Chocolate City Latina (Part 1) 

by Esperanza Cintron, Detroit


taught me to merengue

when I was three

The rhythms blurred

with the Motown do wop

a salsa and Fingertips cacophony

Instead of Marin

there was Coleman's

slant-eyed, cocky grin

and the low-down

rumble of his African

laced with black bottom cadence

covering the rolling r's

and labia-loaded lengua

de Boricua

Swallowed whole

como un pez

done backstroked thru the Bermuda Triangle

grazed the Hudson Bay

and breast-stroked around the Great Lakes

to sun on the banks of the Detroit River

The lure still caught on my uvula

pulling me forward

in a Temptation strut,

a Supreme swivel

hips loose and mouth open

a wet note, caught, and reeled in

do wa, do wop

the hesitant swish and clip

of the serrated gourd and scraper

urge the beat on

the undercurrent, a cupped palm

splayed fingers

pounding the tight skin

of a tall drum

like the hard snap

of young black men's fingers

in front of corner stores

on 12th Street

before the fires

do wa, do wop,


a canto for decades of overcoming

covered by smoldering Bushes,

and bumbling Fords

who yielded

blackened hulls and ghosts

that sing falsetto

as each building is razed

to open spaces,

hosts to phantom teepees and

red women, like the Taino

squat before huge mortars

grinding grain

their translucent figures

mingled with oil drum fires

and old young men in rags

who warm their calloused hands

over acrid smoke.

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