A black woman sings azúcar!
over polyrhythmic African drums
on the Latino radio stations
blazing from my smart phone
on the above-ground subway line
in Houston. La negra tiene
tumbao, sings queen Celia Cruz bluntly
about a señorita who doesn’t sweat
the small stuff and is therefore
as she commands us all to dance
to the ton-ton of a conga drum.
But sugar is so soluble and
precious that all it takes is a drizzle
to end the night early
and send the band home.
You’d think stronger stuff
would come from sugarcanes
so hard to chop down that white men
once thought only the Negros
could do it. Perhaps
that’s the thing about making,
the strongest structure is that which
is inevitably torn down,
beauty making la vida un carnaval.
This is where we find joy: a rumba despite
the high chances of rain at the Taco Milagro salsa night,
a sing-along about the sweetness of life despite
salty sweat drowning our faces
as the drum rhythm picks up
and our bodies move faster together
toward their own inevitable ends apart—
A black woman, demanding our attention
despite how we stare her down,
struts the street earthily shaking from
side to side. Gracias a Dios,
la negra nos tiene tumbao.
Gracias a Dios, camina
de lao pa lao pa lao.
After Kara Walker