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Selected Poetry by Clark Zlotchew


Photo Source: Unsplash


Captive of Ayangalu



I writhe in my seat,

Obeying the insistent beat;

Of Ayangalu,

Patron of drummers,

I can’t sit still.

 

They say the mighty spirits

Of West African Yoruba

Babalú-Ayé, Changó, Ogún,

Can seize you, inhabit you,

Obatalá, Yemayá, Ochún,

On this magic isle of Cuba.

 

Blur of purples and yellows

Of buildings formed of stucco

Streaks

Past open taxi windows.

Humid air caresses my face,

As we careen through narrow

Streets where balconies project

From tall windows guarded by

Black iron grills

Rush in kaleidoscopic views,

Before my fevered eyes,

My brain steeped in local brews.

 

With reckless velocity,

The taxi races over cobbles while

Radio blares song and dance,

Makes me want to move to the beat,

But dancing in taxis not possible, so

 

I writhe in my seat,

To insistent beat;

Ayangalu whispers,

Dance!

I can’t sit still.

 

Both taxi and radio sweep

me along with the swift current,

The raging torrent of a driving beat.

Insistent rhythms snatched from

an African plain.,

Alluring melodies with

the flavor of Spain,

Suppress unkind memories,

Like balm calms the ache,

Like anesthesia banishes pain,

As the radio blares.

 

Guaracha:

 

Jerking strum of guitars,

Hurried chic-chic of maracas,

Shallow bat-a-bat of bongos,

Booming of drum called conga,

Echoes of the Congo.

Strident acid trumpets,

In a minor key,

Razor sharp,

Slash

through my lethargy.

 

I writhe in my seat,

Ayangalu moves me,

To insistent beat;

I can’t sit still.

 

Guaguancó:

 

Frenzied drums

In different pitches,

Sacúdelo niña!

Loud, low, deep,

THUNDER!

Of the tumbadora,

Thump a throbbing beat

DOOM-ba-da, DOOM-ba-da

DOOM-ba-da DOOM!

 

My hands compelled to pound,

The dashboard in time

with the pulsating sound.

 

I writhe in my seat,

To insistent beat;

I can’t sit still.

 

Graceful palms swaying,

In the heat and humidity,

Blur of purple and yellow

Houses stream right by

My sandpapered eyes.

 

I writhe in my seat,

To insistent beat;

I still can’t sit still.





Omnibus of Delights


 

Heat, humidity, three-day face forest,

Exhaustion.

Sticky shirt sticks to skin,

sticky skin sticks to shirt.

Mutual attraction.

 

Screw-ups, incompetence,

Delays, insolence, sloth,

Lay a blue funk on my head,

Which seeps into my follicles,

Invades my brain.

Infiltrates my heart.

I am a funky monkey.

I am so funked over.             

                                               

Red intercity bus pulls to grey curb,

Opens door with a hhissssssss.

I haul my weary bones up

and into semidarkness.

 

Chilled air soothes my soul,

Feel almost human. I fling myself

into welcoming open-armed

blue plush seat,

Blue funk lifting a bit.

 

Window seat occupant hails from

Barranquitas on The Isle of

Enchantment, La Isla del Encanto,

He beams with good will,

We speak in Spanish.

 

After fifteen minute minutes, we find

we share fondness for Mexican Ballads

Corridos and Rancheras, that sing

of life and love, requited, but mostly

unrequited, and of war, betrayals

and revenge, violent death,

 

Songs for shedding tears into your beers

or strong spirits. And, of course,

Songs of celebration.

We sing! In the public bus!

 

Between songs Juan slips

Transparent flask from pocket.

Whiskey!

He generously shares magic potion

Created by wizards of Kentucky.

 

Our voices surge, intensify,

Like a mariachi trumpet duet,

Amber maple syrup cascading

From bottle to buttery hotcakes.

Inhibitions submerged by

The genie in the bottle,

The Djinn of the decanter,

The Spirit of the spirits.

Hours fly by on wings of delight.

 

My magic carpet touches

Down at my little town.

We shake hands amid wishes

for health and happiness.

My feet float above glowing,

above magical blocks,

as departing sun bathes

my town in golden rays,

Back to wife and children,

Blue funk dissipated.

Glad to be home.

 





 Clark Zlotchew is the author of 19 books, among them two thriller novels, the poetry collection A Presence of Absence: Poetry (2021), and three collections of short stories, one of which was an award winner. His fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction have appeared in Crossways Literary Magazine, The American Poetry Review, and many other literary journals in the U.S. as well as abroad from 1985 through 2024.  Earlier fiction of his had appeared in his Spanish versions in three Latin American countries and the state of Colorado. Dr. Zlotchew is SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor, Emeritus.  


If you would like to learn more about Clark, you can find his Amazon page here and his website here.

 

 

 


 

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