“I Dance Merengue Barefoot” by Tatiana Figueroa Ramirez

Issue 24 / Winter 2021 / Special Issue: Pleasure

on my stoop. Smiling
song lyrics shape
maple lips. Scents of softening
viandas, simmering
sofrito water, & browning
meat, circle me & push
my rhythm closer & closer.


Titi Linda lives as I forget she died
barely a year ago. The music drowning
out the memory of grief released
in screams as her spirit floated above her bed.

My nodding head of curls follows
my hips that swing
from left to right on beat
with the tambora & saxophone.
Faster & faster my feet tap
with freshly painted toes.
Tighter & tighter
summer color arms warm
the air twirling
on the concrete platform.


Black dresses dyed into a river of hues, flashing
yellow sunflowers pink blush baby blue skies.
As if mourning only breathes obsidian.


Heat becomes
a touch of ocean mist.
The sun boils
the ground.
Abuela claps
cucharon in hand.
My nieces laugh
from the steps.
Mami copies.
We become
a band unbroken


until Titi Linda’s laugh quiets
the speakers & her hair shadows
my face, a cloud leaping
above to make me stop
everything. Heartbeats even on pause.


& then the empanadillas appear
& stomachs shriek
louder than Oro Solido.
Frituras in hand
& I can hear Titi Linda sing
stories of every album that awoke
her body, no limb separated
from the beat, so with her on my stoop
I dance merengue barefoot.



Born in Puerto Rico and raised in the mainland United States, Tatiana Figueroa Ramirez graduated with a B.A. in English Literature from UMBC and is a VONA Voices alumna, having worked with Willie Perdomo and Danez Smith. Tatiana currently performs, facilitates workshops, and hosts events in the DC area, having previously done so across the United States and the Dominican Republic at venues including New York University and The Kennedy Center. You can read her work in The Acentos Review, among other publications. Tatiana is the author of Coconut Curls y Café con Leche (2019) and Despojo (2020).

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