Childhood In The Latin Caribbean

By Victor Hernandez Cruz

I was child mountain
lived in a Latin American country
till I was five,
My grandfather was a cigar maker,
a tobacconist, rolled the leaves
Ancient craft.
Mother and father brought
together by custom routine,
young and curious,
primero balcony stares,
held hands for a while.
The plaza, Catholic Church,
life there was Pueblo ocio
arrested by boredom
Rutina tedium.
 
Marry young jibara
wooden house
Christ on the cross
over the bed
Covered by mosquito net,
nocturnal bolero voices
could be Julio, el Bohemio
in cancion
Grandfather/Abuelo
always sang,
everyone cantando
Even the rocks sang.
I was there in the air
not yet born but alive
counting the tamarindo
Coconut lollipops.
anxious to be white sombrero
getting hints upon the weaving of straws
glances from eyes like music
Shadow depth, the porcelain tinge
Surrounds the pearl black eyes
Of the girls.
Otro lelolay.
 
Destiny had other plans.
Life has no pity,
It moves forward.
Someone told me
man of father’s generation that
he was quiet in school,
that he made it somehow
from the mountaintop barrio Bayamoncito
into the town each day
the tribulation labor, secret that
people took in silence,
my mother refunfuñar (bickered)
as her family was everyday town-
people,
her father the dignity of the 
tabaqueros,
black café and brandy six in
the morning rolling cigars,
sun falling singing with Alegria boleros
Together rolling the life given
the tobacco cape leaf
Wrapping the guts, pajilla
tight cigars.
Later Chicago Mafiosos will smoke
them
Porto Rico American Tobacco Company
New Jersey ‘mericans
owned the production of cigars
los tabaqueros just rolled
what the mountains gave,
the Taino ancestral leaf
in your finger,
To which they sang
Poetry of the Spanish golden
Age in Cuban bolero sway.
Habaneros for the New York
bankers,
Antiquity awakes in the
now, the past dreams in the future.
Boleros de Rosa-Julia
Persist, the image tomorrow
somewhere 
Someone else the same,
a different similarity,
my root of earth.
Modernity does what it does?
I maintain 
macho Cimarrón,
the old café tobacco cane night
Flavor churning
grind bones.
Limbes tamarindo, coco
at Dona Rufa’s.
Café con leche,
ensalat bacalao
Rosada beans,
yucca with olive oil
twas my country,
Black eyes
launch from black hair
Skin rosa brown,
What can improve?
Evolve?
upon a day
of our hot wintertime,
We jumped from the
Fire
Into the freezer
Cold November,
the cruelest month
Excusez moi
T. S. Eliot
April lluvia
Brings mayo flores.
 
Mother’s schools
included math riddles
With poetry jingles,
As father Severo accomplished
numbers in addition
astute with the economy
he never slept.
Forward we went into
New York of the early
50s into the future
with the past,
into the English
with the Spanish,
in a movie rerun
the mountains melt
with the bricks.
Eyes hang sideways
upon Guayaba trees frozen
East side school yards.
Guitars strum history
bolero broadcast
amor trovadors,
singing back into the layla night
the lyrics.
Awkward language sounds
Still photos crumbled
In compost moisture.
A lone plaza photograph
A post spelling RECUERDOS
Of a country of childhood
Which dissolves
bright memory,
As
Now a now, is all there is.
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