A Bird for Felipe, a Bird for Damián / Un Pájaro para Felipe, un Pájaro para Damián

Ricardo Alberto Maldonado

A man dies in this world by a fistof trees, more than by our love.When I was young, muscles were carved from the mineralsso we could be forgiven.And yet, at the greeting of the birds,I loved the work, loved its respite,with which I wrote, the silt of our fears.It rains this September in our world.I’ve gained more from its wear.Who am I to be yours in this compulsorycentury, but a father, without possessive?I loved. I loved. I love presently.I fly its unavoidable flag,that trade, a match for us in the cold,a room in September,our whitening bones, humidin our melancholy.There’s nothing more to do but make itours. I waited with my lampto assemble birds for you,then release them,as if I were a child, to understand you,like the fresh waterthat washed over my hands. Un hombre muere en algún mundo por el puñode un árbol, más que por nuestro amor.Cuando yo era pequeño, se labró un músculode su mineral para ser perdonado.Y sin embargo, ante el saludo de los pájaros, amé la labor,su respiro, que escribía con la mugre de nuestras ansias.Llueve como septiembre en este mundo.Tengo más por su desgaste.¿Quién soy yo para ser suyos en este siglocompulsorio, sino un padre, pero sin posesivo?Amé. Amé. Yo amo.Tengo su bandera insoslayable.Ese oficio para nosotros como fósforo en el fríoen un cuarto de septiembrecon nuestros huesos blancos, húmedospor la melancolía.Queda más nada que hacerlonuestro. Esperaba con mi lámparapara inventar pájaros para ustedese impulsarloscomo cuando pequeño, para entenderlos,como el agua frescaque me dejó las manos.

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Eric McNatt

Ricardo Alberto Maldonado was born and raised in Puerto Rico. He is the co-editor of Puerto Rico en mi corazón and the recipient of fellowships from CantoMundo, the New York Foundation for the Arts and Queer|Arts|Mentorship. He lives in New York, where he serves as managing director at 92Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center.  

“[A] collection whose devastating precision is only matched by its capacity to rebuild tenderness from the ashes.”
—Raquel Salas Rivera

“. . . Complex and unblinking, with heaps of sorrow and grace, Maldonado has a knack for the impossible, and for making his readers look headlong into it until we all come out the other side more compassionate and honest.”
—Lynn Melnick

The Life Assignment is, in its own startling terms, an ecology of late capitalist grief. . . . This outstanding first book, merciless in its beauty and wit, is a ‘schema for our lapsed world,’ a way to make sense of our ‘somber city’ and ‘the grief / we happen to be around.’”
—Urayoán Noel

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