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Cuba: Tenacious Royal Palm
[December 1991 in Havana]
Avenues of Royal Palms sway in the breeze
splendrously erect they straighten
proud and tall
undulating trunk and pendulous fronds
dancing like the Guantanamera belle
immortalized in her song:
"Yo soy un hombre sincero de donde crece la palma"
I am a sincere man from where the palm grows.
Royal Palm faithfully rooted in fertile soil like its native sons
resolute as the implacable crew of the freighter Hermann (1)
unflinching before hostile thunder
whilst their noble Royal Palm
shileds the sovereignty in the national coat of arms.
Changó god of fire, lightning and thunder
dines on chickens and pigs fattened on the palmiche berries (2)
cures illness with palm roots
has his women sweep dirt with its florescence
wraps cigars with its yagua bark (3)
builds house sidings and roofs with its palmitos and fronds (4).
Majestic Royal Palm
rendezvous for the ebony warrior
his svelte copper Ochún
elegant trio they:
Changó awesome fire-eater, ardent lover
Ochún goddess of rivers, diety of sensual love
Royal Palm gallery for godly escapades
umbrella rod before hostile rains and lightning
protector of farm lands
shelter for aborigini, mambi, campesino (5)
refuge for the tocorroro
wearing Cuba's sovereign colors, this obstinate national bird
who chooses to die rather than be caged.
1. A small Cuban merchant ship attacked in international waters with
machine gun fire and streams of high-pressured water on January 30-31,
1990 by the US Coast Guard Chiconteague. This poem is dedicated to its
crew who sailed onward to their Mexican harbor destiny with bullet holes
in their hull and other damage.
2. Palmiche is Spanish for Royal Palm berries.
3. Palmitos is Spanish for palm straw.
4. Yagua is the Cuban-Spanish word for Royal Palm bark.
5. Mambi was the resistance name for those Cubans who fought Spanish colonialism and later US's neo-imperialism. Campesino means small farmer.
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