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Angelitos Negros

By Darrel Alejandro Holnes

In the film, both parents are Mexicans as white as
          a Gitano’s bolero sung by an indigena accompanied by the Moor’s guitar
bleached                  by this American continent’s celluloid in 1948
          when in America the world’s colors were polarized into           black & blanco.

In the film, Pedro Infante plays Jose Carlos      and sings
                                  Angelitos Negros in a chapel, the film’s title song,
          asking the painter of the church’s art to paint a picture with black angels
who look like Jose Carlos’s dark-skinned daughter,       a child his wife refuses to accept.

          ¿Pintor, si pintas con amor, porque desprecias su color
                                                                si sabes que en el cielo       también los quiere Dios?

Tonight I sing the same song for my morenos absent from these cathedral walls:

O painter, painting with a foreign brush to the rumba of its old bolero.
          Listen to our angel’s chorus of inocentes morenos muertos.

We morenos in the barrio create a gumbo quilombo, our little taste of heaven
          with matches and propane and coal stones under a pot of cabra y culebras.
We morenos are brown turned black,             burnt by fire fired from guardia guns
          looking to make us                congos      for a legisladore’s              chanchudos.

Listen to los pelaos in the favelas kicking
          around the soccer ball               de pie a pie de pie a pie de pie a pie cabeza cabeza
forced out of their homes        by a world class stadium           they can never afford to get into,
                        forced into a life in the prison              of their streets.
They too deserve to be painted, pintor, in your fresco Adoration scenes. 

                               ¿Pintor, si pintas con amor, porque desprecias su color?

                    Eartha Kitt sings Pintame Angelitos Negros,
          the same Andrés Eloy Blanco poem Infante               set to song
on thrift store vinyl                               playing in homemade YouTube clips.
                    Kitt raises her voice high enough
to swallow morning        if it does not give her a sky
                                                                   with dark-skinned angels in its clouds tonight.

       Then dusk falls over the continent built on
                   shadows, shackles, and shame.

Broken-winged Blackbird        three shades of jade, just fly into dark matter in outer space.
          Perhaps up there is a better painter, better god for us all           to obey.

Added: Monday, February 1, 2016  /  Darrel Alejandro Holnes's poem won second place in the 2016 Split This Rock Annual Poetry Contest. We thank Rigoberto González for his generosity and discernment as the contest judge.
Darrel Alejandro Holnes
Photo by Hope Thompson.

Darrel Alejandro Holnes is the co-editor of Happiness: The Delight-Tree, An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry and co-author of PRIME: Poetry & Conversation. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in Poetry Magazine, American Poetry Review, Callaloo, Best American Experimental Writing, The Adroit Journal, Day One, and elsewhere. He teaches creative writing and dramatic writing at NYU and Rutgers University and works with writers at the UN.

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