A poem by Aja Monet, with scenes of the city she grew up in, from her new collection My Mother was a Freedom Fighter.
564 Park Avenue, by the way, is the address of the Colony Club, a socialite gathering spot on Manhattan's Upper East Side. With its exclusive all-women membership, the abode is known for its lush marble and brick polish--burnished by countless abuelitas, bustling between neighborhoods that might as well be separate countries, in a metropolis that never remembers the color of their hands or the warped brooms they drag over the floor. But it admires the pristine sparkle in the windows they leave behind as they punch out, as they retreat to their own corner of the city and into a grandchild's embrace.
--June 2, 2017
564 Park Avenue
abuelita's hands were a time card she clocked
in and out, morning and night. they were
a pile of dirty sheets at the foot of a bed,
gnarled broomsticks, dustpans, and sooty vacuums,
her hands were soiled rags in yellow gloves,
they were two pillows beaten of mites
and dead skin, her hands were paper towels
and windex on greasy mirrors.
they were many rooms each day.
her hands were a slice of wonder bread
dipped in dark coffee with sugar,
they were cinammon sticks oozing in farina,
they were ketchup squeezed over a plate
of scrambled eggs and white rice
they were what fed and cleansed
her hands were my hands
rushing to school before work.