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Havana All Night Long

David W. McFadden
From:   There'll Be Another. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1995.

A river of stars and planets floods the sky
yet you seldom see people look up that high

maybe because they are too busy trying not to
fall into one of the sudden pits you find everywhere
a pit the size of a coffin and depth of a grave
or a tree growing out of the sidewalk and you
always bump into it though you know it's there
it's so dark you need a torch a flashlight but even if
you could find one it would cost six months wages

Not heavy but very noisy motorized traffic in Havana
so when the traffic dies out around three in the morning
then in the silence the roosters start crying
calling to one another from block to block

There are no roosters who crow like Havana roosters
they are louder than any blast on any trumpet
and much more melancholy these roosters with duende
and so full of horrendous pent-up desire and fear

There is one rooster on every block
and many chickens for every rooster
the roosters their cries are full of blood
heart-stopping as the howl of an arctic wolf

Around five in the morning the streetsweepers
one to every block start sweeping the streets
volunteers on a rotation basis happy to be alive
pleased to be playing their part mopping sweeping
and making the dark streets shine in the early light
and listening to the roosters answering each other
some near some far some here some there some nowhere

Cooperative streetsweepers competitive roosters
and here and there a teenage guard with an old rifle
and a long bayonet they smile they want to talk
but no thank you I'll just move on

and the roosters keep it up until the traffic
starts roaring again around seven in the morning

and this is the time you can go anywhere in Havana
and nobody notices you nobody bothers you
and you don't have to be continually saying
yo deseo nada or yo prefiero estar a fondo solo
nobody grabs your arm and says mi amigo sarcastically
nobody sticks their face in yours and makes sucking sounds
nobody wants to gaze into your eyes or lead you to paradise
nobody wants you to give them ten bucks for a box of cigars
or a U.S. dollar for five hundred pesos nobody wants you
to play Cuban poker with them for no money nobody wants
to take you fishing off the bridge give you a free cigar
nobody wants to look over their shoulder and tell you
all this Communist horseshit is a bunch of propaganda

It is as if you are blessedly magically invisible
and the streets are full of people quietly slowly
meandering their way to work in a perfectly blessed world

and the waves come crashing silently over the Melacón seawall
and the rising sun gleams on the freshly washed streets
and on the sides of the sensational old buildings along the Prado
(they look so nice in early morning as do los habaneros guapos)

David W. McFadden's works copyright © to the author.

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