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.

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