Legends gathered by rain, collected in tinajones, white
lake reflections, plains and mangroves. That rooster
of Morãn, el guapo! Antonio, toss her, toss her
in the air and catch her, not the first girl to trust
you, yet the last. Seafarers, rebels, men who roam,
all the silver coins of love. Abuelo, sing your death's
song, its notes the breeze on a nape, its tale of lost
What I Know of Sugarcane
(In Cuba the annual sugarcane harvest begins when
rural population bids farewell to the macheteros.)
The stalk, made of segments called joints, each joint
a node and an internode;
here leaf attaches to stalk,
here, find buds, find root primordia.
Despedida de los Macheteros! O national pride.
O solidarity. Here, a leaf scar
discovered when a leaf drops.
Farewell machete wielders: 44,000 men
in rubber boots, straw hats, gloves.
Buds: miniature stalks with miniature leaves.
Cuidado macheteros, struck stems spray hot syrup
on the skin. One bud presents
on each node; one side of the stalk
to the other. Men side by side between
dense blades. Loose rows of primordia exhibit
dark centers, caps, light halos.
Here, macheteros bear stems on their backs.
Speak its measured notes, recall the year long in paper,
the cargo ship's scent, a single rolling wave, the sailors--
tick them off your fingers, melodious. Listen, you can
not even name his brothers, and abuela's becomes a hymn,
Mercedes, Mercedes, Mercedes, a song to weed the garden
by, Mercedes-- this is how we lose the language, how
we lose ourselves to myth, to legend, and how you find
me, with regrets only.