Noel Quiñones is a Puerto Rican writer, performer, and community organizer from the Bronx. As a writer, he’s received fellowships from Poets House, the Poetry Foundation, CantoMundo, Candor Arts, and SAFTA (Sundress Academy for the Arts). As a performer, he has featured at Lincoln Center, Harvard University, BAM, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, and the Honolulu Museum of Art. His work has been published in POETRY, the Latin American Review, Rattle, Kweli Journal, and elsewhere. He is the founder and former director of Project X, a Bronx-based arts organization, and a current M.F.A. candidate in poetry at the University of Mississippi. Follow him at noelpquinones.com or online @noelpquinones.
De La Montaña Venimos
North Korea, December 24, 1950. The 65th Infantry finished a two-week evacuation of all supplies, ammunition, and equipment in the area through the Hungnam Waterfront, playing a central role in protecting the largest beachhead evacuation in U.S. military history. The next day they celebrated with a Christmas feast as my great-grandfather, Emiliano Andino-Perez, lay dying of dysentery.
War is a spider
legs thick as knuckles
in the chest. Born
at the last feast, I recall
only the sound of home.
De la montaña venimos,
the first unfamiliar frost, milagro
we, the Puerto Ricans called it,
ate snowfall until
they applauded our lack
of complaint. Our skin
invitandote a comer
replaced with rice straw,
delicate in its winter burning
the booby-trapped trail
of fingers, toes, ears
our tongues hung as
lechoncito en su vara
the only wet left on the Chinese
borders, where language marched
the fever in and hands prayed,
a rope of knotted wrists
buried in the stomach
con ron pitorro a beber.
Camp #1 was a muted palm tree
the parranda strangled itself and I
swore they were coming, a rescue
from the East. Sung shrill
as death comes for speech,
ay, hermano Yayo, ay, compai Nicholas¡
The enemy promises to bury
me on a hill beneath my refusal,
the path through barbed wire
where I waste nothing
but the heat of my beloved’s name.
Ábranme la puerta,
I am beyond the wrestle of limbs
and there are devils
in the pool I make
of my hunger. I sink
into believing I am the last ripple
que los quiero ver
her name is Virginia Andino,
tell her, tell her I made it,
a promise through the fence.
We aren’t allowed to speak
so I whisper
GMR: What is an issue in your community that you know is of utmost importance?
NQ: Food sovereignty, Food insecurity, Mutual aid, Agricultural access
GMR: What is the issue at hand?
NQ: 1 in 6 Americans will experience food insecurity at some point and that number is growing during the pandemic. Everyone, regardless of circumstance, should have access to not just healthy food but the ability to grow their own food. That is why I want to highlight three organizations doing this work from the communities that raised me, The Bronx, Queens, and Puerto Rico. The first org is Woke Foods, a food service and food justice worker-owned cooperative focused on innovating Dominican and Afro-Caribbean plant-based foods. They provide catering services, dinner experiences, and food justice workshops. The second org is the Queens Care Collective, a community of Queens residents founded in mutual aid who share resources and energy to meet each other’s needs, forming bonds with neighbors so that we can rely on one another in times of crisis and beyond. Finally, El Departamento de la Comida de Puerto Rico is a non-profit collective that acts as an alternative agency in support of small-scaled, decentralized, local food projects. Their two-program model of a Resource Library with tools, seeds, and educational materials, and a Kitchen with product-making equipment, renewable energy, and a retail point of sale, allows them to support food sovereignty through shared resources, exchange of labor and knowledge, and food in all its forms. You can help out by donating or volunteering with any of these organizations and / or using the last link to find community fridges near you across the country, where you can donate food to those who need it most.
GMR: How can GMR readers know more and possibly help?
- Woke Foods: https://wokefoods.coop/covid19/
- Queens Care Collective: https://www.queenscarecollective.nyc
- El Depa: https://www.eldepartamentodelacomida.org/abouteldepa
- Find a Community Fridge: https://mycommunityfridge.com