Saturday, April 9, 2011

National Poetry Month: Alan Sugar

"Noticias from the Underground"

Alan Sugar

Clinging like a lizard to walls of cold, parched stone,

the Hispanic Festival slithers into town.

Here, in unnamed alleyways. I move among the vendors and the stands.

Large bottles parade before me in bright pastels,

while smoky smells, stinging and sweet, tease my every turn.

Sounds of salsa float above the crowd packed upon the steps like burlap dolls.

An overcast sky sizzles, and clouds are fried plantains.

Flat magnets, oblong and square, flash on spinning racks,

and Hispanic flags gather like a rumble in the street.

Scattered at my side, necklaces sparkle against forbidding black,

and tiny earrings are beads of lacquered blood.

Somewhere within this gravel labyrinth I find a sacred space—

a corner where children, draped in trinkets of hammered tin,

pretend at weddings, ceremonies of old.

There in dappled amber, the words summon me:

confianza, camino, corazón.

The eyes of children are planets blazing in the sun.

Their smiles transform me like the unexpected falling of so many soundless coins.

Uniform and rare, bracelets conjure the Madonna,

surrounded in roses and linked by splintered thorns.

Circling, she is the Perpetual Parent—

eternally offering an open hand.

Where is Frida?

Pushing through the crowd, I hear the screeching wheels

arriving where the gifted and the tortured cross--

a caterpillar ascending from the furrows of a rose.

Pigeons flap like ashen parrots,

and monkeys hover like swollen hearts blossoming from long blue stems.

Soon they will carry her in.

They’ll lift her on her bed beneath a headboard carved of stone.

And she’ll smile and rest her crown on petals of brocade.

And her layered skirts will smell of watermelon.

And skeletons will dance with angels on her Day of Death foretold.

A rush of wings furtively interrupts, sucking the breath from carnations

and scattering scarlet teardrops to the ground.

No parrots, no portraits. No empty courtyard in bleached enamel gray.

I flee into the Underground,

beckoned by urgent words.

I am a conquistador lured by the samples of the day.

They flash from toothpicks like riches mined from foreign lands.

Hispanic women offer Chinese food from a patchwork of metal pans--

peppers and onions layered in a mosaic array.

I settle at a solitary table then, blessed by the holy trinity on my tray:

steamed rice, egg rolls and a diet coke.

A young couple, barely eighteen, takes their place nearby.

Poised, as if in repose, this boy and girl look into each other’s eyes.

Between them falls an imaginary leaf, alighting from an imaginary September sky.

A fragrant veil surrounds them like sweet elusive words—

te quiero… mi vida.

Closer she approaches, planting her hands in his thick black locks—

fingers like claws, delicate and fierce.

They clasp hands, smooth as copper fronds.

I look down sensing the ground about to spring.

And without memorizing their faces, I secretly observe.

Here, in the unspecified hour of a Sunday afternoon,

I chart the intimate history of my youth--

an ancient map whose borders presume the leftover kernels on my plate.

I am Ponce de Leon in the sunset of his years.

Pausing for an instant, I share my mission undisclosed--

never to announce my claim.

"Noticias from the Underground" was recently presented at an open mic reading in Decatur, Georgia. Alan Sugar grew up in York, Pennsylvania and began writing poetry in high school inspired by the work of Langston Hughes. He studied in Spain and in 2002 he traveled to Japan with the Fulbright Memorial Fund. Alan has worked for the last twenty years in the field of Special Education and recently completed a program in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) at Georgia State University. As a child he developed an interest in puppetry, and he continues to pursue this art. Alan Sugar's work appears in the anthology Java Monkey Speaks, Volume 3 (Poetry Atlanta Press).

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