Willie Perdomo is the author of Where a Nickel Costs a Dime and Smoking Lovely, which received a PEN America Beyond Margins Award. He has also been published in The New York Times Magazine and Bomb. His children’s book, Visiting Langston, received a Coretta Scott King Honor. He is a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship winner, Pushcart Prize nominee, an Urban Artists Initiative/New York City grant recipient, and was recently a Woolrich Fellow in Creative Writing at Columbia University. He is currently Artist-in-Residence, Workspace, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. He is co-founder and publisher of Cypher Books.



‘Pete Rodriguez had his wisdom tooth pulled for love.’ That’s the way I begin my seminars on Relationships. The Males usually want to know where they can get that kind of como se llama. The Females dart the Day Room with Billie Holiday refrains like: There ain’t that much love in the world and, without fail, a Jailer will stand up and declare that I should’ve become a writer instead of Senior Counselor because I tell more lies than a Mormon has wives. My own personal bottom was a goose-feathered pillow next to the cold splinters of park bench testimonials that I heard as a Client and still hear today as Staff. If it’s true that God didn’t like ugly, then RISE was a walking horror shop filled with dragon chasers and speedballers who had yet to confront and speak about that thing they did when no one was looking.


Excerpt from Looking for Magda:


Every New Years Day he walks up 138th Street, from Jackson Avenue to the Third Avenue Bridge looking for Magda.

He walks past Brook Avenue looking for the knock in her knees or pressing his ear to the curb in hopes that he could hear a snippet of her laughter.

He walks into the 40th Precinct to see if any Desk Appearance Tickets have been claimed in her name.

He hangs in Mott Haven Houses and enters rap ciphers with everything he would’ve said if he had the chance to see her again.

He thinks about the way they kissed from one end of Bruckner Boulevard to the other and the way she said that he was playing with fire the last time he begged her to take him back.

He looks inside variety stores looking for her favorite teddy bear, the one with the biggest eyes. He even goes as far as to hire a street artist to replicate the way her curls dropped to her hips. “It was as if her hair had hydraulics,” he told the artist.

Every New Year’s Day he wipes away fogged-up bakery windows and before he gives up looking for Magda, he peeks into dental clinics and advises all patients to save before they pull.