For my mother

It was little Felix's birthday the other day.
              You would love his style.
              When he was six he asked
              me to shave an arrow in his
              head and dye it blue.
              He's a great dancer.

Albizu is a wonderful big brother.
              He loves baseball. I've read
              him the story of grandma's
              favorite ball player,
              Satchell Paige,
              like twenty times.

                                                          You've never met them.

A lot has changed.
              >We have a black president.
              Gay marriage is legal in New York State
              and Mario Cuomo's son is the governor.

Can you believe that?

Raising two boys has caused me to think
about:
              feminism,
              heterosexism, and
              patriarchy,
              all words you taught me.

I'm trying to raise them to be
like the man you thought I was.

Mom?
I have to say that I didn't
always live up to the standards
you raised me by.

When I was in college,
I absorbed the homophobia around me,
disregarding your lessons,
in hopes that I wouldn't
be seen as vulnerable
                                           or gay.

              I played the part,
snuggled comfortably in a
                                                                     cloak
              of privilege.

              I slipped it off when I
came home to visit you,

remembering
              that my darker skin
              should help me see parallels
              with other types of oppression.

                                                        You got sicker and sicker

The boys wear cloaks too.
              They get them from Harry Potter,
              but you haven't heard of the Harry Potter Series.
              It was written by a writer who once lived
              on public assistance; she sounds
              a little like you.

They talk about you all the time.

                                                        And they will never get to hug you.

              You taught me how to write.
              You taught me about Satchell Paige.
              You taught me how to be a good dad.

I want to show you
that the lectures,
the pestering,
the overly critical responses to:
the music I listened to,
the TV shows I watched,
and the friends I was hanging with,
worked. It all worked momma.

And I know
              if you are           a full spirit
              hovering in some invisible world
or
              if you are compacted energy
crushed, in a mortar and pestle,
                                             and dispersed
              into
                              specks of dust in my garden
or
              just microscopic cells floating in air

or
              if you only live
                            in the dna transfer,
              transmitted to me,
                            and re-transferred to the boys,

no matter what form you
              could possibly take,

I'm certain that,
              if you could see their smiles,
                                          their fierce, gentle fight,
              if you could uncloak,
                                          reconstitute,
              and hug them,
                                          feeling their heartbeats,

you would smile,

                                                        wider than I remember.

Victorio Reyes is an activist and artist living in Albany, NY. Reyes was featured in the anthology of emerging writers: Chorus, published by MTV Books and edited by Saul Williams. He holds an MFA degree from The Vermont College of Fine Arts and teaches poetry classes at Siena College. His poems are forthcoming or have been published in the Acentos Review, Mobius, Word Riot, The Pine Hills Review, The Homework Project and the anthology It Was Written: Poetry Inspired by Hip Hop. In 2014, Reyes served on a panel entitled "Uncovering Hip Hop Poetry" at the AWP Conference. Reyes also explores the role of activism in art evidenced in his essay "A Personal Journey for Justice," published by the feminist blog She Breathes. Blending his writing and activism, Reyes has also been the executive director of The Social Justice Center of Albany (SJC) for the past 10 years.