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Cuba, Full of Grace

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Little finger rejoices.
It steadies a silver fork
between itself
And its next-door neighbor.
And the little finger notices
The thin, bloody-red juices
That leak hurriedly from Castro’s
November ration of cooked beef.
Desperately, evasively,
Some of the meaty stew’s salty sap
Tries to escape from the homeland.
Silly fugitives,
thinks the little finger,
As it drops the fork
And gropes for seasonings
To quell the juices’ might
With shakes of salt,
Until the boliche acquires
Socialism’s taste:
Sweet and succulent.

Tap, tap, tap
The fourth finger tap dances
On the dash of The
Husband’s rusty Ford.
And the fourth does the twist
Anxiously.
Twist, twist, twists the silver band
That carries His tiny diamond.
The fourth is uneasy as it pulls up
To the pure, chaste, unadulterated
White sand of Havana’s
long stretch of beach.
Nervy is the fourth,
Amorously raking Che’s red star in the sand,
Tracing proximally to Mr. Guevara’s
Ubiquitous, unwavering face.

The middle is unabashed and wild,
Flipping flippantly
The record onto the turntable,
Until Celia Cruz’s croons fill the barren living room.
Exultant, triumphant, uninhibited
Salsa ricochets from
Abuelita’s threadbare rug to the wooden cross
To the husband’s nearly empty pack of cigarettes.
No hay que llorar, Celia says,
And we believe her.


The second fumbles among
Yellowed papers canvased with
Hello-s, hi-s, how-are-you-s
In bleeding ink.
The second finger is nostalgic and remembering
As it scrawls the decade old jokes
Forged between distant family,
A family taken under
Johnson’s wing, years ago.
The finger chuckles and wonders if
Malú still reads José Martí
under her bed covers
Or if she instead eats hamburgers with the Americans.

Now the thumb is more observant than the rest:
Perhaps its detachment from a remote family has
Made First especially attentive,
Or maybe just more militant and obedient.
It was the thumb who
Noticed the unassuming tear in the tatty red, white, and blue fabric
That hangs in the dim dining room.
And now the fingers sew easily and
Clinch the flag’s slit,
But the thumb takes the needle’s beating.
Its prick draws blood and
Drip, drip, drip
First’s red mingles with
Castro’s red—
Just butchery in the interlude of
His Cuban diplomacy.



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