El Cuerpo Es Fuego (the Body Is Fire)

Riding Havana

sand painting path

brief boyz



El Cuerpo Es Fuego (the Body Is Fire)

In Havana, dance is the pyre
fire is the body
one two three

eyes flame
glow like papayas
spread open in the afternoon sun

hands melt air
twist it into long strands of breath
boiling in and out and up
snaking a course through tenement incarnations
along corroding balconies
their baroque pastels
now chipped and dripping with the runoff of time
clotheslines heavy with shoes and sheets
--the necessities of dance

one two three
one two three
drum fragments reach
from windowless holes across the city
grabbing hips as they pass
pulling companeros into their moment
tobacco stained hombres, spandex chicas
madres in plastic curlers dragging daiperless ninos
caught in the street cauldron
of tone, slap, bass, heel, tok
dance fuel

Rumba molting their flesh into the single
red rhythm of rooster and hen
Yoruba kindling the wide-eyed
lightening spit of Chango
blood pumping with Salsa
spiced hot enough to ignite
the ashes of this Periodo Especial
inject Fidelís sugar-spun phrase
--of rationing and dearth
of fire with no lighters, matches carefully doled--
with clave and conga

one two three
cow bells lifting feet toward the alter of lovers
flesh and fire
body and dance



Riding Havana

Knotted long at my nape
black silk curves
waves and rolls before my eyes
a motion of wind and circumstance
its sheer fabric dancing in deference
to Santo Havana's long burial
her soil dripping blood, white and blue
odd devotion carried across lawns of morning
mansion by mansion
framed in tree-patched sun
their rusted concrete and underwear-lined balconies
absorbing the shadows of past and present
words like Batista and Fidel absent only in sound

The easy talk of neighbors, families
of new friends, old
conceals a want dollar stores can't fill
cooking oil, soap, powdered milk
even Nike or Tommy Hilfiger canít dam the tears
only force them backwards
until veins overflow with sobs
beg strong hands
to lift rum to parted lips
swallow deep, outlawed places
break around walls
imitating the sea
in its nightly dives over the Malecon
barely a stain left on the sidewalk by morning

On this ride, I roll past those stains
another and another
including one dumped near the curbside memorial
to the USS Maine, its iron columns
emptied of their eagle by Fidelistas
eager to rid themselves of Imperialist perch
this ritual act of dethronement
adding another casualty
to the powdered bones of those service boys
who, once intact and trusting,
played decoy for eyes fixed on shore

An outlaw, I ride along that shore
George Washington in my wallet
me and the sea, both of us occasionally buried
beneath plumes of exhaust left behind
by timeless Caddieís, Chevyís, Fordís
ninety miles from the master and I fly
a raptor exposed, talons of curling cloth
two tires as wings, potted asphalt sky
taking me past all the curious, hungry winks
whistles, kisses, hisses, shouts--ooor coontray?
Fr-an-cais, Can-a-da, Sweeees--never
guessing the flag which broke
my fall from the stars

When I can, I smile, reveal my span
how it reaches like the scarf my grandmother wore
over her salty, swollen eyes at papaís funeral
its airy shade too sorrowful to mourn
and remember the language of light
beyond letters, mathematics, past physics
where the gutted halls of Alexandria beckon
something primal, like the generations of grandparents
of soil, mixed into my USA blood

Inoculated and infected
my only medicine is flight
to come and go in each revolution
pray somehow this funeral
can bury the dead
honor the living



sand painting path the note I left in the sand
the reminder, the asana
the mosaic of my new cubana soul
returns to the sea below this old Boeing
planted like a hieroglyph of momentum
a two month lifetime fingered
into a winged heart outlined in shells and rocks
filled with bits of seaweed, fronds, a bodyprint
all fading with the sun
rising tide ready to smooth its cement
across departing monument
wash away fleeting canvas
my ode to campos, cacao,
to companeros offering irrefutable life
open ojos and never ending conga lines
in exchange for promises to post
hastily penned letters to relatives in Miami
extend a spare lighter, soap
possibly a dictionary or reading glasses
if I return
hand deliver the sacred belongings
so the socialist bourgeoisie canít take them
canít resell them at a diplomatic supermarket in Havana
miles from the nascent memories
of fruit gathers gapping at the folded woman
the piles of children giggling, crowding in on her
attempting forward bends and back arches
before somersaulting into the delta
the strangers greeting her with namaste hands
as they cycle past, four or five smiles on a bicitaxi
nearly believing that this husbandless creature
could survive at the boca de rio de meil
the mouth of the river of honey
fresh young coco and a journal beside her
standing on her hands
so she could leave
footprints on the sky



brief boyz

you dream of California
as if it were a dictionary of Kevin Cosner subtitles
a landscape of Michelle Pfiferís cantering
along the freeway-lined beach to the thunder of Harley Davidsons
the teenage tastes of your manifest destiny
bound like your hard won pectorals
squeezed and stuffed into the green polo shirt
I gave you three dollars for--60 pesos
three weeks of vegetable money
so you could wear Ralph Loren against your heart
accent the Tommy Hilfiger letters
professing across your waist
creams, lotions, bar fly aftershave
impossible to buy here
somehow orbiting a waft around you
one of the lucky few
who can speak to extranerjos--foreigners
without fear of arrest
at least inside the middle class doors of your parents casa
my rent money subsidizing your name brand success

you rode overnight on a train from Havana
when you heard of me
burst into the pig rimmed patio
during a spring rainstorm
to find me cutting and gluing
my gaze firm in the eye of collage
barely noticing your archetypal beauty
not so easily impressed by your sculpted arms
marked with club scene tatoos, rare as Nikes
claiming you as an aspiring member of the Calle Ocho
weeks later you came into my room
sat on the edge of my mosquito net and whined
that I was not what you expected
said you couldnít understand

why I didnít giggle at your winks
why we didnít go out drinking rum together
why I had not become yours
the rooster outside my window sang
as I told you I was a different sorta Calle girl
one whoíd moved from south to north
had already dipped into the labels, the house, the job
that I saw you hanging out on the wall
crumbling beside the colonial church in town
sweet girl under your arm, both of you laughing
that I was holding out for something truer than need

staring back into your silence
I am a death sentence to you
single in my thirty-three years
my existence destroying every Hollywood fantasy
as you pray I am an aberration
I rub your hands into mine
tell you Iím not the one to take you from Cuba
and speak of resources beyond possession
the mortal magic I have found on your streets
suspended in time like one of Ruben Gonzalezís hands
Los Van Van wailing from a boom box
in a windowless dance studio
old men on the malecon crooning Hotel California
across from a rusting Yemaya alter
all more alive than any TV screen
any backroom broadcasting deal
between Ted Turner and Fidel

you dolefully stroke the yellow horse on your shirt
and tell me that maybe when you get older
you will understand
but for now
could you borrow $1.50
the guy down the street has some
Calvin Kline underwear for sale


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