En la Calle San Sebastián

By Martín Espada b. 1957 Martin Espada

Viejo San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1998

Here in a bar on the street of the saint
en la calle San Sebastián,
a dancer in white with a red red scarf
en la calle San Sebastián,
calls to the gods who were freed by slaves
en la calle San Sebastián,
and his bronze face is a lantern of sweat
en la calle San Sebastián,
and hands smack congas like flies in the field
en la calle San Sebastián,
and remember the beat of packing crates
en la calle San Sebastián,
from the days when overseers banished the drum
en la calle San Sebastián,
and trumpets screech like parrots of gold
en la calle San Sebastián,
trumpets that herald the end of the war
en la calle San Sebastián,
as soldiers toss rifles on cobblestone
en la calle San Sebastián,
and the saint himself snaps an arrow in half
en la calle San Sebastián,
then lost grandfathers and fathers appear
en la calle San Sebastián,
fingers tugging my steel-wool beard
en la calle San Sebastián,
whispering your beard is gray
en la calle San Sebastián,
spilling their rum across the table
en la calle San Sebastián,
till cousins lead them away to bed
en la calle San Sebastián,
and the dancer in white with a face of bronze
en la calle San Sebastián,
shakes rain from his hair like the god of storms
en la calle San Sebastián,
and sings for the blood that drums in the chest
en la calle San Sebastián,
and praises the blood that beats in the hands
en la calle San Sebastián,
en la calle San Sebastián.

“En la calle San Sebastián,” from Alabanza by Martín Espada. Copyright © 2003 by Martin Espada. Used by permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Source: Alabanza: New and Selected Poems 1982-2002 (W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 2003)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Martín Espada b. 1957

Subjects History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Activities, Travels & Journeys

 Martín  Espada

Biography

Poet, essayist, translator, editor, and attorney: Martín Espada has dedicated much of his career to the pursuit of social justice, including fighting for Latino rights and reclaiming the historical record. Espada’s critically acclaimed collections of poetry celebrate—and lament—the immigrant and working class experience. Whether narrating the struggles of Puerto Ricans and Chicanos as they adjust to life in the United States, or . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Activities, Travels & Journeys

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.