetened,

unsafe revved elations

of milk turned sour

by the human body,

of propagation of destruction.

The epiphany: I am unsafe,

you who want me

know that I who want you,

harbor the bitter balm of defeat.


  1.                    Salvation

If I were to show you

how to continue holding on,

I would not kiss you,

I would not mix my fluids with yours,

for your salvation

cannot bear the live weight

of your sharing liquids with me.


III.   Language

To tell,

to talk,

to tongue into sounds

how I would cleanse you with urine,

how my tasting tongue would wash your body,

how my saliva and sperm would bloat you,

to touch you in our lovemaking

and not tell you

would amount to murder,

to talk about how to language this

so that you would still languish

in my unsafe arms and die,

seems beyond me,

I would almost rather lie

but my tongue muscle moves involuntarily

to tell of the danger in me.


  1.                    Of Health

To use my full and willing

body to reveal and speak

the strength that I impart

without fear,

without killing,

without taking away what I would give,

to use my man’s tongue

to share,

to give,

to lend,

to exact nothing,

to receive all things,

to expand my macho

and let the whole world

into the safety of my mature masculinity.


  1.                    Quarantine

Sometimes I fear touching your plump ear lobes:

I might contaminate you.

Sometimes I refuse odors that would

drive my hands to open your thick thighs.

Sometimes closing my ears to your voice

wrenches my stomach and I vomit to calm wanting.

Can it be that I am the bearer of plagues?

Am I poison to desire?

Do I have to deny yearning for firm full flesh

so that I’ll not kill what I love?

No juices can flow ‘tween you and me.

Quicksand will suck me in.


New Year’s Eve

December 31, 1975


Richie playing the maracas

is the universe becoming fluid

and the Nuyorican Café

floor becoming platform

for the shape of art

to mimic so that the artifact

becomes direct message

no symbols of

but the very thing itself

the knife in the belly

and the blues singing soft

shoes of pain as my gut

kicks my nerves insisting

on its pain vomiting more pain

about gifts that on a Christmas

day reached a dead child

too late to be played with

but it wasn’t the deliverer’s fault

it was his uncle who kept forgetting

that Christmas falls with love

not on a calendar but on the tenderest

feelings where the self of all others wants

love and sharp edges that awake

the internal mind into a self-created speech

that reaches over into your listener’s system

and reschedules his entire psychic set,

I once had a friend who in one afternoon

traced all of my spinal short-circuits

and rearranged my electrical flow

into more fluid work than the switch-on,

switch-off, I’m overloaded crisis

that results in nausea, asphyxiation and the

swallowing of my tongue

hay algo

hay un epileptic fit

trying to reduce me into a trembling

mass of jellied nerves, formless,

shuddering, there, on the subway floor

while hundreds of passengers masochistically

look on both enjoying my crisis and feeling sorry

for me, the poor wretch, lying on the dirty

concrete subway floor imploring my muscles

and nerves to keep cool and cut the short-

circuit tongue down my throat menace

out and institute a no-nonsense

coherent I’m a mechanical and predictable

human being behavior modification program

to counter my muscular violence against myself

which keeps calling attention to itself while the

transit cop is almost breaking both my legs

by throwing his full weight on me as he

tries to hold my legs still and my mouth open

grabbing at my tongue, yanking it out,

shaking my shoulders, slapping my face,

working to neutralize the short-circuit

in my spine till Dr. Psychiatrist starts

to define my mind and its connections

into a State Asylum where I can get more

medication than I do out on the streets

or have the medication forced on me by a

well-meaning nurse who relates herself to me

through an every four hour give him his

dosage routine

hay algo

it’s 11:59 p.m. 1975

and I got one more minute of talk

before 1976 finds me shooting up and down

behind the Nuyorican Café bar trying to

decide if nuclear war will ravage

New York before I find out just how

to divide the line so that it repairs

short-circuits that block the world

from coming together! it is 12 a.m.

the new year’s been bombed and over the T.V.

the hottest news release tells us that at La Guardia

Airport an explosion was so strong that tiny,

invisible slivers of glass have penetrated the skin

of many but the slivers are so fine that

it cannot be detected where they’ve entered

the body

and here it is 1976 enters in like a

glass sliver undetected yet causing pain.




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