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we the dancing millions
by Heidi Andrea Restrepo Rhodes

(after Omar Sakr’s Where I am Not)

I ask the driver if he likes New York.

            we have not yet established I speak his mother

tongue. he laments against loneliness, a season

            here depressed, a season back on the island, in revelry. a season

here. a season there. season season season season

            he finds with every return that people here do not speak

with each other, the rushingrushing an anvil on relation.

            so many unspokens. better to be with family, to go where

you are loved. I try to love him for the length of the ride,

            brown bodies we are in the loneliest world      so

I smile, a secret gesture of union. he says through the rearview,

            it is a beautiful day isn’t it? I look out the window, he taps

the steering wheel of his car, the hum of diaspora a child we’ve made

            between us, ready to live the twelve minutes to my destination. hermosa,

pero, hermosa. his whole face beams the sun, the winter in him dies—

            ¿hablas español?! we feast on language

the New York kind of lonesome we know

            our bridge & tunnel lovechild nobody wants

to love. but we learn to love her too. when he isn’t driving

            all of Brooklyn through their silence, he—José—(with the name

of my grandfather) dances home to his country of brothers,

            their stifled exuberance riving imperialism’s calendar. an abundance

of rice unworried for time: there is no word for late in the island’s mouth.

            what a world                where you can linger into the hours of dusk,

live off the horizon by touching its mornings. I wonder

            what it would take to be the bambuco itself, the waltz

of lovers never-quite-touching in want. even my dreams

            of music play the asymptote of solitudes. I am not sure who to blame,

though it is capitalism & poetry often enough to which I turn my back.

            this was never a commercial for anything, but capitalism & poetry

make it possible: José’s hands clapping back at colonialism in the bomba

            rhythm making a lover of the drum; my wrecked body carrying the fevers

of memory down from the mountains. how language spreads us over

            each other, our histories necking in the rain of it all. too many hearts to name,

& we are pulling up, anyway, to my door of seven years pretending to be home.

            our child is over now, the together-ride through a city that maybe ought

to sometimes sleep if only to remember what it is to really dream, to remember

            the grammar of closeness. our twelve minute love affair & its offspring

clinging to the window, heir to the ache of seasons. is that a marvel

            or a mess? can we tell the difference? cuidate, I close the door—parting,

after all, is the first sorrow we know. birth, a distance in the giving of light.

            the harshness of winter returns, a jealous lover at my cheek. but a music trails,

a heat, a season of side by side. how I’ve seen the party linger, every cumbia

            stomping the eye of Columbus. how we sing of home in the argot of the ruined,

the ruck of us, a cortege of seclusions. we leap toward each other, a whole continent of strangers

Heidiandrearestreporhodes-photoheidi andrea restrepo rhodes is a queer, Colombian/Latinx, poet, artist, scholar, and activist. Her poetry collection The Inheritance of Haunting (University of Notre Dame Press, 2019) was selected by Ada Limón for the 2018 Letras Latinas Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize. The collection is a meditation on themes of inter-generational and collective inheritances of historical memory and post-colonial trauma, the responses they elicit, the forms of refusal, life, and love, that emerge in their wake. A 2019 CantoMundo Fellow, and 2018 VONA alum, her poetry has been published in Poetry, Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day, Split This Rock’s Quarry, Nat.Brut, Feminist Studies, and Huizache, among other places. 

For Summer: Poems by Latina/o/xs is a curated collaboration between Francisco Aragón at Letras Latinas, the literary initiative at Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies, and Emma Trelles at the Best American Poetry blog.

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