Exploring the poetry of everyday life

Cuba 2012 – Love Songs Written on My Heart: Seeing Another Face of Cuba

Jose told us of the “Special Period” which occurred during the 1990’s after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Under Castro Communist Russia subsidized and controlled the Cuban economy. When the Soviet Union splintered Russian money was withdrawn. As a result the people of Cuba were thrown into a condition of extreme poverty. Castro named this time when Cuban people were forced to accommodate daily hardship and deprivation the “Special Period in Time of Peace”. In 2012 people talked of the “Special Period” with irony-laced tongues. Though things were getting better for people, they were still troubled by uncertainty and dread.

On our last afternoon in Cuba we visited the Fine Arts Museum. Cuba has a lively and thriving art culture that is unique to Caribbean island countries. As well as more contemporary art works the museum has a renowned heritage of Spanish and other European painters on exhibit. Art works are hung in rooms according to the time the artists painted them. Jose led us through the rooms telling us about the paintings and artists. Jose’s second favorite thing, after leading bicycle tours, is leading people through the art museum and introducing them to artists and their work. I loved especially seeing through the eyes of Cuban painters. Then we arrived at the room where art work of the 1990’s – the ‘Special Period” – was hung. The paintings screamed of chaos. Red paint thrown so I could feel the anger in the hurler’s arm. Fires of destruction, maybe purification. Eyes of monsters fiercely glowing. Paintings torn in confusion. Sculptures of bent and twisted bodies. Tears of ravaging grief. A canvas of total black.

This is Cuba, too.


Cuba 2012 – Love Songs Written on My Heart: Dancing Shoes, Joyful Hips

Today we traveled to a Senior Center.
Greeted by smiling faces we entered through a door
Into a dim-lit hallway, and out into a sun-filled courtyard
Shaded by gnarled trees that mirrored faces who had weathered through the years.
In the middle of the courtyard to our surprise
There was a couple dancing.

A man and woman stately and elegant of carriage,
Tracing slow steps of a rumba, turning with grace
And underneath, slow burning fire.
I do not remember if we sat or stood
Or if they served us food.
I’ll not forget the dance.

The couple turned to us. Invited us to join them.
The other seniors eager to include us became our partners in the fun.
We shed inhibitions, traveled back to younger years.
Our bodies forgot stiffness as we moved to Cuban rhythms.
Hips remembered how to flirt, smiles gave come-hither looks.
Oh it was so lovely – being sexy at the Senior Center dance.