Idealism by Li Yun Alvarado

By what sends / the white kids / I ain’t sent: / I know I can’t / be President. -Langston Hughes


I. Super (Bowl) Tuesday


Giants storm 
Canyon of Heroes
while patriots run
to the polls


II. Addicts


The American
Apparel mannequins
near Lincoln Center
get more culture and
action than most.

It occurs to me
there are
two types of
election addicts
in New York City:

Politicos and
Single Women

The latter enjoy
having something
to come home to


III. Yes We Can


Si Se Puede
del verbo Poder
Poder as in Can
Poder as in Power


IV. Idealism ’08 


His bottom lip tastes 
like the beginning
of the same old thing

I blame
my expectations
(¿mis esperanzas?)

His tongue drowns
my neck and my hopes
turn back to CNN


V. Votos en/in Migration


Antes votaba PNP
porque mis padres
votaban por los PNP

Now I vote for Obama
because my kids
vote for Obama


VI. Noon 


I hug a friend
I’ve known
for a decade
and a woman
two decades
my senior
I met six
hours ago,
having waited
our whole lives

Contributor Notes

In Search of Oceans

The first time I read the two line epigraph that introduces "In Search of Oceans," I was breathless. For me, Brathwaite's words captured a sense of yearning I was intimately familiar with, having grown up traveling between Puerto Rico and New York. "In Search of Oceans" combines a meditation on the personal longing Brathwaite describes with an exploration of how relationships and history can shape and change that longing. There is a tension in the piece between the "shared ache" and the underlying pressures of family, history, and racism. First love is powerful, confusing, and intoxicating; first love between those caught within the rivers and oceans which surround, nurture, haunt, and torture them is all those things and so much more.  

Idealism '08 

The 2008 US presidential election captivated our nation and the world. As the election unfolded, I found myself taking notes about everything from newspaper articles, to overheard conversations, to facebook status updates, to my own personal reflections of my experiences as an organizer and as an election addict. As "Idealism '08" unfolded, I realized I didn't want to write a narrative about what the election had meant to me. Instead, I wanted to find a way to capture the way in which the energy of the election permeated through so many of our daily lives, even at their most intimate moments. I decided to write a series of vignettes in the hopes of evoking the range of emotions the election sparked or challenged in me and in those around me: inspiration, urgency, ambivalence, desire, frustration, and yes, even hope. It is with that sense of hope that the last vignette, "Noon," speaks to the Langston Hughes epigraph that begins the poem.

Li Yun Alvarado is a Puerto Rican poet, writer, and educator. She is currently a doctoral candidate in English at Fordham University and has been published in The Acentos Review, PALABRA, A Magazine of Chicano and Latino Literary Art, and Modern Haiku. Li Yun assists with coordinating Fordham's Poets Out Loud reading series and has participated in the VONA Writers Workshop in San Francisco. She has also taught writing and poetry to middle and high school students in Boston, New York, and the Dominican Republic. She lives in New York City and takes frequent trips to Salinas, Puerto Rico to visit la familia.