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IT RAINED THE DAY THEY BURIED TITO PUENTE

by
 It rained the day they buried Tito Puente
The eyes of drug dealers following me
as I walked through the streets
past shivering prostitutes
women of every sex
young boys full of piss
and lampposts like ghosts in the night
past Jimmy the hustler boy 
with the really big dick 
cracked out on the sidewalk
wrapped in a blanket donated by the trick
that also gave him genital herpes 
and Fruit Loops for breakfast
past the hospital where Tio Cesar 
got his intestines taken out
in exchange for a plastic bag 
where he now shits and pisses
the 40’s he consumed for 50 years
past 3 of the thugs 
who sexually assaulted those women 
at Central Park 
during the Puerto Rican Day parade 
lost in their machismo, 
marijuana and Mira mami’s
‘cause boricuas do it better


Tito’s rambunctious and unruly rhythms never touched them 
never inspired them to rise above the ghetto 
and, like La Bruja said, “Ghet Over It!”
his timbales never echoed 
in the salsa of their souls
though they had probably danced 
to his cha-cha-cha
they never listened to the message 
between the beats
urging them to follow their hearts

On a train back to Brooklyn
feeling dispossessed and dreamless
I look up to read one of those 
Poetry In Motion ads
sharing a car with somebody sleeping
realizing 
that inspiration is everywhere these days
& though the Mambo King’s body 
may be six-feet under
his laughter and legend will live forever

The next morning 
I heard the crow crowing, “Oye Como Va”
his song was the sunlight in my universe
& I could feel Tito’s smile 
shining down on me

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