Under the Spell of Conjunto

Their boots knew
The footwork, the kickers
The works
The guy was one you’d think knew about ceremony
With his gauges and a ponytail

When the polkas played, when it came to the glide
There was so much at stake in adobe
What did we make out of tall boys and plastic bags?

Older men in SAS botas shined and worked the pearl
Accordion, one broken and kicking in

We didn’t tire of watching the blue neon
On everyone’s face
We were heat-seeking love
Left to our longing and our tubas
Concerned with what’s original
Our partners had to go slower. They dipped us and
Ran out of the bar with their heads hanging on

There is so much at stake in adobe

The couple, they knew what step was next
What was coming—maybe boleritos
Definitely conjunto. Is this banda?
No, it’s one led and the other
Followed but the turn
Wasn’t taut enough
To bring spring back

We wondered if our dancing looked too________
And the lights went off. Let me show you 
How to put it in reverse
We put our cheeks to theirs and sighed

The woman had a dancer’s posture 
She didn’t have to look 
At her partner’s feet to follow his concentric 
She was turquoise and blush 

The band was too small to be a banda 
You need a brass section 
With at least
Twelve more people

We were so chin up and hair swept, entranced
No one noticed
We were running 
Out of time—the cracked beer bottle over black curls 
was coming, but we kept dancing
Like it wasn’t

Copyright © 2023 by Vickie Vértiz. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 17, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.