Fiction   Essays   Poetry  The Ten On Baseball Chapbooks In Memory

Phillip Henry Christopher

Sweat, Smog And Sugar Donuts

There's something about morning
in the rough-hands world
of western PA,
the worn flannel shirts,
faded collar blue denim,
rusted fender four by fours,
crackle-paint frame houses,
steel diners,
and the furious pounding
of an Aerosmith tune,
blasting from a car radio
at furnace fire August 10 a.m.
outside shiny silver donut shop
in the shadow of Pittsburgh,
somewhere between the rivers,
where summer lush mountains
melt into the blackness of oil,
glowing open hearth crimson and
bright spitting neon yellow
sloshing massive black ladles,
thick melted ore flooded furnace
forging fresh slag
to rolling mills
and smooshed into
gun metal plates
turning rusty bronze
on summer flatbed railroad cars...
Another mill town morning
Aerosmith raspy-voiced fusillade
molten sonic fury
crashing like steel,
the clang of tempered plates dropping,
the smell of fire, sweat,
smog and sugar donuts.

Mambo Urbano

Mambo is
a street beat,
the rat-tat-tat rain
on a tin roof shack,
the swoosh of a wave,
monsoon wind
through wispy willows,
a Gulf Coast shore line...

Mambo is
the boom-boom-boom
bembe beating drum call,
a Dixieland cornet,
Congo Square Black Creole
Mardi Gras Indians,
second line dancing,
the echo of a jungle call
and answer...

Mambo is
Octaroon Jonconnu Trenchtown
redemption songs,
the clackety-clack chink-a-chink
Sao Paolo cable car creeping
steep samba hills,
Carnaval streets teeming
ten thousand bodies bouncing and
the bum-bum-bum badum-bum
bossa beat and bustle of a
Rio night bohemian cafe
thick Bahia twilight mystery
en la madrugada...

Mambo is
La Bodeguita del Media Havana moon,
dockside rumba ritmo,
bawdy bard decima duels,
calling and answering,
boasting and bantering,
from Alhambra
from Santiago de Cuba,
Oriente son and sea meet
montuno Yoruba beat,
cool street and
jungle heat
in the pulse
of mambo...

Mambo is
calloused hands
on smooth skin djembe,
worn sticks striking
hollow logs of history,
rant-a-tang cowbells,
a hundred pan drummers
Trini Fete Jump up! Jump up!
Tuve morning come
Candomble Espirite Brasile,
pocomania downtown
sidewalk Santeros,
tenement saints,
like drumming in the walls
like drumming in the halls
of Harlem and Queens
Port au Prince and New Orleans,
like saxophone sounding
sweet home Southside Chicago,
A Capella singing on
a South Philly stoop,
talking drum whispering,
a whoop, a whoop,
reed flute whistling
crisp Andean heights,
the ghost of a poet
outside City Lights,
a Salvadoran revolucionista
whose song is conviction,
Jose Marti in Nueva York,
his guajira a longing,
Cardenal en Nicaragua,
his poem revelation,
his sermon revolution...

Mambo is
like rivers that flow
from mountain streams,
restlessly downward
through towering redwoods,
bold balboa,
past Buddha bodhi tree
and blackberry bushes,
past morning doves cooing
in marshland bulrushes,
like the catch-a-chatch chop of
a cane cutter's clave...

Mambo is
the river that flows
through empty hamlets and
half sleeping towns,
silently slipping through
sanitized suburbs
of manicured lawns,
past cold granite court houses
in old town squares,
past playgrounds
the rhythm of innocent laughter,
past parking lot dances
of tires and glass and plastic and metal,
past white-washed warehouse echoes
the songs of fork lift whine
and diesel truck rumble,
through factory gates
that swing like pendulums
under Golgotha smokestacks,
through rust iron rail yards,
under long swaying bridges,
through smoldering barrio
simmering tropic hood,
under EL tracks and trains
through forests towering
steel and glass...

Mambo is
just down the street,
the pulse and the beat,
tap-tapping feet,
the funky and sweet,
Azucar! Sabroso!
and Roque singing of
La Augusta Dame de la Clase Media
of Buses Urbanos,
and Pablo singing
of poems that rise
from rushing waters,
Papa Hemingway singing
an old man and the sea,
Machito singing
all night Mambo Cubano,
La Seņora Celia singing
life as a carnival,
Willie Colon
singing sizzling salsa,
even Allen singing
his saintly locomotive sunflower
singing sutras of midnight jazz,
of beatitudes and bohos,
of painters and prophets,
poesia and pain,
of black cat blues
and hot steam asphalt,
of August rains
and mountain streams,
of cities
of streets
of rhythm
of dance
of the beat
of a taxicab horn
of streetcar rattles
of power line hums
of claves
of maracas
of guiro
of congas
of voices
of rumba
of guaguanco
of bomba
of changui
of son
of mambo
of mambo
of Mambo Urbano.

©2006 by Phillip Henry Christopher

Phillip Henry Christopher spent his childhood in Paris, Biloxi, Vermont, and Coatesville, Pennsylvania. He grew in the shadow of smokestacks. He has been a reporter, mechanic, taxi driver, karate sensei, activist, reggae and mambo bandleader. Currently, hešs trying to find a publisher for his first novel, Steeltown Dream.

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