Breaking Night

By WILLIE PERDOMO

"De Puerto Rico: Un Ano Despues de la Tormenta"

In that year of a shot to the head where were you the first time you broke night?

When you break night, you learn that one puff, under the right circumstance, can give you the right perspective.

You learn to pick up stories that fall & slip on the right side of knowing.

What is it, a blizzard? That was a summer riff should you be confronted with the choice of fight or fun.

The call from the rooftop used to be: boombellumboombellumboom and the sky would go back to its specific blue places.

The Block wakes to sun & skeleton. You can have God for free, water bread swan-dived off groggy trucks, & your soul begged for the breakfast special.

Bodega gates slammed open like start guns, and that’s when you tried to predict the future

A formal wind is all we needed to keep cool.

On that Sunday sunrise, we laughed because we saw the light for the first time; the light that breaks bread & the light the dead sing when it’s time for that last surge.

The rock doves atop the light posts coo-cooed our direction home: always North, always uptown.

There we were, still wearing our hallway hickeys, and someone had to pay for the Buddha Thai, the brown suede Bally’s, and the party socks. 

Fuck all those bubble-gum chewing the personal ain’t political mornings—it was time to swim.

One-by-one, we picked each other up until there was enough crew to fill a line-up.

The park was already fired up with cauldrons of gandules & asopao, all kinds of fricassee, & long grain Canilla lined with the story of an uprising.

Foils & forks, napkins & wipes, gizzards & tripe, the concept of an extended noon, & learning how to feed someone with a long spoon.

In the madrugada we found a Big Beat, a homeostatic way of hanging out, spin styles & salvation, word to my mother became our true signature.

The math was easy that morning. We wanted to open Spots where we could feel syncretic.

Language, the Old-Schoolers used to say, was a lemon running up the stairs, a piano plink, a water faucet you forgot to turn off.

Ain’t you somethin’, you the same one, we’d like to say. 

Metro-North rattles, more battles to be won, & part of the game was to be torn out of one’s frame.

Cherry blossoms caked on Mount Morris octagons, and the M116 rumbled a tune of transfers straight out of the depot.

Get the sun in your life, son.
You’re my sun because you shine,
not because you’re mine, son.

We ran over the mountain, walked the line on a dead steam pipe like a Wallenda, check it—that’s where all the favors go down.

The ghost of nasty Rucker Park crossovers. A highlight reel of sucker turnovers.

Doing it in the dark
Doing it in the dark
Oh yeah

We could’ve been six feet under for all we knew, so we hopped the public pool gates & swam 400-meter relays in our soaked boxers.

Created teams & heats, bets for next,

& banged out beats waiting for our legs.

Homeroom & homecomings, study hall & Scholastic had lost its appeal. Being cool, being real, crashing hooky sets & being rookie’d into gang divisions, the smell of sex & grown up talk, that’s what we knew of freedom. No regulation, no rules made to fit the latest trend, no rules to regulate the fool in us. That morning, all we wanted to find was a smile at the bottom of the world.

 

Willie Perdomo is the author of The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He teaches at Phillips Exeter Academy.

 

Avery FarmerBreaking Night

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