Not a Puerto Rican

Ninja at La Salita Cafe

I am Ninja.

I am told that I am not a Puerto Rican.

I was not born in El Presby,

or Auxilio Mutuo,

or any other dentist bed,

or taxicab on the island

I was born in Belleview hospital,

in the Lower East Side of Manhattan

in the city of New York.

My name can no longer be

William Ruiz Cuevas.

That name is too Puerto Rican

so just call me “Ninja”,

a name I acquired while growing up

in the city of New York

I am not a Yankees fan.

I despise the Yankees

just because they run around

calling themselves “Yankees”

and as my mother taught me

Lo que los Yankees quieren es fuego

I do not eat pernil

No religious reasons

I just don’t like the taste

I cannot dance good salsa,

no Bomba, no Plena

and I can’t stand the sound of reggaetón.

I like silence.

I want to say that I’m Boricua

because that somehow suggests the origins of my Taíno descent.

So I was thinking that I could maybe hold on to that

No soy Puertorriqueño

because my language sucks.

I express myself in English.

I’m a poet,

a writer

raised like my father.

I am the father of a Puerto Rican.

I have a strong handsome son

who was born en Borikén,

but I am not a Puerto Rican

because I was born wrong

I am not a Puerto Rican

I am not a Puerto Rican

I am not a Puerto Rican


I have to go back…

go back and tell the others…

warn the others

that they’re not Puerto Rican either.

They’re just others.

From New York to Chicago

California, Florida, Colorado

My sisters and brothers

the islanders consider us others

I need to tell the ladies,

don’t get a tattoo

of a Puerto Rican flag

on your Ame-Rican ass.

The pain will burn deeper

than you think.

Fellas, don’t show up draped

in star and stripes

at the Puerto Rican day parade.

I don’t think

they think this beautiful flag

is even ours to raise.

No soy patriota.

A patriot must love and protect

the land of their birth

I’ve only ever wanted

to love and protect the land of yours.

So this makes me a traitor,

defector to the flag of my birth.

I am not a farmer.

I did not cut sugar cane.

I grew up listening to Big Daddy Kane,

walking New York’s streets with a cane,

‘cause even if you don’t got a limp

you could always get jumped

just for being NuYorican without a cane.

I am not a star spangled

rag waving

American conquistador.

I am not.

I was a patriot,

A freedom fighter,

Now I am not.

I am a castaway.

Discarded, branded,

stranded and forgotten

I am striped of my flag

and marooned on a little island.

I’m a tramp.

A faceless, nameless, homeless, vagabond

I am that.

They call me Ninja