The Imaginary Nation

The Imaginary Nation

the imaginary nation

(for Rufina and Moises Santos and Lisa Sanchez González)

legal immigrant puerto ricans never needed
a green card or naturalization papers
based on the technicality of yankee colonialism
they never had to learn the pledge of allegiance
or salute the stars and stripes
until they were made citizens to fill the gaps
left in the trenches of two world wars,
the korean war and the conflict in vietnam
canon fodder immigrants with drafted second class citizenship
conveniently filed under the selective service negro regiments
dying in service to a country that allowed them
to fill two needs with one grave
that’s one less dead american and one more dead porto rican

puerto ricans never needed papers to come from a nationless nation
mocked by american billboards to lift themselves up
by their bootstraps in an operation to make them dependent
on the american made heel pushing down on their throats
it’s an effort to choke the dignity out of them
but all they ever spit up was broken american english
from the asthmatic factory sweatshop floors
careful not to get any spanglish on the pennies paid piece work
as they sat at a singer that sang a song of oppression
always catching that sweet but dirty puerto rican sweat
in the palm of their hand before it hit the white porcelain
toilet seats they cleaned or the pale tile floors they scrubbed

they never needed papers to be encouraged or coerced
to leave a country they couldn’t fully claim as their own
to come to a country that would claim them as unknown
this in-betweenness this not here and not here
and not over there either
this 500 year plus limbo and counting
this nationalist purgatory that requires an ongoing penance
this nation squeezed into the space of a colony
contained by a fake autonomy
this nationless nation smuggled across borders
in the minds and bodies of puerto ricans
this fractured indigenous european african passport
is unacceptable i.d. and so it must be fake
since it defies the social science mythology of race and nationality

papers? we don’t need no stinking papers
we carry an identity that defies classification
our papers are the deed to a current imaginary nation
looking to be a former colony
but the americans have camouflaged their imperialism
with puerto rican olympic teams pan american games
miss universe beauty pageants titles
and the classification of international flights to domestic territories
and holding opinion polls called plebiscites
rigged as american propaganda
while the world scratches its head trying to understand
how these americans have rewritten the old rules of imperialism
and risked allowing such facades
to be the glue for such political schizophrenia
never understanding that its spectacle for divide and conquer
never understanding that its port-o rican against puerto rican

then the americans hold up a defaulted bank note and say
you port-o ricans haven’t yet paid for the right to be decolonized
and puerto ricans hold up political assassinations and
political prisoners and fbi files and prisoners of war
as a receipt that the rent’s been overpaid by the tenants
who look to serve the absentee landlord of yankee imperialism
with an eviction notice but the paper for that is invalid
because there are no refunds on theft
and the eviction notice was written in a disappearing ink
because puerto ricans don’t need papers
to validate their invalidation
they come from a set of coordinates left in a racial geopolitical void
from a place that exists without definition
from a omitted chapter in history books
because they exist without a nation
they carry within their existence an imagined nation

they’ve lived like this for so long they’ve grown accustomed
to the contradictions of imagined nationhood
and on a sunday in early june they celebrate it
with a fervor unmatched by any real nation
they march that imagination up 5th avenue
driving it uptown against the traffic
while pulling a float of dancing girls
with a permit from the mayor and flashing police escort
waving a real flag for a symbolic nation
parading the pride of their imagination as evidence to the world
that they have found a visceral way to exist
within this ether of colonialism
without a tolerance for the absurd or a propensity for the surreal
or a sense of humor about the nakedness
of an empire that wears no clothes
puerto ricans would’ve been a past tense without a future

but this blessing is a difficult poison to swallow
when they ask you for the claim check ticket
for the imaginary nation left in a parking garage
that only puerto rican parking lot attendants have access to
when they ask who was your mother and who was your father
and where’s your grandmother
and show me on the maps of nations where it is you’re from
when they ask to see the invalid papers
they’ve forced you not to carry
to validate your unrecognized existence

– vagabond



Dear World,
This is my film No Way Home if you want to watch it, it’s $1.50… If you want to buy it it’s $3… Could i let you see it for free? Sure… But shit cost me $15K to make… and that doesn’t include the labor of my friends and family who worked for free… These co-conspirators are named in the credits of the film, i won’t bore you with names you’ve never heard of (but deserve to be known) and that have no bearing on anything since you haven’t yet seen the film… It would only make this post longer and we all know how shorter is better on the internets… But damn, they are an incredibly talented bunch… and i’m blessed to be able to call them friends and doubly blessed to count them as artistic co-conspirators…
photo by Sam Lahoz

i shot it on film… Yeah film, 100′ rolls of Kodak Vision 3 • 7213 • 500T stock … On a Bolex connected to a battery belt to power the motor… We shot some of it in Queens and Brooklyn and Washington Heights in upper Manhattan in New York City and we shot some in Valley Of Fire in Nevada and in Red Rock Canyon just outside of Vegas… Some more friends of mine who are musicians and also worked for love, not pay… created a beautiful original improvised score… They’re names are in the credits too…


It’s 20 minutes long… It’s about finding god in yourself and in others and fusing the fractured pieces together… It could be a narrative if you believe narratives can be a simple as this… It could also be a non-narrative… i’m too close to know… or care… i hope you like it but i don’t really give a fuck if you do… My friends and i made some beautiful unforgettable memories making the film… and if you watch the film and pay close attention you’ll feel that beauty coming through wrapped up in the images and the sound… Anyway the beautiful unforgettable memories we made are enough with or without a film… There are pieces of this in the film to prove these statements… Watch it… look closely, listen intently, leave yourself open and the reward will come…
i don’t do this film thing for the money… i don’t do it for the love either… Although maybe there’s a kind of love there but if there is, it’s a complicated love… i do this to stay safe, to sane, to stay secure in my own soul, to stay stabile in my own mind… When i’m not making films my blood goes bad, the saliva in my mouth drys up, my muscles get tight and nothing feels right… The demons squat my well being and evict my peace and my worthlessness threatens to rise above my head and drown me… Only making the films eases the pain, reduces the fever, alleviates the ache of feeling too much, makes the waters of worthlessness recede…
Not to say that making the films is not without its own pain, fever and ache… But it’s different… It’s tangible… it’s something that can be touched and held and the problems of filmmaking can all be solved… Unlike trying to find the god within yourself or within someone else and trying to fuse the fracture…
It would be nice if you saw the film… and even better if you got something more than beautiful images and honest poetry and incredible music… It would be good to even make a few dollars to recoup and reinvest into the next film that’s building in me like a storm in the distance ready to test me… again…
No Way Home Sunset Poster
photo by Sam Lahoz design by vagabond



M O V E by vagabond ©

31 years ago the Philadelphia Police Department dropped a bomb on the home of the MOVE organization… Six adults and five children were killed and 65 other homes in the area were destroyed due to the fire that consumed the area…



Surgeons and Butchers
surgeons or butchers by vagabond ©

surgeons or butchers

it sounds good
in theory
but inside
is a cancer that
that needs surgery
an operation that will
free us both
and if they won’t
lie down
and stay still
for us to carefully
remove the growth
then we’ll
cut them open
standing up
and they can die
with it
either way
some blood
must be shed
we can be surgeons
or we can be butchers
but this thing
between us
must be settled

-vagabond ©

Note: April being poetry month i wanted to challenge myself to have a poem with an accompanying piece of art for each day of the month posted in this space… Share what you like… both on line and off…



the frontline
the frontline has us surrounded by vagabond ©

the frontline has us surrounded

satellites and cameras
have replaced faith with fear
the evidence of this has been recorded
as constant reminder of the failure
god forgive us for not doing more
the frontline has us surrounded
if only we could forget
long enough to imagine
if only the satellite and camera looked away
long enough for us to improvise

-vagabond ©

Note: April being poetry month i wanted to challenge myself to have a poem with an accompanying piece of art for each day of the month posted in this space here… Share what you like… both on line and off…



still togethter
still together by vagabond ©

still together
(an old school nyc love story)

lamstons the five and dime
in the subway at rockefeller center
where we met
went out of business

the criterion movie theater
in times square
where we went
on our first date
became a toys r us but is vacant now

the crumbling pier on christopher st
where we kissed for the first time
among the trannies
and homeless gay youth
is all fixed up now

little rickie’s on 1st ave and 3rd st
selling things no one needed
but everyone wanted
with the black and white photo booth
is gone

nell’s on 14th st
where we did
our midweek clubbing
closed down
and never reopened

domsey’s the thrift shop warehouse
where i bought back the leather jacket
i painted for you
that was stolen from save the robot’s
moved to a storefront

cbgb the church of punk rock
where ricanstruction played
couldn’t afford
to renew the lease

everything rough
and jagged
and strange and wonderful
and sad and broken
but working
is gone

but you and i are still together
living proof new york
real estate agents want to forget
you and i remain defiant

still together
living proof
of a new york no one
believes in
not anymore

-vagabond ©
Note: April being poetry month i wanted to challenge myself to have a poem with an accompanying piece of art for each day of the month posted here in this space… Share what you like… both on line and off…


Tear Gas.jpg
tear gas dancers by vagabond ©

tear gas dancers
(for ferguson and baltimore and blm)

are you still
firing tear gas
to try and stop us?
we have no more tears
for you
we dance in the smoke
that you can’t hide in any longer
we’re shadows
advancing in the tear gas
making our sorrow visceral
to give our worth weight
we dance over your tear gas canister
unable to choke
like the spirits of vengeance
we are required
to be
because you refuse
to let go of this premise
of superiority
we dance in the smoke
as we come for you
to clear the air
to come
to an understanding
to come
face to face
so you can mourn the loss
of your hate
as we whisper the names
of those you shot down
on the street
for being

-vagabond ©

Note: April being poetry month i wanted to challenge myself to have a poem with an accompanying piece of art for each day of the month posted in this space here… Share what you like… both on line and off…



no refuge by vagabond ©

no refuge

the lies
piled up like dead bodies
the optimism
bled and
drained from us
at every turn
even acquiescence
yields no reward
for the massive

and rebellion
is still seen
as a means of calling
the kind of attention to yourself
that everyone will tell you
is slow suicide
but is actually state homicide
when they put you
down by law

as if living were forever
and there was some safety
to be found
everything a lie
all of it
as if the lies eventually
become truth
if repeated ad nauseum
and there’s no refuge
not in acquiescence
or rebellion
and if there’s no refuge
then what do we have to lose
but the illusion?

-vagabond ©

Note: April being poetry month i wanted to challenge myself to have a poem with an accompanying piece of art for each day of the month posted here in this space… Share what you like… both on line and off…


less than ideal art and ideas for a less than ideal world…


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