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CUBA: AN ADVENTURE IN IMAGE AND WORD

I’ll publish pictures and verse each day for the next couple of weeks from Peggy McGivern’s upcoming show: Cuba: An Adventure In Image and Word, opening Friday, May 16th at Abend Gallery, on Colfax and York in Denver. The pieces by Peggy and verse by me are based on our trip last year to Cuba. It’s an amazing place, a time capsule full of beautiful people in a beautiful place

Habana Sites

It’s not about the famous Tropicana
Skimpily costumed on the delightful edge of propriety
With dancers like giant gaudy birds
Floating in numbers orchestrated
In the late night of the past
On the currency of Germans and Russians, Chinese and Japanese
And now again the Americans
From across the Florida straits
Foreigners riding in communist busloads
To experience the revolution
Not knowing the difference
Between Guevara and Bautista

Nor is it the Castillo de San Carlos de la Cabana
Cold stone fortress across Habana Bay
Protecting the new world from pirates
Until you discover it’s a scenic turnout

And you find yourself swaying to the voices
Of your official government guides
With a mojito to Cuban rhythms
On joyful Plaza de la Catedral
Celebrating American history
And religion and slavery and
Touristico happiness showing its age

Next your riding in a mid-century taxi
Chevys and Fords and Austin Healeys
Running smooth as factory new
All fins and Bondo and sensuous curves
Puffs of blue smoke
Floating through Caribbean sunshine
Wide windshields
Bald tires and blind spots
Like imaginary gangsters sweating through open windows

Just check it all off the bucket list:
Plaza de Viejo, de Armas, de San Francisco de Asis
The musty Rat-Pack Riviera along the Malecon
The Buena Vista Social Club
Hemingway’s hotel room frozen in time

No, it’s not the Tropicana or the shining old cars

But instead you walk the storied neighborhoods
Where tractors and trucks age more gracefully
Never learning how to quit
The weary welcoming cobbled streets
Delivering produce and propane to centuries old doors
For women watching from wrought iron balconies
Amidst hanging laundry taking days to dry in the humid breeze

Everywhere groups of men huddle in the mouths of open hoods
Lay under jacked up cars
Play checkers on tables
Set up in small parks
Where all kinds of crazy sculptures feel at home
Or in the middle of the street
Where plaques of poetry are mounted under street signs and read by everyone

Just keep walking
Past parakeets in cages hanging outside front doors
Through cafes with chairs and tables and hutches and silver
That would make Museum curators faint if they saw anyone touch
Step over goat’s feet lying on the sidewalk
Through rooms of women and men
Rolling cigars on ancient wood tables
And resist their whispered offers:
Cohibas fifty for twenty-five CUC
Just meet my friend down the street

Buy a can of Coca-Cola made in Mexico
To replace the fluids accumulating in your shirt
Wonder what everyone’s doing with all those smartphones and no wireless network
Never hesitate to ask directions
From the most helpful Policia you’ve ever seen
In her fishnet stockings

Stroll through shops scattered with unfamiliar brands
That everyone can afford
It’s worth the risk to smuggle a bottle of Habana Ron
So good it becomes your cognac after dinner

Stop and smile as you watch
Healthy uniformed children
Pour out of classrooms
Laugh and gossip and flirt
Field grounders off the cobbles
Have perfect teeth
Dream of going to America
Or equally
Of becoming a doctor
Or a teacher

Wonder if possibly
These are the most beautiful people in the world

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