June 3, 2016

Amy Uyematsu

ZUMBA GOLD AT 9 AM

We are a throng of older women—yes, we are silver- and white-haired, or in my case, color-enhanced reddish brown, some with new knees and hips, others sporting flashy neon wristbands to tally how many steps, all of us ready to rumble in our rubber-soled shoes. Our teacher Yvonne used to weigh 300 pounds. Now she zumbas and runs, sports a modified Mohawk, sparkly bracelets stacked from wrist to forearm, and pink, lime, or lavender tank tops and sweats. Her constant command: “Smile! This is spoze to be fun!” And it is, though a few in the crowd just don’t get the steps, their faces so labored and lost. Most of us, though, are having the best time we’ve had in decades, feel like we did in our teens, maybe better since we don’t care anymore if we look uncool—heck, no pressure anymore from ogling adolescents or lascivious men. Now nothing matters more than the way this Latin music pulls us in—our bodies set loose to congas and timbales. We learn salsa, very New York City smooth, while Dominican merengue is frenzied and almost too fast to keep on beat. We all like the song where we gyrate our hips, follow Yvonne in an unhurried blend of hula and belly dance, then raise arms and hands to shoo away something toward the sky, all of us joining the chorus, “amor—amor, amor, amor”—not sure if we’re sending love out to the universe or saying goodbye to a lover, our voices rising as one. But my favorite, as always, is the cha cha, which we got from Cuba. I didn’t know this in the ’60s, when I cha cha cha’d to Chicano and Motown discs, doing it Eastside style with a swivel and dip. Cha cha feels like I’m coming home, so easy and free, just a zumba-crazed grandma with bad knees—that’s me.

from Rattle #51, Spring 2016
Tribute to Feminist Poets

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Amy Uyematsu: “Back in the ’70s, I taught a course at UCLA called ‘Asian Women in America.’ In that class, we studied ‘triple jeopardy’—how Asian American women face issues of racism, sexism, and economic discrimination. I’ve long considered myself an Asian American woman poet, which to me means being an advocate for people of color as well as women.”