Homesick: Dominican Poet Francis Mateo on Washington Heights, Nostalgia, and Identity

“We packed our bags, and we were here.”

A poet from Inwood, New York reminisces about his family coming to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic, and how his parents’ American Dream differs from his own.

Read a translation of Mateo’s poem, “Homesick,” which is featured in this Cowbird post.


I balance myself, being neck and knife;

My experiences are nothing new.
I theorize at a bar in Arden with two-dollar beers,
A jukebox that only plays bachatas,

And a waitress with purple lips
who only pays attention to me when she feels like it.
I drink until the money runs out.
I bet on the latter is certain.
How one escapes nostalgia?
Daily, long distance masturbation.
A hermaphroditic identity,
Gnawers of sea grape and corn kernels doused on sweet milk

at 181st and St. Nicholas…
When asleep they always dream of palm tree huts and Mamajuanas [drink: rum, red wine and honey soaking in a bottle with tree bark and herbs]
The culture of a diaspora
mounted on the makeshift seat
right behind the driver of a minibus.


Fi2W is supported by the David and Katherine Moore Family Foundation and the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation. The Fi2W Magazine was made possible in part by The Media Consortium and the Voqal Fund.

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