After Vallejo

i will die in havana in a hurricane
it will be morning, i'll be facing southwest
away from the gulf, away from the storm 
away from home, looking to the virid hills 
of matanzas where the orisha rise, lifted 
by congueros in masks of iron, bongoseros 
in masks of water, timbaleros in masks of fire
by all the clave that binds the rhythms of this world

i'll be writing when i go, revising another 
hopeful survey of my life. i will die of nothing
that i did but of all that i did not do
i promised myself a better self
than i could make & i will not forgive

you will be there, complaining
that i never saved you, that i left you
where you live, stranded
in your own green dream 

when you come for me come singing
no dirge, but scat my eulogy in bebop 
code. sing that i died among gods 
but lived with no god & did not suffer
for it. find one true poem that i made
& sing it to my shade as it fades 
into the wind. sing it presto, in 4/4 time 
in the universal ghetto key of b flat

i will die in havana in rhythm. tumbao
montuno, guaguanco, dense strata
of rhythm pulsing me away
                                          & the mother of waters
will say to the saint of crossroads
well, damn. he danced his way out after all

From Things I Must Have Known by A.B. Spellman. Copyright © 2008 by A.B. Spellman. Published by Coffee House Press. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.