Cinnamon Girl: letters found inside a cereal box

Cinnamon Girl: letters found inside a cereal box

by Juan Felipe Herrera

ISBN: 9780060579869

Publisher Rayo

Published in Children's Books/Literature & Fiction, Children's Books/People & Places, Children's Books/General, Teens/General, Children's Books/History & Historical Fiction, Nonfiction/Current Events, Teens/History & Historical Fiction, Teens/Literature & Fiction, Literature & Fiction/Poetry

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Sample Chapter

9/19/01 Wednesday night, Lower East Side, hospital,
4th floor

wrapped in gauze

Uncle DJ's
wrapped in gauze.

He dreams inside a foreign islita
that no one has discovered except himself.
There are congas under a tropical moon
gold nectar saxophones and pale blue-blue maraca stars.
The galaxy spins and then fire-bursts into a bird
from San Juan,

wings red-red as the Flamboyan tree,
and it speaks with the dark cinnamon of
the Caribbean night. Its eyes are aquamarine and
when it sings green-green rain pours and the soft
island sways to a hip-hop mambo of amor, then
adios. But --

I don't want to say adios.

Tape across the mouth
hands strapped
to the side of the hospital bed rails.

IV and blood bottle lines tangle
down to uncle DJ's arm.
A Darth Vader machine beeps
every time he breathes through a sky-white
see-through hose down his throat.

Sweep my thin hand across the bed rail
just in case there is dust
gnawing around the chrome.

Uncle DJ's swallowed enough dust --
two buildings of dust, Twin Towers of dust.
Last week, he called mamá Mercedes and said,
Hey sis, gotta do something -- I came to deliver roses,
as usual, ya' know. A jet or something hit Tower One.
A blast, and then, another. Now, I gotta do something.
There's fire and screams all around.

Eleven thirty pm.
News TV. Blue flash inside
the eerie hospital room. Tía Gladys
talks loud to Mamá:
What's happening to my city?
The feeling's gone, Mercedes. The melao' is missin'.
Yolanda María is my melao', Mamá says.

Last night I dreamt
I went with Mamá and tía Gladys to Ground Zero.

Tía Gladys digs
with her glossy orange fingernails.
A police dog barks and digs-digs too.
There is a tiny cone,
a hole
full of black nothing and tapping --
deep below the rubble. A moan. A long moan
from underground. Echoes up Canal Street to Chambers.
Rubble echoes -- one hundred feet high of broken
steel bones and tiny lives crushed forever.

Echo. Echo.
Sálvamelo, tía Gladys prays out loud
in her plastic tiger-print jacket,
Diosito sálvamelo, save him for me,
Haré lo que quieras, I'll do whatevah.
She makes a manda, a promise
like she did when mamá Mercedes told her
last month that I was getting into trouble
at Longfellow School in West Liberty, Iowa.

She promised La Virgencita
that she would take us in
so I could get better. This morning,

tía Gladys mumbles another manda, something
about going back to Puerto Rico and helping
poor kids in Aguas Buenas.

In my dream,
Mamá and aunt Gladys
kneel down slow on the sharp dust of the World
Trade Center -- like a church all broken.
A rescue worker with a dog says
I can hear him tapping . . .
tap, tap, tap!
Rescue Company #1
on his bitten shirt.

All of a sudden, bam! Like the crushed
tower, my throat gets fiery, then empty
in the hospital room -- uncle DJ!
I want to shout louder than
the Darth Vader machine. Nada, Nada.
Say something! Rezzy, my cool friend
from PS 1486, elbows me and says
in her typical English accent, Wula,
say something, Yolanda!

Rezzy's from Kuwait, new here too,
like me, tenth grade. Rezzy's hazel eyes
glow by the candlelight.
Are those the secret things that you
promised you would show me?

It's jes' a cereal box,
with my writing and some letters inside.
Pull them out in little bundles tied together with
red strings. Untie one and read it.
Maybe uncle DJ will hear me and wake up, I tell Rezzy.
Maybe, she says. Jes' maybe.

Excerpted from "Cinnamon Girl: letters found inside a cereal box" by Juan Felipe Herrera. Copyright © 2006 by Juan Felipe Herrera. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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