Cave Canem: A Special Section
Who am I?I am a small point in the eye of the full moonI need only one ray of the sun to warm my faceI need only one breeze from the tradewinds to refresh my soulWhat else can I ask, if I know that my sons really love me Roberto Clemente
I awoke under a heavy quilt to a distant crackling radio, my lips curled as I realized it was New Year’s Day. I rolled over, strained to hear the broadcast above my brother Jeff snoring in the bunk below. The regular program had been interrupted, there was the sound of waves washing against a shore, which I soon realized was my mother crying. It was January in Pittsburgh, which is to say the radiator struggled against the chill howling outside our cracked window. I hopped down onto frozen linoleum, tiptoed to my mother’s bedroom door. The newscaster reported that a plane carrying Roberto Clemente, and food and clothing for earthquake victims in Nicaragua, has crashed off the coast of Florida. The words struck my chest [End Page 1022] like the fat end of a bat. It had never occurred to me that a hero could die. A glove left in the grass at the Little League field, was all I knew of loss. In a world of cracked asphalt and chipped bricks, his John Henry swagger was all I knew of myth. A skinny ten year old, I fell asleep pretending he was my father, even though a stadium shouting Arriba Roberto was all I knew of Spanish. I’d taken a black crayon and drawn the number 21 on the back of a T-shirt, then fought to play right field, because his glove upturned for a basket catch was all I knew of grace. Brown as spiced rum, black as a barge of coal, he spanned the gap from Puerto Rico’s cane fields to Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers. Dark smoke choked the sun, our city of rusty bridges and steep hills lost the glow from its fabled mills. While on a Florida shore his family sang, as the waves peaked like shark’s teeth and the arms of the palm trees waved, Arriba Roberto.Adios.
D.J. Renegade lives in Washington, DC. He has published before in Callaloo.