Malcolm Friend

J-Lo wraps herself in a Puerto Rican flag wrapped in an American flag,

and a collection of chords bundles into a skeleton.
Diva wrapped in two flags, voice wrapped
around songs marching one long funerary procession.

How natural it is to sing American.
How natural it is to hope this cacophony maps
us a country: collection of chords, bundle of skeletons,

repetitive rhythm this empire’s lesson.
The coquí’s croaked nocturne cracks
our anthems from one long funerary procession,

sugarcane fields and coffee crops embedded
with a chorus of protests. An archipelago slapped
into a collection of chords, bumbling skeleton

of an orchestra symphonized until there is no question—
we are American as anyone else who isn’t really, the gap
between our every song just another funerary procession.

And for a moment I imagine myself dressed in
the cloth of two flags—how they thrash, how they flap,
tune my body into a collection of chords over my skeleton
and every song I know into one long funerary procession.


All Diasporican All the Time

—after Taína S01E05: “En Español”

All flags draping fire escapes or windows or rearviews all the time.
All sky blue flags ’cause fuck Americanization all the time.
All bomba plena salsa reggaetón blasting from computer speakers all the time.
All Don Q or Palo Viejo but never Bacardí rum nationalism all the time.
All plátanos eaten at whatever Caribbean restaurant you can find all the time.
All Clemente and Don Pedro portraits in the restaurants all the time.
All Clemente jerseys even if we’ve never been to Pittsburgh all the time.
All TV blasting home runs and strikeouts from baseball games all the time.
All rooting for boricuas en las grandes ligas all the time.
All rooting for Puerto Rico against the US in international play all the time.
All weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeepa all the time.
All How could you tell I’m Puerto Rican? all the time.
All straight A’s in high school Spanish while stumbling over a Spanglish tongue all the time.
All pronouncing it Porto Rico ’cause Americanization fucks us all the time.
All substituting spices and produce in the family recipes all the time.
All Cheo boleros on the heartbroken days all the time.
All gray Seattle skies instead of tropical sun are heartbreak all the time.
All Puget Sound chill instead of Caribbean Sea breeze is heartbreak all the time.
All summers passed without a trip to Borinquen are heartbreak all the time.
All plans to bring Pops back to the homeland one last time falling through all the time.


Malcolm Friend is a poet originally from the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. He received his BA from Vanderbilt University and his MFA from University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of the chapbook mxd kd mixtape (Glass Poetry, 2017) and the full-length collection Our Bruises Kept Singing Purple (Inlandia Books, 2018), winner of the 2017 Hillary Gravendyk Prize, and co-edited the anthology Até Mais: Latinx Futurisms (Deep Vellum, 2024). Together with JR Mahung, he is a member of Black Plantains, an Afrocaribbean poetry collective. He currently lives and teaches in Austin, TX.