Yusef Komunyakaa
Cante Jondo

Yes, I say, I know

    what you mean.

        Then we’re off,


improvising on what

    ifs: can you imagine

        Langston & Lorca


hypnotized at a window

    in Nella Larsen’s

        apartment, pointing at


bridges & searchlights

    in a summer sky, can you

        see them? Their breath


clouds the windowpanes

    one puffed cloud

        indistinguishable from another.


They click their glasses

    of Jamaican rum. To you

        great King, says Lorca.


Prisoner in a janitor’s suit,

    adds Langston. Their laughter

        ferries them to a sidestreet


in the Alhambra,

    & at that moment

        they see old Chorrojumo.


King of the Gypsies

    clapping his hands

        & stamping his feet


along with a woman dancing

    a rhumba to a tom-tom’s

        rhythm. Is that Florence


Mills, or another face

    from the Cotton Club

        almost too handsome 


to look at? To keep

    a dream of Andulusian

        cante jondo alive, 


they agree to meet

    at Small’s Paradise

        the next night,


where the bells of trumpet

    breathe honeysuckle & reefer,

        where women & men make love


to the air. You can see

    them now, reclining

        into the Jazz


Age. You can hear Lorca

    saying he cured his fear

        of falling from the SS Olympic


by dreaming he was shot

    three times in the head

        near the Fuente Grande


on the road to Alfacar.

    But the word sex doesn’t

        flower in that heatwave


in 1929, only one man touching

    the other’s sleeve, & heads

        swaying to “Beele Street Blues.”

Found In Volume 25, No. 01
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Yusef Komunyakaa
About the Author

Yusef Komunyakaa’s numerous books of poems include Pleasure Dome: New & Collected Poems1975-1999 (Wesleyan University Press, 2001); Talking Dirty to the Gods (2000); Thieves of Paradise (1998), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Neon Vernacular: New & Selected Poems 1977-1989 (1994), for which he received a Pulitzer Prize.