Mambo No. 1: El Festival de la Calle Ocho, Little Havana, Miami

On the road on business
my nights my own
I wade into the stream
of bare chested boys
bikini topped girls
skins of many colors
ceviche salsa mambo
horns hot staccato

Bladada…
Bladadada… Da!
piccolos gossiping jungle birds
street swarm African
heart drum beat
I’m swallowed
hip jerking conga line
thousands strong

swirling crazy colored boa
this girl in front fastens
my hands to her hips
bare legs, bare back
her ample ass sporting
Cuban and American flags
half and half like me
she never stops dancing
hair swinging
shoulders swaying
those flags waving
for pride for glory

roll over Betsy Ross
The air sultry savory
garlic, garlic, garlic
cerveza fria
Oh Santa Maria
chipped and faded
looming over it all
the Church you chameleon
binds us all to this mongrel nation

busboys and ball players
teachers and house painters
accountants and janitors
detectives and drug dealers
soldados y poetas
inmigrantes esenciales
their pariah tongue
they jabber it anyway
like mavericks
like revolucionarios

like bandoleros!
My mother dreamt
in it, pleaded
in it, buried her brother
in it. How she loved
speaking Spanish
but not her son
half Italian
all American
El Español deaf, dumb and blind,
this girl’s hips my eyes
my new vision

my celestial
navigation
Take me home
far from the home
where my mother’s
brown skin
burns like sin
ceviche salsa mambo
horns hot staccato!

Eugene A. Melino

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