Havana in Verse

With rum that pulses in veins to the
rhythm of cha cha bands—
men caressing guitar strings,
muting trumpets,
and swaying their hips—
it is easy to forget the call of democracy.

No ocean breeze
penetrates the age old heat
that is trapped by walls of stone
in a town square.  Vibrant blues, greens, and
oranges take our attentions captive
so that we do not recognize the absence of
the life we know.

Laundry blows from a balcony
and cigar smoke lingers in the air.  The lilt
of foreign tongues dance while
a man with smooth brown skin winks.  Bueno.
A child laughs.
An old woman, hunched in an arched doorway
watches, nods.  We forget heartache.

Che Guevera, impossibly handsome, overlooks
every move from a poster here.  A billboard there.
His warm eyes convincing us
that revolution can be progressively suave.

The people are warm.  Ask us anything they tell us.
We will be honest.
But the cab driver from Guantanamo
driving a 56 Chevy
doesn’t quite answer my questions about Castro.
And the tour guide with her open smile dismisses
me with humor.

But I understand.
I too live in a country where the corrupt are forgiven or forgotten.
Where those who have sinned against us
do not need to repent,
and the people who have
been sinned against,
do not often know.

2 thoughts on “Havana in Verse

  1. At one time in the early 60’s, when I was a young teenager, Castro, a remarkably eloquent and educated man, was my hero. Until the Revolution, Cuba under Batista had been known as “the whorehouse of the Western world” with miserable health care and a mostly illiterate and impoverished populace. Exploitation by gangsters, American sugar corporations, and the corrupt Batista dictatorship supported by the US, was rampant. I believe Cuba today has one of the best health care systems in the world and a high rate of literacy. By trying to assassinate Castro several times and overturn his revolution with the Bay of Pigs invasion (JFK) the communist averse and paranoid USA drove Castro into the arms of the Soviet Union where Castro sought to secure the revolution with a Soviet presence (no longer there, of course). The US has maintained an embargo of goods and services on Cuba for 55 years with little effect other than to keep the people in substandard living conditions with little taste of the good life enjoyed by many Americans, including wealthy Cubans, primarily in Miami, many of whom fled Cuba with their money. This is not to condone the sometimes cruel and totalitarian dictates that Castro implemented over the years to assure the success of his revolutionary movement. I think the lives of the Cuban people would be greatly improved if the US embargo were lifted. This all said, THANK YOU for your poem and your new travel blog! I like them both! Have fun and best of luck!


  2. I reread Havana in Verse this morning and could feel the sleepy sadness in it, a resignation to the passing of the heady days when a new and better world was being created. It’s a lovely poem. I still feel sympathy for the Revolution and want to come to its defense, especially when the militarism of my own country runs amok and stampedes every which way over the world and cheap labor is exploited at the expense of our own and enriches a few.


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