pero en realidad, yo sólo lo vi dos veces

(but really, I only saw him twice)

I. My hands in his, he says:

“I Will Teach You Salsa.”

I half-smile and raise one eyebrow,

my feet already doing the steps, but I say:

“yes, teach me—“ in English,

because my words are less certain

in my own language. He talks

to a burly man with skin the color

of café negro, and somehow American pop fades

into a mix of Spanish guitarra and drumbeats

and a man singing “Dame tu mano, señorita.”

II. The sour smell of tobacco digs

its dagger into the left hemisphere

of my brain. The clank of a glass

of rum and coke on the sticky table

next to me jerks me

out of scarlet salsa music.

“One Shot, One Shot, Sólo Uno,” he pleads,

prodding sacred fragility.

“no, no, no, no, no,” I say,

“i can’t, not here, with you.”

He grips his glass.

I. And he caresses my waist,

so, so gentle, like he would something close

to birth or to death. “One, Two, Three, Four,”

he says, “Un, Dos, Tres, Cuatro.” He counts

the moments of our enrapture

unfolding; as the last drumbeats echo

in this open casita,

he pulls me through the door.

We talk poetry and song, familia y las estrellas,

and he tells me salsa is in his blood,

salsa en su sangre.

II. His smoke burns my cheeks, the rum

replaces my hand in his.

He holds it like he would a pistol

loaded with nostalgia. He says,

“It Will Be Fun, You’ll Like It.” He says,

“Just One, Just One.” His words are more certain

in my language. Chains of cigarette smoke and rum

circle memories of our hands,

our cream and coffee hands, and rip

them down the border of salsa dance

and sticky tables, of hands on waists

and the condensation on his glass.


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