La Lupe

By Victor Hernández Cruz b. 1949 Victor Hernandez Cruz
Her voice comes out of her knees,
her fingernails are full of sound,
Birds are in her lungs,
which gives her gargantuan flight,
A florescence through ether waves,
like ancestral Morse codes.
Oriente province de Cuba
her first steps.
At nineteen she dismantled retinas—
roosters blew themselves inside out,
When she swayed by cathedrals they folded,
guayacan trees fell to their knees,
Mountains bowed with the contents
for ajiaco.
She filled the horizon with kerchiefs,
gypsies danced behind her,
Her bracelets were snakes,
forces were captured in her gold chains,
The moon was in her silver,
there were reptiles stationed
In her Afro-Siboney cheeks,
there were in her Asian eyes
Radars picking up the fingertips
of the piano player—
The language of the trumpet—
black changos landing upon
The shelf of her eyelids.
She motioned in songs to live them.
Her passion destroyed the container,
She blew up into false promises,
romantic lyrics tied her in knots,
Broken into pieces of kisses,
she knew it was “theater”
That you offered,
A landscape hanging in the
museums of desire,
Rows of guayava paste,
stories that according
To your point of view,
salons of dried roses.
Her songs became the windows
of the city,
In the distance a hurt bellows
from a bird locked in a radio.
Classroom teacher of tropical children,
reading to them native flora—
A wind entered her and she flew to
New York,
eating the skyline,
Bridges of electric lights,
conduits to the house of the Saints.
At the Jefferson Theater
she melted the microphone
Into liquid mercury,
and an ambulance had to
Get her off the stage.
She embodied in gowns, capes,
dresses, necklaces, bonnets,
Velvets, suedes, diamond-studded,
flowers, sequins,
All through which
she wanted to eat herself
She salvaged us all,
but took the radiation.
Each time she sang
she crossed the sea.
From the Bronx
she went back to Cuba,
Adrift on the sails
of a song.

Victor Hernandez Cruz, “La Lupe” from Maraca: New and Selected Poems 1966-2000. Copyright © 2001 by Victor Hernandez Cruz. Reprinted by permission of Coffee House Press.

Source: Maraca: New and Selected Poems 1966-2000 (Coffee House Press, 2001)

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Poet Victor Hernández Cruz b. 1949

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Music

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Ode

 Victor Hernández Cruz


Victor Hernandez Cruz was born in Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico. He moved to New York City with his family when he was five years old, but he didn’t start learning English until two years later when his family bought a television set. He started writing poetry early and at seventeen self-published his first book, Papo Got His Gun! And Other Poems, on a mimeograph machine. Since then, more than a dozen collections of his poems—among . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Music

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Ode

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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