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BLUE BRACELETS

For so long we wanted to model dresses in Abuela’s shop. To be pretty girls with such pretty costumes, exotic as jungle flowers, with reassuring touches. But now our friends, our boyfriends, will see us. I think she is going to cry. We all want blue bracelets.

Abend Gallery is publishing a book of the images and verse from Cuba An Adventure in Image and Word. Should be out in about a month.

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AMERICAN DREAM

Wanting to experience Cuba is a silly, romantic notion
It could just as well have been the Amazon, or Mars

We gawk at The Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco
It’s beautiful pink tower watching over Sancti Spiritus
The Assemblea Municipal with its Roman columns
Peach in the Caribbean sun
We meander among the statues and gardens in Plaza Major
Look up to Che’s noble countenance
Atop his Jeffersonian mausoleum

We declare entire towns World Heritage Sites
Fill them with our monuments
Reassuring monoliths that define
How we see ourselves
As if we have built Mount Everest

We saw something similar in Dehli, Kathmandu
Bangkok, Juarez, Chiapas
Pedi cabs, bicycles, donkeys
Surrounding us in a chaos of purpose
Yaks, horses, fantastic trucks
Motorbikes and all manner of quaint utilitarian carts
Transporting hustle, bustle and hope
Everywhere everyone afraid of each other’s intentions
Of being taken advantage of
Of Losing
Creative energy desperate for the American Dream

Except Cuba is arrested development
A communal society of scarcity
Less buyer beware than we are all in this together

A street vendor hawks his wares
And when we throw up our hands
He patiently tells us it is a national holiday
Gives us directions to a wonderful festival
A young couple walks quickly up behind us
Follows and eavesdrops
Latches onto us
Takes us for dinner and dancing
A boy on a bicycle chases down our car
It is obvious we are lost
So he leads us through a labyrinth of narrow winding warrens
To the casa particular we have booked for the night

It is a dark stairwell
Small windows
Jungle flowing over the roof
Claustrophobic
We cannot bear to enter

Walking along a canal
The sunshine reflects gloriously
Off the pastel surfaces
A motorbike accosts us
Peter?

A young boy smiles welcomingly
Pressed against his father’s back
The man’s friend booked our room
In this fine man’s, this fine boy’s, home
We have made other arrangements

He is crestfallen
His son looks at him quizzically
We apologize, hand him ten CUC
He does not want to take it
His eyes ask
How can we live together
If we do not mean what we say?

We are bound more by what we cannot fathom
Than what we can see we have in common
Tiny insulated tribes cowering
In air conditioned houses and cars

Our small plane touches down in Nassau
All of us who can come and go as we please
Disregard our matronly stewardess
The plane still our taxi
Hustling and bustling to be first

She claps her hands
As if rapping our knuckles
We look up to her
Like the son looked to his father
I wonder:
What did the man tell his boy
About the American Dream?
And she answers
What is wrong with you people?

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RAWN LINEN

Some thought it cheeky, but others endearing, two women wearing the same thing, with one arm pulling close a shoulder, the sides of their touching hips swooshing as they walk barefoot along the beach, ponytails skipping behind like ecstatic puppies. Soft as a cool summer pillow, or grating like the canvas of a palm used to work, the sensuousness of Raw Linen.

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TERRACED TOBACCO

It’s been a long road. Each terrace is a milestone, a relief to my thighs, my back, an artificial landscape that’s been here so long even the island accepts it as natural. Row after row, sweet smell of tobacco drying in the sun, hemmed in by prickly bushes that tear my thin trousers. It helps to imagine the road as a fast flowing river, blue with little white caps carrying me along. I feel at home detouring up and down the rows, trickling like irrigation ditches that come and go with the barely perceptible seasons. I want to stop at the white roofed buildings, see if they might have something for me; to eat, a place to lay my head, maybe forever. It might be better than anything over the hill.

Peggy painted over Terraced Tobacco, it no longer exists. I felt compelled to post it because the verse the painting inspired, its blue road, the long white roofs, the horizon over the hill, speaks to me, puts me walking through my vines and lateral acequia ditches in Taos, always on a journey, even when at home.

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DAILY ROUTINE

She’s a faithful old girl, yawning for the dentist, with a Bondo facelift and dentures fashioned out of parts from broken down Soviet refrigerators. On every street clubs of men tinker with their cars. Artists make brake pads and solenoids in their living rooms. The hood comes down. A puff of blue smoke, and like magic she smiles and runs smooth as factory new.

From Cuba, An Adventure in Image and Word, Paintings by Peggy McGivern and verst by Peter Stravlo, Abend Gallery, Denver

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AUSTIN HEALEY

Shutters are mainly open and wires crisscross in front of four stories. A mother sings a love song and scrubs her family’s clothes. On a floor below a boy ties his tie, dons a green jacket and red hat before skipping down flights of stairs to meet up with friends. A warm breeze turns the pages of a book while a girl does her homework, wondering how she’d get to school without her pony. On the ground floor men gather each evening to discuss how to make the parts they need to keep the Austin Healey running.
From Cuba: An Adventure in Image and Word. Opening reception tonight, 5-8pm Abend Gallery Denver. Paintings by Peggy McGivern and verse by Peter Stravlo. I’ll be reading tonight.