Mark Novak

Orishas (In Communist Cuba)


A michelia alba blooms in communist Cuba,
Shading brick pavers on La Reserva
Hotel patio.
Breeze billows caress me, evaporative moisture
Builds momentum from Che's home, aimed like a missle
From the foot of Jesus Christ's enormous marble toes-

It builds moisture and momentum over the heads and backs of 
Drifting hopelessness. Eye of a hurricane absorbing those 
Muddled reflections, gazing back from worn, laxed retinas.

The aguaceros are coming.
Breathe deep and prepare for the onslaught.
The aguaceros are coming.
They will cleanse you like Santerian baptism.

  -Would you expect less before the threat of an equatorial winter?

My taxi driver owns a Russian, Lada.
It is an old flivver.
The shocks give at every pot hole.
He works for himself;
He is no government driver!
He has a dream.
His dream is a Toyota.

His dream is for a docility
In a Cuban woman
Who no longer exists.
While her dream is for a man
Yet to be created.

"Look at that Mango!!"
He calls from his bucket seat,
Flicking his suggestive tongue
At the women, near the
Parque de Centro.

   …The machoistic boor.

A professor of politics
Talks to me of a responsible,
Sustainable socialism.

And I do believe that he believes,
In a system that works for him.
He has his government salary, 
And a calling to mold young minds.

While his partner and he shower
In the warmth of the new legal
Referendum code protecting
Gay Marriage "Equality" (2022),

They toast their luck and privilege,
While his students collect and eat
Thinning, neighborhood stray cats.
Food is scarce.  

     -  Empowerment is exhausting.

Say what you like about Fidel, 
His people love him, by mandate.
He taught his country to read..
Before restricting the internet.

Sending parades of teachers,
Marching in lockstep with
Shouldered pencils at the ready,
To make war in the countryside
On the plague of illiteracy.

 ¿What to do, when once you've opened the cigar box of Pandora?


It is an odd feeling to descend
From the clouds like Obatala.
Orishas over Miami and Biscayne Bay.
Foreign in a land I have always known.
This land of Starbucks, McDonald's,
9 to 5 pace, and the Almighty Dollar.

I àsk the bartender, Junior,
For a cutter and lighter.
"¿Cuban?" He enquires, 
Taking note of the dark
Maduro poised in my right hand,
And the $100 bill in my left.

He is from La Isla de Jovenes.
He has been in this Land of Capital,
Since leaving the Universidad de Havana.
Seeking relief of the American boot
Pressed on the Cuban peoples' neck.

  -(if you can't beat them, -join them.)
    Mestizo mixes in a cipher bloodline.

I stand smoke lulled between cars,
Parked curbside on Collins Ave.,
Between the bumpers of a Mercedes & Audi
I witness the rows of headlights
On these streets paved in gold.

The gold sought by Columbus
And his band of raping marauders.
The gold denied by law to slaves.
The gold so sought by free blacks,
To illustrate status, they're no slave!

I puff the maduro de Cuba and blow.
A Jewish-American princess approaches
Beneath the dive of the art-deco rooftops,
She makes a wary eye contact with me.
"Buenos tardes," I offer as an ice breaker.
She disengages and briskly scurries past,
Leaving me in isolation among the many.


The machinery in Washington D.C.
Churns the crank, printing Benjamins.
It moves to enforce monetization of policy.
Policies which provide no incentives
To the Marco Rubio mob, to kill the Castro within themselves,
Long after the time, that time itself, did the job of its own accord.

Checking  time, I extinguish the maduro…
Dinner reservations are set for 7 p.m.,
In the restaurant which was once the Versace mansion.
Where the party plays out on the site where the designer
Was shot, and bled to death on the front stairs….

Welcome Home.