“Dos Corazones: After Papo Colo,” by Elisabet Velasquez
Read a poem about clashing identities, inspired by Papo Colo’s provocative print.
Sep 18, 2023
As we celebrate Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month, we honor the diaspora’s rich contributions to, and profound influence on, arts and culture in the US and beyond. This four-part poetry series invites four Latinx poets to explore and respond to a work in MoMA’s collection.
“I immediately felt very connected to this idea of having two hearts,” says Elisabet Velasquez, a Boricua writer from Brooklyn and author of When We Make It. Puerto Rican artist Papo Colo’s screenprint Every American Has Two Hearts connected deeply with Velasquez: “Both hearts contend with what it means to be a successful American in the United States while maintaining your own cultural identity, which, because of the history of colonization, can be at odds with your American identity.”
Velasquez continues, “I am constantly thinking about how I got here, wherever ‘here’ is at the moment. At this moment I’m being invited to be a part of this series. I sit down to write my poems with this question in mind: What does it mean for me to be an artist at this moment? This is the poem that arrived as the answer to that question.”
Velasquez joins a number of esteemed poets who have contributed original poems to Magazine. We present “Dos Corazones: After Papo Colo” in honor of Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month, which is celebrated annually from September 15 to October 15.
Papo Colo. Every American Has Two Hearts (portfolio cover) from 2006: Trance/Borders. 2006
• • •
My second heart got an email
about My First Heart at The Museum of Modern Art.
My first heart tells my second heart
that now is her chance to say something important,
Something for the archives about who she is.
About who her mother never got to be.
My second heart immediately gets to work
on the administrative portion and compiles a list
of possible exhibition titles.
Proud Diasporican. Diasporican Gang.
Lonely Diasporican. Diasporican in Distress.
My first heart is always Diasporican
but never quite knows how to feel about it.
My first heart doesn’t trust museums,
she heard they be stealing people’s hearts.
My second heart tells my first heart that things are different now.
These days they ask the heart for permission.
It’s for educational purposes only.
My first heart tells my second heart she isn’t anybody’s teacher.
She’s still trying to learn her own history.
That’s why my first heart became an anthropologist
and found out she was a rare artifact.
I’m talking wild vintage and shit.
Records trace her back all the way to 1898
but my first heart says that’s bullshit.
My first heart has a memory long as a Yuca root
and she demands you acknowledge that she existed way before that.
My first heart is a complicated machine
that breaks down in multiple languages.
My first heart knows Spanish is a colonized tongue
so she doesn’t feel bad about speaking it terribly.
My first heart knows English is a colonized tongue,
so, for fun, my first heart pisses off strangers by telling them
“In America, we speak Spanglish.”
My first heart knows where she is from
but still asks Puerto Rico for forgiveness for being born in Brooklyn.
My first heart knows where she is from
but still asks Brooklyn for forgiveness for moving to New Jersey.
My first heart can’t afford the rent anywhere,
so my first heart finds home wherever Boricuas are.
Wherever Boricuas have had to be.
My first heart has a plan to birth Boricuas on the moon.
My first heart has big dreams
that involve an avocado tree,
a 15-piece orchestra
and an aluminum tray full of relleno de papa.
My first heart doesn’t tell my second heart
about any of these plans because my second heart
is too busy trying to make it as a poet in America.
• • •
Elisabet Velasquez is a Boricua writer from Brooklyn who now lives in Jersey City. She is known for her poems, which have been featured on NBC, Telemundo, Latina Magazine, Refinery 29, and more. She is a Poets House Fellow, a Dodge Poetry Fellow, and a New Jersey Council for the Arts Fellow. Her debut young-adult novel in verse, When We Make It, received the Kirkus Best YA Fiction Award and a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults award. It went on to be a 2021 Goodreads Readers Choice Nominee and a 2022 Gotham Prize Finalist, and was named a *New York Times* Young Adult Book to Watch For. When she is not writing she is living the life she hopes to write about.
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