North Africa/Caribbean Note pasafu I
            A la memoria de Tata Güines
Listening to Tata Güines
Standing on my Salé balcony
Better I am living Tata
The beats along with my heart
Drinking sound digest shapes
Sparkling thought images 
Like a deck of cards
Spinning pressed by a thumb/
Tata self-educated which is
Also my case,
He heard the radio in his
Havana Güines barrio,
Listened to the tumba players
On the street, ask questions
He lived the music.
As I read books and rebelled against
Words were in books
What I wanted to feel
Was in books
And the Conversations with elders,
The oral voice.
Music was the ether of youth
The background ocean full of dancing fish,
Rhythm collaborated with my brain
Cells bouncing fast scattered images
perceive it now in Tata Güine’s solos,
City flying the current with
A tropical river that surrendered
At my feet the past
Shrimps holding up pictures
Of blue wooden houses
With zinc rooftops,
Huge sky blue.
Tata hits the skin
His fingerprints mark
Language in the sky,
Each slap reminds a flower
To blossom in the Congo,
The tumba pitch falls into
Slow drag
When he rubs
Hide scratching out mountain dirt
His nails animal where it roamed
Righteous beating, a whining
Like beg, laborious pain
The cabinet is a montage
Of wood-tight animal,
Sealed like leather zapatos
Tata rumbas and I grow shoes
Foot shakes insects off
Goat flesh stretched
Screams colors of tan tinges
How the cow gave milk,
Tata zapatero
Make my zapatillas
Resbalosas upon the loseta
Below on the strees two guys Ganawa
Show up
Before vision I had heard
The metal castanets approaching
Dressed Mayan/or Inca
beyond kaleidoscope colors,
They dance the morning
Café to elevate,
Tata’s manos weave
colors merge so many Africa’s
Open book of Alejo Carpentier
On Cuban music
Immense rhythmic melodious
Till horizon meets historic cotorra
Scribbling sky danzón
My foot wants to danza South
Sahara down
Tata drumming palms upon
Some drums mule skin
Has been said water buffalo,
Goat tumtu sounds make
A fist garden
Floreos crash into
The Ganawa clank.
Dr. Fernando Ortiz
Researched nkongo Banto-Congolese:
Conga a dance a circle,
Makuta cows charge into 
The rhythm
Listen how distance condenses
Throw step and bop head
I am below the Niger River
Scribble Calligraphy on the Sahara sand
Moving down the wind comes
And away blow designs.
My country is rhythm
The only true legislation,
Political status pales with the cadence.
Dance is
The nature of rolling mountains
Running towards the coast
To jump into the water
Government is the clave,
Adal Maldonado took my
Passport photo out of focus
Similar to the nation
But in tune with Mambo
The secret codes upon document
The camera note:
“Accidental products
Of distraction
And forgetfulness
Will make you Mambo again”
The photographer scribbled in
A note twenty years ago
When we were different images
Trying to enfoco Foco it
Becoming enfoco lens out
Focus out of the blue
Enfoco it Que se Foco,
Photography is a squish
In the darkness of the cave
The silence between
Spaces of limestone
Total obscurity
Snaps/What is in the light.
What is Tata doing
Slow finger-popping
The cowhide
Discussing something
With Chano Pozo
Tata was a kid once
Jumped up on Havana stage
Chano there
Put his hands on the 
Tumbadora across from
The composer of:
Started to slap it.
Um, kaslap—kaslap.
The elder saw him right away
Saw what he heard, the color
Of the flowers sprouting.
As I listen the air Caribbeans
Now late February
In the depth a motion of Spring
Moisture warm waves of flesh
Skin on skin
Tata Güines maestro classic
Ever to tumba the dora
upon the street of forever
Sunbeats. Sabora.

From Beneath the Spanish by Victor Hernández Cruz. Copyright © 2017 by Victor Hernández Cruz. Used by permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Coffee House Press,

I was child mountain
lived in a Latin American country
till I was five,
My grandfather was a cigar maker,
a tobacconist, rolled the leaves
Ancient craft.
Mother and father brought
together by custom routine,
young and curious,
primero balcony stares,
held hands for a while.
The plaza, Catholic Church,
life there was Pueblo ocio
arrested by boredom
Rutina tedium.
Marry young jibara
wooden house
Christ on the cross
over the bed
Covered by mosquito net,
nocturnal bolero voices
could be Julio, el Bohemio
in cancion
always sang,
everyone cantando
Even the rocks sang.
I was there in the air
not yet born but alive
counting the tamarindo
Coconut lollipops.
anxious to be white sombrero
getting hints upon the weaving of straws
glances from eyes like music
Shadow depth, the porcelain tinge
Surrounds the pearl black eyes
Of the girls.
Otro lelolay.
Destiny had other plans.
Life has no pity,
It moves forward.
Someone told me
man of father’s generation that
he was quiet in school,
that he made it somehow
from the mountaintop barrio Bayamoncito
into the town each day
the tribulation labor, secret that
people took in silence,
my mother refunfuñar (bickered)
as her family was everyday town-
her father the dignity of the 
black café and brandy six in
the morning rolling cigars,
sun falling singing with Alegria boleros
Together rolling the life given
the tobacco cape leaf
Wrapping the guts, pajilla
tight cigars.
Later Chicago Mafiosos will smoke
Porto Rico American Tobacco Company
New Jersey ‘mericans
owned the production of cigars
los tabaqueros just rolled
what the mountains gave,
the Taino ancestral leaf
in your finger,
To which they sang
Poetry of the Spanish golden
Age in Cuban bolero sway.
Habaneros for the New York
Antiquity awakes in the
now, the past dreams in the future.
Boleros de Rosa-Julia
Persist, the image tomorrow
Someone else the same,
a different similarity,
my root of earth.
Modernity does what it does?
I maintain 
macho Cimarrón,
the old café tobacco cane night
Flavor churning
grind bones.
Limbes tamarindo, coco
at Dona Rufa’s.
Café con leche,
ensalat bacalao
Rosada beans,
yucca with olive oil
twas my country,
Black eyes
launch from black hair
Skin rosa brown,
What can improve?
upon a day
of our hot wintertime,
We jumped from the
Into the freezer
Cold November,
the cruelest month
Excusez moi
T. S. Eliot
April lluvia
Brings mayo flores.
Mother’s schools
included math riddles
With poetry jingles,
As father Severo accomplished
numbers in addition
astute with the economy
he never slept.
Forward we went into
New York of the early
50s into the future
with the past,
into the English
with the Spanish,
in a movie rerun
the mountains melt
with the bricks.
Eyes hang sideways
upon Guayaba trees frozen
East side school yards.
Guitars strum history
bolero broadcast
amor trovadors,
singing back into the layla night
the lyrics.
Awkward language sounds
Still photos crumbled
In compost moisture.
A lone plaza photograph
A post spelling RECUERDOS
Of a country of childhood
Which dissolves
bright memory,
Now a now, is all there is.

From Beneath the Spanish by Victor Hernández Cruz. Copyright © 2017 by Victor Hernández Cruz. Used by permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Coffee House Press,

Born on a turf
a medieval remnant
Owned by the United States
it was almost water
So minute the earthen formation,
barely rock,
a swift of natura intention
geologic lift forgot the mud load
as the rising slow, eruption
peep there it is piedra Caribe,
world mapmakers save
on the ink,
what minuscule elaboration
bays, lakes,
hidden caves
landscape, chains of mountains
opening blue neck of sky
mounted glued
alongside other Hispano-Caribbean isles
Santo Domingo/embracing Haiti
Cuba bird snake long.
Spanish-African movement.
the Federation which
Betances the doctor clambered for
the Hispania Antilles,
intellectual political Independence.
Some letter bestowing Puerto Rico
from the Spanish Crown
the United States no desire
to open that envelope.
Betances visionary mestizo
Paris his doctors’ foot.

The epoch of gold
when on the island with my son
we made home,
in the neighborhood of
the tobacconists
Aguas Buenas
on a street called Antorcha
a socialist flame
of the independentistas
workers barrio of chichales.
My family there Generations.
The mornings waking my son
for school,
watching him become a man,
awakening sense to life,
his first girl kisses
that pretty brown girl
primer girlfriend
I spotted them once
wrapped round each other,
like two bacalaito fritters
later my mother cooked
Red beans and plantain tostones
along with yellow rice sparked with corn,
The island was this sofrito flavor for me,
bolero music of my mother
she grew sadness with the lyrics
wondering of all the lost loves,
memories illusions making
efforts to materialize,
see them almost
like bridges hanging out
from her eyes.
Days were
found her in tears
lonely in her room
Fragrance of Florida water
circulating blue colcha,
picture of her mother
and father above bed,
nothing was ever coming,
the only future was the end.

The Caribbean is everywhere
lost within us,
trapped in kitsch glorious
rooms of plasticity jails,
so much grime ‘’tween
the beauty contra-la-danza,
René Marqués our writer
Belched out
“Condenao mar, tanta agua
Y no limpia nah”

Through the bullets
flying now in panoramic tropical
Mother kept singing,
as esperanza, gently vibrato
hope like a white
Garza landing upon a cadaver.

she would meet
everyone she knew
in heaven again.
Singing boleros
café con leche,
Pastelillos de Guayaba.

To the bad times,
give a happy face,
place a red amapola
in your black dark hair.
Revive the mummies,
the dead,
burst the bodies
out of the coffins
let’s all walk to the plaza
this final time
paint with silver starlight
the ancient songs
in night sky,
Rain Again
What never commenced
Comes to a finale.

From Beneath the Spanish by Victor Hernández Cruz. Copyright © 2017 by Victor Hernández Cruz. Used by permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Coffee House Press,