Poem for Miguel: The Living Room

Karen Jaime

Karen Jaime recorded audio narration on June 21, 2022, at the Hemispheric Institute office in New York City.

There was the living room

And Rutgers

And Ntozake

And Amiri

And Allen

And Lois

And Carmen

And Pedro

And Lucky

And Papoleto

And Mariposa

And Willie

And Bob

And Keith

And Felice

And Hell

Even Me

And who can forget Julio?

And Pepe

And Rome

And Sam

And Miky—

whose ashes were spread

throughout the Lower East Side,

whose picture

was in that nook,

 right when you  walked in 

with the candle—

And Sandra

And Tato

And Bimbo—

Thank you for Loisaida—

And we have East 3rd Street, btwn. B and C

And Adela’s on East 5th

Where you told me to never forget what I am worth.

And there’s the night that Pedro died

Your first feature on a Friday night

And you made sounds into words

And brought us back to the days

When it wasn’t

About scores




When it was about hearing a poem—

Thank you Steve Cannon—

When it was about

Having your voice heard

And making it count

When there were no Latino Lit. classes

When Nuyorican was a bad word

When it was about the walk over junkies

When it was about Marcel

and the banners in the attic

when it was about Nathan P.

and Dot

and Clare—

whose logo is still used,

when it was about Mongo Affair

and Action

and Maggie

and Regie

and Edwin

When it was about El Reverendo

and his church

when it was about the murals

not the movies

when it was about

the rhythm

and the streets

and the movement back and forth

when it was vaya poetry

before Ed wrote about

Living in Spanglish

before gentrification hit

before it cost

double digits to get in

when it was just a dream

and a way to clear out your living room

there was you . . .

and then there was



Karen Jaime is Assistant Professor of Performing and Media Arts and Latina/o Studies at Cornell University. A Mellon/HIDVL Scholar in Residence at the Hemispheric Institute for Performance and Politics at New York University in 2022, Jaime was also awarded a Career Enhancement Junior Faculty Fellowship from the Institute for Citizens & Scholars (formerly the Woodrow Wilson) in 2018, a Rockefeller Foundation Research Fellowship, and was a Chancellor’s Post-Doctoral Research Associate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Jaime’s monograph, The Queer Nuyorican: Racialized Sexualities and Aesthetics in Loisaida (NYU Press, 2021), winner of The Victor Villaseñor Best Latino Focused Nonfiction Book Award at the International Latino Book Awards in 2022, argues for a reexamination of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe as a historically queer space, both in terms of sexualities and performance practices. Her critical writing has been published in Women and Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, e-Misférica, Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism, ASAP/J, TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly and Performance Matters. Jaime is also an accomplished spoken word/performance artist who served as the host/curator of the Friday Night Poetry Slam at the world-renowned Nuyorican Poets Cafe (2003-2005). As a published poet her writing is included in The Best of Panic! En vivo from the East Village, Flicker and Spark: A Queer Anthology of Spoken Word and Poetry, a special issue of Sinister Wisdom: A Multicultural Lesbian Literary and Art Journal, “Out Latina Lesbians,” and in the anthology Latinas: Struggles and Protest in 21st Century USA*.