“Fifty Years” by Raven

There are no white lines on the road;
the divisions are invisible.
Out of the window
I play
at catching the wind in my palm
and feel it pull through my fingers
the way Burma shave slogans along the highway —
Struggle —
become the wind
felt in passing
and never grasped.
And all the way down, the watch towers are empty for now.

The bus stops for riders, fruit, cerveza and bocaditos
Each station distinct, though
the murals of Guevarra,
and the strays are a


Havana, city of caged birds.

La Ciudad Sancti Spiritus, hovering phantom-like,
blue and white
above the bush.

In Camaguey, where the streets become pavement again,
they shout their wares as if revolutionary,
(and by the time we reach it the mosquito bite on my third eye has finally gone —
dug out
for something more practical —
a convenient hole to keep peso coins for the unattendant bathroom attendant;
when I nod my head – clink – it drops in the plate).
In Holguin, paper flags strafe the low ceiling,
hanging in perfect rows.
The urinals are gone;
so I piss where past victories,
tell me they were,
and tip el bañador again, for some mysterious service.

In another town
they prop their mattresses against the walls
outside humid rooms
to stop the mildew,
and fluttering paper doves now decorate each door.
Corn is drying on the roofs of new concrete houses
and it is left to the goats to trim the baseball pitches.

They say a lion prowls outside Guantanamo city,
but we never see it,
and Castro has never cashed its checks.

The bus driver stops for a bag of papayas
before miles are devoured by night
and engine-song;
daylight is nearly breaking when I wake:
twelve kilometres to Santiago de Cuba, where
they are cutting the grass around the statue of Martí with machetes when we arrive,
in preparation for speeches and brass bands.

In Baracoa, a bike taxi rattles us through town, watched over by dogs standing sentry
on rooftops.
We give up our shirts here, for hard lessons – salsa steps, humility:

“those who comprehend nothing
love nothing
those who can do nothing
understand nothing
those who understand nothing…”

The rest lost in translation.

There is a place beyond Che and the Chocolate Factory;
A resort in Maguana where the locals stare through a fence.
In black gumboots
a local man rakes its beach of seaweed daily, in contest with the tides,
which throw up more to keep him employed,
while the tourists eat spaghetti and tinned fruit
and toast with white rum: “Viva la revolucion…”

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