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Red Pants

The rooftops are a stair-step to my childhood home, a time when Mother washed me and my clothes, was always there when I looked up, making sure I was safe. There’s that gate of thin scrolling metal I couldn’t resist playing my fingers through until my hand got caught, the dank garage where I wanted to leave the light on so I wouldn’t have to overcome my fears next time Father sent me to let Fido out to do his business, the red pants that signaled from several streets away how much further I had to go. The way the wood slats creaked under my feet on the balcony, the smell of fresh sheets still makes me sleepy. I imagined jumping like a superhero into my red pants while they forever hung over the balcony. Sometimes I dream it and because they’re still damp they melt into my legs like cotton candy on my tongue. Mother always warned me to be more patient.

From Cuba; An Adventure in Image and Word, Paintings by Peggy McGivern and verse by Peter Stravlo inspired by our trip to Cuba last year. Opening Reception Friday May 16th, 5-8pm, Abend Gallery, Colfax and York, Denver CO I’ll be reading at the opening.

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BEDDED DOWN FOR THE NIGHT

It was a crumbling two lane road at dusk we saw their silhouettes on a ridge. Blacktop shadow leading us down the middle, fading to gray-green and peach and rays of blue like fingers losing their grip over the mountain, blood-orange grass calmly striving through patches worn by time. The whine of our small engine fell quietly into neutral so we could slow, turn, gaze in peace. That night all the hotels were full. It was the first night of many someone took us into their home, fed us, gave us a pillow.

From CUBA: AN ADVENTURE IN IMAGE AND WORD Opening reception Friday, May 16th, 5-8pm, Abend Gallery, Colfax and York, Denver CO. Paintings by Peggy McGivern. Readings by Peter Stravlo

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SCHOOL BOYS

They look more grown up than I think they should be. Maybe I’m afraid they won’t need me before I’m ready. It’s comforting they can tie their own neckties, are willing to walk under the hubris of the same green shirts and red hats, pants that don’t allow the individuality boys by their nature of wanting to be men covet. Look at their strong hands, masculine shoulders, the confident way they swagger and gawk. They’re friends, thank God, and beautiful, with so much to learn it makes me jealous.

From CUBA, AN ADVENTURE IN IMAGE AND WORD Opening Reception at Abend Gallery, Colfax and York, Denver, CO Friday, May 16th, 2014. Paintings by Peggy McGivern and Readings by Peter Stravlo, based on our 2013 travels in Cuba

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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