On the Malecón, a man
comes to practice his english he says,
to ask me out, Alexander
he says he’s a scorpio
well, of course
his scorpion tattoo
faded from sun
miami is 90 miles that way,
he says, every cuban knows this.
90 miles, we don’t know
we never even looked
Alexander hand rolls cigars
in his apartment in New Habana
for money, for food, for his baby, Diana
it barely matters, he says, the stores are empty,
the only thing cheap is rum and cigarettes
and with your president, 90 miles
is so much farther
the ocean spits over the wall—
I know this ocean, I say.
It raised me.
I know this ocean.
It is good to see you again.
you sounded good on the phone
it was good to hear you, I mean
even here, your person is an imaginary
of my desire
I don’t know how to repent for that—even here.
Day four and I really fell apart
I gave a farmer money to take
pictures of his goats and he
kissed me—I did not want it
I understand why he did it
crossed wires, body language barrier
it was the most I had been touched
in days, I wept in the grass beneath the mural.
Lisette says no
dance instead. you can be with your heart out and still dance.
first rain since I got here
other tourists are worried
but I know this rain
20 minutes and it’s gone, believe me
don’t ruin your day for this
20 minutes and it’s gone
but then, I have been walking
around like I’m drowning
what saved me was this music video
at the cafeteria where only women work
and cook and laugh and charge what they want
—this gapped tooth beauty singing
about her scummy boyfriend and I thought
So What If My Ass Is Too Small,
So What That I Ask Too Many Questions,
So What If I Never Own A House
she is dancing until the ceiling
comes down on him—she is smiling and smiling
I can see down her throat.
“I know that my phrases are crude. I write
them with too much love, and that love makes
up for their faults, but too much love is bad for
the work. This isn’t a book because this isn’t how
anyone writes. Is what I write a single climax?
My days are a single climax: I live on the edge.”
—Clarice Lispector, Agua Viva
the disaster did not come then
but it did come, the most I can say
is that this time I want to learn my lesson.
I have stopped hoping.
maybe in time I will stop missing you.
you said once that you
were unsure if you wanted
one person to know all of you
but have you ever felt the interconnectedness of hurricanes and subsidized bread?
All this to say, I love you.
I love you and I want
to stop missing you. I love you
and I do not want to stop
loving you. I want you to know me
and I want you to feel glad.
I love you and I want you
to hurt when you hurt me.
A bus driver named Manuel,
one day he will take a trip
and not drive
how much is a ride
in that American boat? 300?
maybe, I say,
maybe in 6 months, he says,
maybe more, —to see
my daughter in America
she is so crazy to go alone, like you
(( Traveling alone is mainly a practice in saying no.
No taxi. No touching. No I don’t want to get in the car.
No I don’t want to go out with you. No I will not call.
No I will not be sad to be all alone. No I will not be your
beacon for feminist independence. No this place will not
heal me. No I do not want a tour. No I don’t want to be
in the picture I am taking. No I don’t want directions.
No it really is okay if I’m lost. No I will not miss you anymore.
No not anymore. No I will not wonder if you want to see me
or if you are waiting to hear from me or if you ever still wish I was waking
up next to you whispering good morning and finding your tongue. ))
Artist's statement: I traveled to Cuba, a dream of my childhood, to fully encounter my heart and its wounds, to let the light in and these poems came out. I wrote this chapbook as a letter to all the ones that ever had a hand in breaking, expanding and mending me over my lifetime. It was an exercise in letting go of grief that I had allowed to proliferate in my body. I could not have written these poems without these people. I could not have written them without Cuba.