The Sound of One Immigrant Clapping

—after Czeslaw Milosz

Let’s say he actually
did not
arrive on a boat—
that the relentless colonel
never found his subtle throat hidden
under the trance of the clave
or thunder hands that spoke
repiques of those crimes
Let’s say he went to Nueva York
on the assumption
Mario Bauzá
Machito or
Tito (Rodríguez or Puente)
could make his legs & hips move
in a constellation of joy
Let’s say he merely
to hear the echo of his arms
flapping through a factory
like a red rag fastened to that fan
Let’s say the cold
often froze his vowels
tan Caribeña 
tan resualosa y mermelada—
Could the immigrant even
mute the melody of his tongue—
They say it is silence
that makes music
But this will be like
on a distant tuft of cloud like
the colonel cutting the sound he never found
But it takes years of forgetting
for a stranger
to breathe the saltwater
or glance at a pile of stones
& say
I arrived through this portal
This is now my home . . .