Marjua Estevez

like Celia seeping through speakers/ mezzo-soprano crawling
my mother’s spine/ son cubano stirring sancocho
ponga conrazon y tierra/ mi sangre es azucar negra
brown sugar/ swinging hips

or Nina/ who taught me about strange fruit/ put a spell on me
like the queen of salsa cast my mother’s net
lots of black woman brujeria shook loose/ on those soul-healing
spring-cleaning type saturday mornings

and Miss Billie/ a blue sky holiday on a sweltering/ summer night
sang to me 'til my fingers pruned/ 'til i was done plucking the stars
and the moonshine swallowed me whole/ i knew pain the way i loved:
blue/ with my back to the Miles of flutter tonguing/ a tender-loving funk
i didn’t know to face

but Etta James was a tank of a woman/ who wailed when she wept
like me/ when Mr. Man left me to deal with myself
like my sister/ who tried everything but suicide/ got lost
and found herself in the knife’s direction
like my grandmother/ when her moreno died/ left her behind with nine/ seven female
some of whom found themselves lost/ in the geography of her complexion
so she tried everything but suicide/ they turned out fine/ i guess

Mamá/ how did you pray before someone bellowed out Jesus Cristo?
was it on bended knees/ with beads of stone and wood
weaving hands/ or did you ever get to feel alive in song
your belly hung/ full from eating up all the glory
in the god that you are?