1. The Hummingbird
Each morning a man with a camera waits
beside the bougainvillea
for the hummingbird’s visit.
Day after day at this hour he waits
for the moment he means to trap
under glass or sell to magazines.
Such patience, says the poet
who returns each day to a few bare lines
scratched across a field of white.
Smallest things are often finest.
2. Egret with Cowpat
Bull standing in field with egret
–a miracle of white
nourished on maggots in manure.
When the bull is reproduced in iron
for tourists in the market
an iconic egret of bone completes the tableau.
3. Santiago’s Polar Bears
Nose to tail over red tile roofs
in a painting at the municipal office
Leaping house to house like icebergs
on a mural above the bustling street
Santiago de Cuba’s polar bears gleam
like the faces of northern tourists
4. The Mayan Monuments of Bacanao
They are hollow replicas
standing in niches of coral
carved out by ancient tides.
God of the sea–Dios de la mar–
woman with child, a tiara of skulls
her badge of motherhood.
The groundsman points out, in Spanish,
blooming bougainvillea, aromatic aloe,
bees that live in the honey-combed cliffs
and here, a drummer boy with face caved in
by local children who like to throw
the coral that covers the floor of the cave.
5. After Hours at the Swim-up Bar
When at dusk the barman closes up
and heads for the long road home
swallows move in quick,
sipping up spills,
picking straws from the floor
for nests in the rafters.
They’re frisky as keg-fed frat boys
at finding under the spigot
a glass of flat beer.
6. Harvesting Coconut
Against the ruined sea wall red flowers bloom.
Hummingbirds sup at the nectar, dart
out of sight at the thump of one heavy foot.
With a long hooked branch, the muscular
groundsman reaches skyward, brings down from the palm
swollen fruit that–leap away!–drums the ground.
Quick now, machete carves green skin, white flesh,
and with a stroke that could split a skull
cleaves the rough fruit.
Water drunk off, the long blade pries from shell
two fibrous white hemispheres of flesh
to eat on the trail.
7. Among the Offerings at El Cobre
Sometime after he made his prayer
to nada who art in nada
Hemingway came here to honor the Virgin
with the gift of his Nobel medal.
Today, at Our Lady’s cathedral
pilgrims ask after the old man’s gift.
Not here with other tributes, we learn.
It is locked away in a safe
like a splinter of the Holy Cross.
8. Beachfront Ruins
The beachfront discotheque’s in ruins now
–last year’s hurricane’s first landfall.
I image salsa music in the night
drums so loud dancers pay no heed
to rising wind and crashing waves.
As when a band’s pyrotechnic show
sets rafters afire and guts the hall
I imagine a sudden change of mood
from ecstasy to wonder, confusion
to panic as slowly truth permeates
the dancers’ addled minds.
Abandoned now not to be rebuilt
so close to shore its walls still tremble
with the echo of music or storm
the lightning strike of being young.