Friday, September 2, 2011

El Duque

After hiding for eight days with seven of your friends
(In those first days we numbered no more than the apostles)
From the secret police and informers' eyes
(Having known their jails, this time we were prepared to die)
In the fisherman's hut on the beach
(We were down to three, one without shoes; another, unforgivably, had lost his weapon)
Sleeping at night in the netting, while the less talented others kept the watch
(We crept into the cane fields and hid there, sucking sugar from the same stalks that
             cut our flesh, the symbol of our bondage)
Mercifully unaware of the broadcast reports of your shipwreck and death
(All the while the American planes screamed overhead)
That so saddened your father, your wife and your children, the hallucinatory men
             you bathed on the ward
(To follow me, you must be prepared to leave your family and sell all that you own;
             my father's fields were the first to burn)
To whom even before, like all the living, you were little more than a ghost
(How many dreamers before had promised them liberation?)
A fable as unhelpful as their thoughts, as little connected
(He dressed my wounds and talked all the time, like a madman, as if our enemies had already
             been defeated, as we trembled in the cane)
To that other reality they had fled, which asked them to believe
(All was not lost, we would regroup in the mountains)
The greatest curveballer in the island's history was one and the same
(Swimming among the people as the fish in the sea)
With the sometimes sullen yet courtly attendant who sponged them down
(Creating ourselves the necessary conditions whereby history could inexorably proceed)
And put them in their beds and locked them away at night, while denying
(Triumphing of our willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice, of selfless love)
They were the re-risen Christ, thereby somehow serving the regime's immaterial needs
               and samely the ongoing glory of the revolution
(The new society will give birth to the new man)
Leaving at last by night with the changing wind, crammed gunwale to gunwale
(When we left Mexico, we were originally seventy-three,  in a ship made for twelve,
               plus guns and ammunition)
In a little patchwork boat around a single flaccid sail
(With each little swell we threatened to founder)
Provisioned solely with sugar water, the starving country's insular bounty
(If he erred, it was only in underestimating how long it would take to undo what history
                had made, and how fatefully you would oppose us)
Swamping almost always, driven across the sharky strait, not much closer
(Lacking an experienced pilot, we made an erratic course)
To the hallowed continent of refuge but onto another sandy cay, another sugarcoated paradise
(We did no so much land as wreck, said the Argentinian)
Deserted since those fargone ships took the natives away, forever
(And now some of their descendants prepare to offer themselves for the homeland)
Where you ran aground, as lost as its discoverers, perhaps more disappointed,
                still in search of gold
(Betrayed, we waded ashore under gunfire)
Like them, grateful for the sand beneath your feet
(Finding sanctuary in the cane fields)
Huddled together for warmth, without fire, for three nights beneath the soil
(He rigged his rifle so that even if surprised in sleep, he could jerk the trigger and avoid capture)
Until the American helicopters picked them up and carried them to the land of the free agents
(It was the certainty in his voice that held us there, beneath the cane stalks and the withering fire,
                  and all the while the American planes screamed overhead)
Would you be afraid to throw strikes in the too intensely interested stadium
(Later on, in the mountains, we even listened to the World Series on the radio)
Whose approbation is expressed in a mainly foreign tongue
(And he could not understand why Haney would not use Carlton Willey more than once)
And would that be a personal or a political act?
En la patria, si, es verdad, estamos muy pobre
Pero con el dinero, no es la patria
You hector us about freedom and deny us medicine
The Yankees win again, and my children remain

No comments:

Post a Comment