“New Lives” by Madari Pendas

New Lives

The man on the corner
Sells new lives, all kinds
Of lives, pretty ones,
Colorful ones, American ones,
He keeps them in his alligator-skin
Briefcase—don’t ask him about it,
Unless you want to hear a lie of a
Paragraph with it slinking its way
Into his patio and him blinding
It with a cross, the little Jesus
Falling off mid-fight (take whatever symbolism
You want from that) and he cuts off its tail
With the same machete his Tio used
Crossing the Amazon into Argentina—
He’ll give you that life for free,
Says all his stories are yours if,
If, if you can tell them with the same
Gusto and intensity as him,
Otherwise you can’t have it
And no one else would believe
It anyway. I stroll through and
Window shop, he’s got some
Nice lives, one has a French name
‘You look like a Genieve, the eyes,’
He says. There’s another that catches
My French eyes, it’s Enrique Chaves,
Yes with an ’S,’ a Peruvian-Canadian,
With a cigarette behind his ear and a
Smile that breathes trouble, he’s not
Even looking at the camera, too cool
For that, I’d like to be Enrique in that
Sense, indifferent, others are lucky
If I even look in their direction, which I don’t.
You don’t want that life, he picks up
A faded, green ID with a pretty lady,
“Every woman wants to be her,”
The boys always had the most interesting lives,
She looked like an olive, plump,
Cheeks swollen, I could drop her
In a drink and feel her bumping
Against my teeth. “You can have
Any life you want”— he’s hungry
For a sale, the sweat escaping his skin
Like a worm digging into the dirt,
I look at all the possibilities again,
“I’ll keep the one I have, thanks.”

Madari Pendas is a Cuban-American writer and poet living in Miami. Her works focus on the surreal and absurd aspects that accompany living in an exile community, and the inherited identity crisis of being a first generation American. Her work has appeared in the Accentos Review, Pank Magazine, The New Tropic, Politicsay, Sinister Wisdom, WLRN (Miami’s NPR affiliate), and the Miami New Times.