Burning Bush Publications
is proud to announce the winner of
the People Before Profits Poetry Prize 2000:

Aya de León
for "Grito de Vieques"

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Grito De Vieques
© 2000 Aya de León

My name is Vieques
I am a Puerto Rican girl.
My stepfather is the United States.
He comes into my room at night to do his business.

My names is Vieques.
I used to dream that Spain, my real father, would come back and rescue me.
But he's gone for good.
I have only the faint and echoing voices of Africana and Taina ancestors telling me that
I can survive this.

My name is Vieques.
When my body started to change, my stepfather dressed me in a clingy, itchy dress.
"Smile," he told me. "Smile at the nice foreign military man," and pushed me toward him.
The military man was not nice.
His skin was pasty. He breath smelled. I couldn't understand his language.
He came into my room and did his business.

My name is Vieques.
Sometimes my stepfather sells me to whole groups.
He calls them allied forces.
I fought back the best I could with chains and live bodies and fishing boats.
It happened anyway.

My name is Vieques.
I am still fighting back.
I am bigger and stronger now.
I have put a church, an encampment, a struggle up at my bedroom door.
My stepfather can't get in.
He has not been able to do his business for months now, longer than I ever dreamed.

My name is Vieques.
Without the shock of constant bombardment, the numbness is subsiding.
I look at my body and see the devastation.
Lagoons, like self-esteem, have dried up to nothingness.
My womb is wilting with radiation from illegally used uranium ammunition.
Where my skin was once lush and soft, I am scarred.
Old tanks, like cigarette burns, dot my flesh.
Unexploded bombs, like memories, may detonate in the future
when chosen lovers touch me in the wrong spot or without warning.

My name is Vieques.
The numbness is subsiding.
Tender shoots of grass push up toward the sky.
A lizard sneaks back to sun itself on a chunk of shrapnel.
A butterfly alights on a rusted out jet.
Fish slowly make their way back toward my shores,
no longer reverberating with shockwaves of violation.

My name is Vieques.
This is my body.
It may be worth eighty million dollars a year to you, Yanqui,
but it is priceless to me.

My door is barred.
I have burned the clingy, itchy dress.
The encampment grows stronger.
The lizards, the grass, the fish, the butterflies stand with me.
I'll never be the same,
but I'll never be yours again to do you dirty business.

My name is Vieques
and I will be free.

ABOUT VIEQUES: Vieques, a small island which is part of Puerto Rico, has been under US military occupation since 1941. During that time, the island and its occupants have been subjected to continuous US military exercises with live ammunition, including radioactive material. In April 1999, two bombs missed their target and killed David Sanes-Rodriguez, a civilian security guard. This incident touched off the most recent wave of resistance in Vieques and throughout Puerto Rican community at large.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Aya de León, a Californian of Puerto Rican heritage, wrote this piece in November 1999, after hearing Carlos Zenon, a fisherman/activist from Vieques, speak about the struggle. Since the writing of this poem, the Puerto Rican government has made a compromise with the US, and the struggle continues...
Aya de León's writing has appeared in many anthologies and broadcast on KPFA. We were also moved by her poem, "KPFA: Prayer for a Station Under Siege," which inspired many to continue the struggle to reopen community-sponsored, free-speech KPFA in the face of the Pacifica Foundation censorship and lockout of 1999.

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