i want to tell you about the sensation
of the hollow of my hips             open
this hallowed place
which you will worship later
as we sway and rock
now
to the syncopation of the clave
and the congas
the padding of our heels on carpet
my hoop earrings dangling, your
newly trimmed hair scuffing
my flourishing cheek, let us
pretend we are at a salsa joint where
no men grab our torsos and
no women smash our feet
with their stilettos, let us dance
on an imagined beach in the tropics
our papaya shakes sweating
on a log
while we do
this thing                     let us dance
in the old church in Quiapo where
faith healers sell amulets and black candles
in the shapes of saints or sinners

but they would tell us that
two women are not supposed
to sway
like that
we should be ashamed!
go to confession, maybe
get corrected but

we know our song like
we composed it together, you the bass and i
the shaker, you the banduria and i
the kulintang brass
and though eclectic the sounds
they mesh together here, seamlessly. should we
do this thing in public, let our ritual
go beyond the safety of
same-sex classes and circles where
everyone
has already
gotten used to it?  why can’t we
dance

without me tightening
the tendons
of my neck, you
the shoulder blades like
we must armor ourselves
against the world, why
do we have to salsa
in secret?
i love the way
you pull me close, swing me out then
pull me closer,
swing me out then
pull me closer still

the bones of our hips swaying like this, until
the neighbor upstairs starts dropping things that sound
like bowling balls, the cats
chase each other around the courtyard and
baby jane from two doors down starts
playing with my tsinellas
outside our screen door.
is it so alarming?
two
women in love
dancing salsa
(or maybe they’ve never danced before)

dancing salsa
women in love
two
let us do
this thing
let us care
nothing
about the world
let us do
this thing
let us cast
our sins
into the fire
let us do
this thing
let us make the world
be our witness.