At the Kiosk of La Gitana

By Loretta Collins Klobah

botánica in new york city

The display window of a Puerto Rican botánica in New York City. From a photograph by Matt Green, posted at Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Mano. Bring your sandbags over here.
Yes, you, mi amor. Ven acá, papito.
Mira, guapo, I have something for you.
I have tucked it here, close to my heart.
Don’t be tímido, voilà! Choose a packet.
Well, take it out; tetas don’t bite.
Ay, La Pepa Negra, just what you need,
mi viejito. Never mind that cabrona
weighing guineos at the fruit stall.
She’s not laughing at you, para nada.
She’s my mejor cliente for La Baba de Caracol.
No me sorprende. Every time I see that skin
of hers, I want to rub it with crema de coco
and leaf of life. Nada, yo sé de todo.
Try this one, cariño,
Enciende Tu Lola.
And I have advice for you, querido.
When you go home, sweep
and wipe all of the polvo from your room.
Use a fresh mop-head and a little Mr Clean
in the water. No, not Fabuloso or Lestoil
or any of the soapy floor rinses of La Madama
and Abre Camino that I sell in my shop.
Mr Clean, the bald man with the earring,
and swab the floor well.
Horney Lion Be the Lion, oh, yes,
this one is good, too good.
You will want this one?
My dear, you must let in fresh air,
and put clean sheets on the bed,
with your own hands, no stains,
and take some of these azucenas
to put in a glass vase by the bed.
Just a few sweet flowerstalks will do.
The room en orden, todo limpio.
Hold out your hands! Ay, señor, you must trim
and file those nails well. Short and clean.
No jagged edges, me entiendes?
Your fingers must be smooth and ready.
If the other products don’t produce a result,
use my favourite, Levanta Tu Don Juan.
Take a good shower, rubbing every crevice
with mint soap. It is summer,
the season of mildew. I’m going to slip
into your bag Capsulas China Doll de Dr Ming —
She will call you Muñeco the next morning.
And listen, Papisongo, that is all that it takes.
But one more thing, think about her and take time.
Sometimes when she dreams, she wakes gasping,
short for air, still panting, with her chocha deep
muscle-aching like her little gata has been launched
into a star-birthing nebula and pummeled by meteorites,
yes, like she had been doing el perreo with Mr Clean all night long
in her dreams. No importa si ella es una viejita.
Her hamburger is gonna burn from that kind of dream.
We are all viejitas verdes, my love, and you must
transport us to that kind of delight on your old caballo.
Kinky Spirit might be the cure, but it’s not my choice.
If all goes well, and afterwards, her hair
covers her pillow, and she smiles with closed eyes
for a long time, and her face glows,
you must know that only one time, when she was
young and with a different lover, he observed
her in this state of contentment and fulfilled pleasure
and told her that she looked just like an angel.
You must know that she remembers that
though it never happened again in her life.
Look for the glow, but do not say anything if it is there.
Think, tranquila, and lie far from her on the bed.
It is summer. It is hot. Ay, how I am sweating.
Take this last packet, Don Guapo,
for your journey to Paradise Ultra Plus.


The Caribbean Review of Books, September 2016

Loretta Collins Klobah lives in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she is a professor of Caribbean literature and creative writing at the University of Puerto Rico. She is the author of the poetry collection The Twelve-Foot Neon Woman (Peepal Tree Press, 2011), winner of the poetry category of the 2012 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.