Poetry: Patti LaBelle & Celia Cruz (Alma Awards, 1998)
The year is 1998 and you are front row at the Alma Awards. Patti LaBelle dressed in a flattering hi-low black dress, 6-inch heels, says into the mic, “I will always remember tonight as the evening I was privileged to share the stage with someone I consider one of the very first ladies of song. Ladies and gentlemen, you know who I’m talking about…? Ms. Celia Cruz!”. A poem that equally pays homage to the lush sounds of salsa, the endearing power LaBella and Cruz’s friendship and their massive cultural significance.
Patti LaBelle & Celia Cruz (Alma Awards, 1998)
Two divas onscreen sing
quimbara quimbara cumba quimbamba
in neither Spanish nor English,
cadence of congas,
swirl of white pearls
& emerald sequins. Whole solar systems
dawn as they dance
breast to breast: a black
A su cara, achoo
carve, azúcar, azure scar—
alike Atlantic cicatrice
within both skins.
In the stage lights, borders fold
like collapsible props.
The belles spell the same words
with the wands
of their hips.
Kyle Carrero Lopez
Kyle Carrero Lopez is the author of MUSCLE MEMORY, the chapbook winner of the 2020 [PANK] Books Contest. His recent and upcoming publications include The Offing, Prolit, Best New Poets 2021, and Poem-a-Day. Find him at kylecarrerolopez.com.