Sunday, July 28, 2013

La Habana, en versos libres: IV. Dias Quatro

Mi título al nacer puso en mi cuna,
El sol que al cielo consagró mi frente.
Yo sólo sé de amor. ~ José Martí, from “Vino de Chianti”

The maracas bird
and the electric one, as well,
rattled the sleepers awake,
but no rush, this morning,
just mission:
writings of José Martí.

Verses simple and complex,
exploring the human connection;
Annette and I had planned,
already, for months,
this excursion,
though we did not know
what being here would be like.

No hurry, this morning;
time for breakfast,
time for coffee,
a decent cup—
I’ve got it covered;
I’ll make my own,
with help from
Our Lady of Seattle.

First, however,
to the cadeca queue,
for old world monetary transactions
in silver fiats:
heroes are moneda nacional
monuments are for the touristas.

No credit, no cheques,
it is cash, cash, cash.

The lines start before opening,
 and the guard lets each in
one at a time;
if you are lucky, the cadeca
is on the shady side of the street
—even so, the ladies
have their fans out,
beating them furiously.

Cool inside;
a long day for tells,
even with the long lunch break.

Once at the counter,
I present Canadian Dollars,
much better in exchange
than the taxed American.

I ask for Convertible Pesos,
then, further, for moneda nacional;
the teller smiles,
thinking perhaps:
la yuma,
she will spread her money
among The People.

Traveler’s alert:
count and organize your money
while still inside the cadeca;
safely stow it away before you leave.

We (Annette, Michael and I)
make our way along Obispo
toward the sea,
stopping at the guayabera shops
and bookstores,
but the stores do not yield Martí,
at least, not in the forms we desire.

We continue forward,
to Plaza de Armas;
nestled in the shade of the trees,
the portrait artist wanders,
tracing the image of Michael
across a clean white page,
and it is then we discover Martí.

Ah, Martí,
no mere revolutionary;
the vision and memory,
the myth, even,
of a romantic man
who saw the truth,
that was all around to be seen—
the corruption, the inequity,
the prices paid, and by whom
—and felt as powerless
as any patriot might
at the old world’s stranglehold
on the new.

the revolutionary of love—
before learning and liberty,
the greatest of these is love,
amor con amor se paga,
love must precede and supercede
all action that love,
like the sun,
inspires and sustains.

the friend
who laid down his life
for his friends,
but those three bullets
did not end the revolution;
the seemingly unfinished monument
can only testify to your continuing legacy,
as do the books we carry away.

We cut across to
Plaza de la Catedral,
to see the music cast into stone,
and to pray in air-conditioned chapel
for reconciliation,
for healing,
and for peace
among the nations.

Chicken sandwiches,
with beer and coffee
at nearby El Patio,
are surprisingly good,
though the service is slow
—we are there at the sleepy time of day.

After paying la cuenta,
we retrace our steps,
picking our way over the cobblestones,
dug up and piled everywhere,
making way for new cable
to modernize and expand
the ancient electrics,
returning to Hotel Plaza,
quickly passing through
the district of fortune tellers,
casting cards or cowries;
our immediate future
is already known:
we must quickly prepare
for our first concert.

We assemble in the lobby,
then the bus appears on cue
to take us to
Teatro Nacional de Cuba,
where we meet Ensemble Vocal Luna
to launch our mutual life’s blood:
love by way of song.

We sang apart and together,
braiding our vibrations,
sending them out
Plaza de la Revolución,
to meet the memory of Martí,
honored in his monument,
bringing one circle to a close
with the sharing of Guantanamera.

Later, under a full moon,
standing at the parapet of
la Cabaña,
as the canon is fired,
seeing the skyline of Habana
beyond el
I am reminded
that beauty can be found
we are willing
to make the effort
to see it,
to engage it,
and to be inseparable from it.

© 2013 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

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