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Latin Freestyle

By David-Matthew Barnes

I remember the rhythm at night:

Your hips wanting mine,
to grind our street-smart
lust into the crush of summer
heat. The beat of lives
never fulfilled. In the dark you say,
“Keep it on
the QT, down low. Slow, go slow.
Just like that, baby. Yeah.” I say,
“When you hit it,
I’m yours siempre, chulo.”

Our love is different during the day:

The tattooed thug boys
in the park with their sparks,
ankle holsters, packing. They pick
up on the bad girls with halter
tops, hair spray, razor tongues.
I get sliced with fear as you present
me to your neighborhood, your
surrogate familia. They suspect

that the whole affair is a white
joke. I try to laugh off their eyes, claims
of their tongue and territory. I sip from
a stolen bottle of O.E. aware that I am
out of my element, zone. My intrusion
is forgotten when I share a common love

for the music bumpin’ from your sound
system. It makes us dance at Southside, makes us
forget about zip codes, colors, rivals. Makes us pound
and throb like the concrete threat of imagined guns
to our heads, knives to our throats. We know that
when the song is over, we will bleed

for each other. Slowly.

Added: Wednesday, July 16, 2014  /  Barnes' poem took Third Place in the Split This Rock 2008 Poetry Contest. Special thanks to the contest judge, Kyle G. Dargan, and to Mary Morris and James Honaberger for their role as first readers.

David-Matthew Barnes’ stage plays have been performed in three languages in seven countries and include Are You All Right In There?, Johnny Ramirez Really Wants To Kiss Me, Pensacola, Sloe Gin Fizz and the acclaimed Threnody. He is the winner of numerous awards for his writing, including the 2008 World AIDS Day Writing Contest for both stage play and poetry and the 2007 Carrie McCray Literary award in recognition of his play, Bracelets and Boyfriends. His latest projects include the poetry collection, Roadside Attractions and The Common Bond, a literary suspense novel. Today, he is a literary reviewer for Main Street Rag and is the school director of a performing arts academy.

Other poems by this author