For The Ladies in White
The walls of Santa Rita swell like a capillary.
Hundreds of mother-wives,
dressed as doves,
recite their reasons:
For the steel-held.
Para la malasangre.
To argue on behalf of ghosts.
Outside the church, men
with bladed knuckles
intimidate for sport.
They lean on their old, rectangular cars,
make smoke on command.
When mass is finished, the mother-wives take
to the streets.
They move about Havana the way a fly enters a skull—
every step a vigil,
every breath surveilled.
¡Libertad! ¡Libertad! ¡Libertad!
They link hands and birth a prism.
The men open like cylinders.
Howls between blows. Flesh
folding into itself like a flag—
The women that escape
are followed, placed
on 24-hour watch.
The tongueless republic,
unable to lick its wounds,
does not sleep.
We know the sun to be a man. We know Hell
has many mouths, too many teeth to count. Fire—
we’ve heard it by name, seen the cane leaves blunted
to ash. Smoke like the inside of a throat,
our throats dry, dry, drier.
We are so young, us girls.
The node of light between our legs still intact,
yet we wield our knives with accuracy.
Close to the ground, and saw. Do not hack.
Keep only the green shoot. Store as you go.
Our backs bent and clotted. Our eyes, starless.
We suck on our blisters for drink.
When all is done, we mustn’t forget the roots.
With a blanket of whittled straw, the cane will sleep
till next season. We try to sleep, too, our bodies tenderized.
Some nights, we manage to dream:
sprig-thin fingers holding shovel to earth, the sky a parade of red.
No mothers, no fathers. Just a voice, heavy as myth, saying
It’s not that far from here. You could use your hands.