Malecon Quinceanera

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The chrome Indian head

of a black  ’49 Pontiac Chieftain Coupe,

shimmers in the late afternoon sun.

My Dad had one fifty years ago;

it had leaky brakes

and sometimes he had 

to angle it against the curb

to stop it.

It must have died

long ago, but here,

frozen in time, this one

glides past a couple 

on their clunky chunky

Chinese bicycle.

She beams

and has one hand 

around his waist;

in the other,

a birthday cake.

 

A little further along,

in an old Mafia hotel,

the ghost of the gangster,

Meyer Lansky 

dressed in a brown

double-breasted suit,

matching fedora, 

and white spats

stands on top of

a winding staircase. 

He puffs on a Cohiba

and surveys

his kingdom below

while Sinatra croons.

 

Across the road,

on the seawall,

trumpets and saxophones

play for tourist dollars

while young lovers

strut their stuff

and old men fish and drink 

rotgut rum.

They’ll share some

if you ask, but it’s better 

not to.

Below, lithe barefoot boys

scramble along the rocks

and never mind 

sea spray splatters. 

 

The black coupe stops 

alongside pastel

faded tenements, 

their crumbling facades,

and sidewalks that bristle 

with exposed rebar,

and pulls up behind

a real ‘classico.’

It’s a  ’57 two-tone

Belair Chevy Convertible

with those wide fins

that slice through

hot humid Havana nights.

In the front, Papa, 

with his freshly pressed suit,

trim little moustache,

and shiny black hair

slick with pomade,

sits and smiles.

Behind him,

perched on the back seat,

hair freshly permed,

a little nervous

but proud, 

she sits

in her new gown

that billows over

the buffed sheen

of the trunk.

Just turned fifteen

she waits,

delicately balanced,

on the cusp

between girl and woman,

for her procession

to begin.