Diane Elayne Dees
has poetry recently published or forthcoming in Mobius
, Lucid Rhythms
, The Binnacle
, and Out of Line
Diane publishes Women Who Serve
, a blog about women's professional tennis, and is a contributor to the Mother Jones MoJo Blog
Diane lives in Louisiana, on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain, with her husband and four bossy cats: sisters Roxie and Velma, and their young friends, Ziggy Stardust and Tarzan.
—Back to Milestones Contents—
Waking the Queen of Salsa
In front of the great Museum
we sit and watch the crowd
that forms a crooked line
of banners, tears and flags.
A somber conga, pulsing heat,
dances to the funeral home;
Celia has been called home.
From our concrete perch at the museum
we can feel the force of heat
emanating from the crowd.
Above the Met, rows of colored flags
fly in a regimented line.
Azucar! We love you, the line
written on these banners made at home
in haste, carried high along with flags
of Cuba—art not shown in the museum.
Salsa sings out from the crowd;
throaty music, filled with heat.
Passing in the New York heat,
suits and skirts obscure the line.
Power lunchers meet the tourist crowd
(in four more hours they'll be home);
A mourner close to the museum
bears the largest of the flags.
Pictures of Celia on the flags
stir the fans immersed in heat.
Art seekers find a closed museum—
no tickets, no tags, no line—
and here they stand, so far from home.
A woman looks out at the crowd
and as the shoppers start to crowd
her, she asks about the bright, bold flags.
A younger woman headed home,
looking impatient in the heat,
snaps “some dead singer,” a chilling line.
I shudder in front of the museum.
At home in front of the great Museum
we watch the crowd, the flags, the line:
Farewell, Azucar…sugar melts away in heat.
[Originally published in Slow Trains]
few years ago, I was in New York City when Celia Cruz died. It was a sad occasion. A couple of days after her death, we just happened to be walking near the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and we saw a huge crowd on the street. We also saw dozens of colorful flags and heard salsa music, and then we realized we were witnessing the outdoor portion of Cruz's wake. Mourners were lined up on the street—some singing, some dancing—waiting to view the body. We stayed for quite a while, eventually stationing ourselves right outside the Met.
I was taking a class in which several forms of poetry were taught, and I had just learned about the construction of the sestina, a form I found fascinating. On the train on the way home, I wrote "Waking the Queen of Salsa," my first sestina. I have been writing them ever since. My more recent sestinas utilize a pure envoi form, unlike this one.