Poems come like a fresh breeze or a rapid slap to the cheek. The body vibrates, blows warm or chill, damp or dry, fingers tighten or relax and the lips grow thin or thick as the day I was born. Writing is so physical. Words pummel or caress.
The poems in this volume range from my early work in the 1970s when I could dance for hours and write poems till the wee hours of the night, when black-and-white movies of Dolores del Río or Bette Davis would keep me company. The music of Stevie Wonder, Benny Moré, or Cecil Taylor kept my feet in constant movement. The keys of the Underwood typewriter punctuate the clouds hovering by the base of the moon. So, it is mystical and of the actual moment that these poems come to you from my body and spirit. I wish I hadn’t seen some of the life portrayed here; that the blood and tears were imaginary. Sometimes the myth and history of our people sustain me, regardless of the sweat, tears, calluses, and struggle we have endured.
I pull from the lush plains and jungles, deserts and snow-crested mountains and cement and barbwire of our landscape. We inhabit space with rhythm, color, and olfactory miracles. This is who we are. We are the colored people on the face of the earth. We must not let our oppression deny us the earth.
I want to leave something behind. An interpretation of our experience in this time with these people, this music, our leaps and pelvic gyration of all of our tribes, from Houston’s Fifth Ward to Albuquerque. Someone in New York can levitate to the Mississippi or the Amazon with our ancestors of many different hues or our children with dazzling dreams. In love, giggling or reverent, ridden with tension or flailing with anger, we carry ourselves as if we knew something that was too secret for Anglos or whatever Other, we encounter. I bring this mélange of the lives of the colored people to you as I see and feel us, taste and spit out; what we have consumed, what we feed on.
Those of us in the New World, descendants of the African diaspora, survivors of the assault on Native peoples, los guajiros del campo, have never existed before. That is why we are the New World. We suffer from an ignorance of our tradition and language, our jewelry and crops, leading us to make ourselves up as we go along. Our languages, colonial, Creole, and colloquial, test boundaries imagined to be beyond our comprehension. We have outsmarted time and place.
Crack Annie, Rah Rah, the old Puerto Rican men playing dominos with their cigars remind us of our relatives. Hopefully, these characters bring us closer to a sense of self: honest and honored. Icons: Toussaint L’Ouverture to José Martí to lesser known heroes, Atahualpa and Denmark Vesey. We lace our visions with Celia Cruz and Aretha Franklin. Our suppers are shared with La Sonora Matancera, The Flamingos, Rubén Blades, Héctor Lavoe, Exile One, and Sparrow. We dance our sustenance in Bahia, Chicken Bone Beach, Roxbury and South Central L.A. We are everywhere. Just like slaves, we are in
every country in this hemisphere. We are unavoidable, regardless of what they say. Here our voices and lyric are made clear. Our mothers’ stretch marks, merely memories of our beginnings. Please come with me now and know our worlds, as I know them.
We can do it. We are remarkable.