Art

3 Cuba Poems & Miami Nocturne – Gregory Solano

My father left Cuba with a passport

 

Marked NULO and a white summer suit

Woven carefully with threads of gold.

Abuelo was a machinist with a lathe

Behind a trick door in a carpenter’s shop

In Vedado, shaving tubes of steel

To make silencers for the mafia.

Abuela was always crazy. When Abuelo

Was a boy he was just the cleverest

Of a rollicking band of homeless orphans

In Centro Havana. Abuela’s mother

Was abandoned with nine children—

Eight of them boys. From a dutch door

installed in her apartment Abuela Mama

sold rice and beans and did laundry.
Mama took pity on the sullied orphan

with the quick wit and would feed him,

do his clothes, give him a cot in her apartment

that came to be like a barracks for hungry

boys. Which is how Abuelo came to marry

Abuela—out of gratitude to her mother.

This was the arrangement my father was

Born into.

 

Abuela Cucu

 

In a nunnery outside Montreal

My grandfather stands crucified

As Jesus Christ our father.

My great-great-grandmother Cucu

Was an artist and sculptor.

She birthed three sons and

One daughter. My grandfather

Worked the fields and the steel mill

Alongside his uncles since he was

Nine years old. Carrying cinder

Blocks on his back across shimmering

Fields of wheat and spiny yucca.

Hands so dirtied and oversized

With calluses he washed them in a basin

Of gasoline each night before coming

Home. By the time he was sixteen,

He was six four and as handsome

As he would be the rest of his life.

For hours, the story goes, he stood

Naked and half crucified in the anteroom

To his grandmother’s home so she

Could get his proportions right

For her statue. After her husband died

She joined the sisterhood of the precious

blood and was cloistered in a nunnery.

Fidel exiled them in ’62. When I think

About exile I think about the life-size

Reproduction of my grandfather

In the image of Jesus Christ that only

Aging women who have taken their vows

Can gaze upon in a cloister outside Montreal.

 

Cubans are the most easily conned people

 

It’s late in early

December. America or at least

a small majority of it is

preparing to go to sleep

angry for four years.

Me too. Every night I brutalize

my enemies in imagined duels.

Last month, Castro died

at ninety-three, outliving

the generation he tormented

most. At Versailles in Miami,

a celebration congregated.

“Se fue, se fue, se fue.”

People who have been so long

exiled from a home they have

no intention of returning to

chanting “He’s gone.” At one

with the crowd are the signs

for Trump, already elected.

In 1959 Cuba cheered the rise

of Fidel and his nationalist

movement that promised to restore

the constitution of 1940.

You know just as well what

we got instead. Murder, censure,

rations. Cloying elites sipping

sweet espresso in fatigues

who opposed the dictatorship

of the bourgeouise. Yes,

there was good work done

by Fidel in South Africa, in

the Congo, in Zimbabwe. And

who could blame him for opposing

a country that would murder

Allende and give us Pinochet?

It’s my liberal weakness to see

how I am complicit, how my political

suffering seems a uniquely tailored

contrapasso. How Cubans are both

the cleverest and most easily

conned people.

 

Miami Nocturne

 

Look to the darkest streets lined with banyans

The canopy of their opened veins

Feel the rumbling of a souped up ’96 Miata

Convertible and then its absence

All those quiet souls no longer asleep

In the concrete of their homes

Look to the cinder blocks in the overgrowth

Small altars to torpor still cooling down

There are beautiful women in skirts

Walking in the middle of the street

Laughing slipping in heels

Dogs barking and pawing at the chain links.