3 Cuba Poems & Miami Nocturne – Gregory Solano
February 2, 2017
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
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
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.