We huddled round a square,
Turquoise 45 record player
and listened again, and again,
and again, and again
to Ritchie Valens rocking out in Spanish,
pushed against plastic
to slow down the record.
Ears flat to the speaker,
we listened for cuss words tangled up in wild rhythms
and incomprehensible words —
“There!” we’d stop and play it backwards, forwards, finding --
who knows what we found.
We didn’t know it was a huapango, a folk dance, full
of nonsense and revolution, like las calaveras,
the skeleton rhymes sent round on el dia de los muertos,
saying the mayor died choking on a cardboard taco,
the priest tripped over his third leg -- and died, or the
governor and a goat died -- stealing our vote.
We fell in love with the revolution in La Bamba —
more radical than the Chicago DJ, Dick Bionti,
who told everyone to take a bath
at the same time one Saturday nite,
which meant something besides “bath”
but not to us, not yet,
and we had no idea what a revolution was.
But we played La Bamba over and over again,
and again, and again, la, ba, la, ba, la ba Bamba
and we danced, and danced.
You couldn’t play it just once.
You had to get up and dance, dance and
laugh at everyone making up bla bamba
jiberish with cuss words tucked in.
So decades later
I can't take my eyes off Lou Diamond
playing Richie Valens.
The acting sucks, the but music —
I'll watch, and watch again until the song comes
Para bailar La Bamba,
Para bailar La Bamba, se necessita una poca de gracia
Una poca de gracia, para mi, para ti,
Ay arriba arriba
Ay arriba arriba,
The revolution turns
against time from the south.
Get up, get up and dance!
©Susan Bright, 2005.
Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published one-hundred-and-fifty books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh.