Sunday, January 4, 2009

Snapshots of my Cuba

In Cuba, the customs woman looks like a soldier; I remember her in army fatigue green, but that is probably an illusion. She spoke English, and I answered n English. Her eyes were stern; her eyes shifted from passport to face, as if she expected me to pull out a gun. 
I asked her in Spanish to stamp my passport. 
She raises her eyebrows and says, "?Hables español también?"
She looks at the passport and comments on how Puerto Ricans do not have their own passport; we are not free.
I say that perhaps we will never be free.
Outside the airport, people crowd around, and little boys shout, "Creo que la veo!"
A couple of women walk past; they look at me with disgust and anger.
I look straight ahead; it would take too long to explain.


When I was a little girl, my mother took me to botánicas. She would talk about different saints with the proprietor, and I admired the painting of the mulata goddess. The one who stood at the entrance of the ocean with her heavy black waist-length hair; her white muslin dress clung to her voluptuous body. She dared me to join her in the depths of a forgotten ocean; she dared me to hide forever. In my dreams, we swam together; we swam away from our mothers.
In Cuba, I met a woman whose voice had the thunder of my mother's. Her volume was turned up higher, and when she talked about the yanquis, she pressed her hands into the triangle sides of her groin. She was the same shade of black as my mother, and she was a santera.
I have always called my mother a santera, because she seemed too powerful to just be an espiritista.
On her wall, the Cuban woman had a rug with a painting of a peacock. 
My mother always had a painting of a peacock near.


Hunger falls silently, a dry leaf floating to the ground. I do not think about what I do not have - what matters is what is left, what is left standing.
I will not say anything controversial. I cannot talk anymore.
I will endure. I am not homesick. I miss the friends I never had.
Life is a million chipped pieces. Some of those pieces are gray, dull and the edges are difficult to align. 
They cut my fingers. I take the hurt casually like a grocery bag to the car.
Variety is sparse; bread and butter for breakfast. The people make me full, pregnant with their endless words. And today, I just want to dance.
Ration your words.
Our ears are full.
There is hardly any room in the air.

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