Tumbadora

- 1949-
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
Schools,
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
Birth.
 
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
Glittering/
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
Meet
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
Cowhide
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
Both
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:
“Ariñañra”
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.
 

More by Victor Hernández Cruz

Side 19

The Empire State Building
Is on 63rd Street
Ramon wanted to bet Manolo
Manolo said impossible
The Empire State Building 
Is on 72nd Street
They made a ten dollar bet
And borrowed Cheo's car
And headed towards Brooklin
When they came back
Late that night
All that Manolo wanted to know
Was
If Gloria cooked

Vigo Martin

In a city that now floats
in a bottle,
In a dimension outside
of the census,
within walls that were unregistered,
there was a painter,
Who performed his roll
like the Taino cave etchers,
the pyramid illustrators of
Mexico,
the scribblers of hieroglyphs.
Vigo painted the hallways
of the tenements,
While through the air
he flew upon a white horse,
Or smoked hashish for
his desert camel through
Moroccan tubes.
He painted rocks
which were heavy art.
Loose bricks were found
by landlords containing
Antillean pictographs.
An artisan of the streets,
whose smooth knowledge of
many angles
Made more lines visible
through the old face
of the barrio.

Against colorful bodega windows,
bright candy stores,
the epoch of the pachanga

Deep in the clubs of night
under the world
In the submetropolis of need,
against walls merely holding up.
Once we spoke of the art
of survival,
of loose lions and hungry tigers,
He painted lizard instincts
along imaginary river bamboo,
Frozen eye sockets
containing tar and northern ice.
We recognized how we were
packed in the chance of numbers,
ciphers in the wintry spread,
noses popping out of sardine cans,
We spoke against the doo-wop of
The Paragons Meet the Jesters
Till dawn brought
a blue light upon
roofs—the city skyline bricks steel
edges jagged in the wind.
In a conference of the stoops
he maintained that Dulces Labios
Mayaguez was his origin,
he spoke of sweet mangoes,
plena pulp,
Touching trees in honor
of the Tainos of his hands
stationed deep in his bark,
with his left hand where a tattooed
cherry blossomed.

Vigo made a collaboration
between survival and creativity,
He stored objects that came with
the wind,
Had a cellar full of broken gadgets
portions that could insert into
any malfunction,
A bazaar in search of a dictionary
of shapes and proportion.

He brushed himself like
freezer ice Halka brilliantine shine,
never alone always with a
prehistoric beast.
As evidence that I was there
on this other planet
I still maintain a rock
which he painted against
the laws of gravity
Now a paperweight
grounding the poetry of the tropics
Against the flight of the east trade
winds.

The Lower East Side of Manhattan

By the East River
of Manhattan Island
Where once the Iroquois
canoed in style—
A clear liquid
caressing another name
for rock,
Now the jumping
Stretch of Avenue D
housing projects
Where Ricans and Afros
Johnny Pacheco / Wilson Pickett
The portable radio night—
Across the Domino sugar
Neon lights of the Brooklyn shore

Window carnival of
megalopolis lights
From Houston Street
Twenty kids take off
On summer bikes
Across the Williamsburg
Bridge
Their hair flying
With bodega bean protein
Below the working class
jumping like frogs—
Parrots with new raincoats
swinging canes of bamboo
Like third legs
Down diddy-bop 6th Street
of the roaring Dragons
Strollers of cool flow

When winter comes they fly
In capes down Delancey
Past the bites of pastrami
Sandwiches in Katz's
Marching through red bricks
aglow dragging hind leg
Swinging arms
Defying in simalcas

Hebrew prayers inside
metallic containers
Rolled into walls
Tenement relic
Roofs of pigeon airports

Horse-driven carts
arrive with the morning
Slicing through the venetian
blinds
Along with a Polish English
Barking peaches and melons
Later the ice man a-cometh
Selling his hard water
cut into blocks
The afternoon a metallic
slide intercourses buildings
which start to swallow
coals down their basement
Mouths.

Where did the mountains go
The immigrants ask
The place where houses
and objects went back
Into history which guided
Them into nature

Entering the roots of plants
The molasses of fruit
To become eternal again,
Now the plaster of Paris
Are the ears of the walls
The first utterances in Spanish
Recall what was left behind.

People kept arriving
as the cane fields dried
Flying bushes from another
planet
Which had a pineapple for
a moon
Vegetables and tree bark
popping out of luggage
The singers of lament
into the soul of Jacob Riis
Where the prayers Santa Maria
Through remaining fibers
of the Torah
Eldridge Street lelolai
A Spanish never before seen
Inside gypsies.
Once Cordova the cabala
Haberdasheries of Orchard Street
Hecklers riddling bargains
Like in gone bazaars of
Some Warsaw ghetto.

Upward into the economy
Migration continues—
Out of the workers' quarters
Pieces of accents
On the ascending escalator.

The red Avenue B bus
disappearing down the
Needle holes of the garment
factories—
The drain of a city
The final sewers
Where the waste became antique
The icy winds
Of the river's edge
Stinging lower Broadway
As hot dogs
Sauerkraut and all
Gush down the pipes
of Canal

After Forsyth Park
is the beginning of Italy
Florence inside Mott
Street windows—
Palermo eyes of Angie
Flipping the big
hole of a 45 record
The Duprees dusting
Like white sugar onto
Fluffed dough—
Crisscrossing
The fire escapes
To arrive at Lourdes'
railroad flat
With knishes
she threw next to
Red beans.

Broome Street Hasidics
with Martian fur hats
With those ultimatum brims
Puerto Ricans supporting
pra-pras
Atop faces with features
Thrown out of some bag
Of universal race stew—
Mississippi rural slang
With Avenue D park view
All in exile from broken
Souths
The horses the cows the
chickens
The daisies of the rural
road
All past tense in the urbanity
that remembers
The pace of mountains
The moods of the fields.

From the guayaba bushels
outside of a town
With an Arowak name
I hear the flute shells
With the I that saw
Andalusian boats
Wash up on the beach
To distribute Moorish
eyes.

The Lower East Side
was faster than the speed
Of light
A tornado of bricks
and fire escapes
In which you had to grab
on to something or take
Off with the wayward winds—

The proletariat stoop voices
Took off like Spauldine
rubber balls
Hit by blue broomsticks
on 12th Street—
Wintertime summertime
Seasons of hallways and roofs
Between pachanga and doo-wop
A generation left
The screaming streets of
passage
Gone from the temporary
station of desire and disaster

I knew Anthony's
and Carmen
Butchy
Little Man
Eddie
Andrew
Tiny
Pichon
Vigo
Wandy
Juanito
Where are they?
The windows sucked them up
The pavement had mouths that
ate them
Urban vanishment
Illusion
I too
Henry Roth
"Call It Sleep."