Cuba, 1962 BY AI


When the rooster jumps up on the windowsill   

and spreads his red-gold wings,

I wake, thinking it is the sun

and call Juanita, hearing her answer,

but only in my mind.

I know she is already outside,

breaking the cane off at ground level,

using only her big hands.

I get the machete and walk among the cane,   

until I see her, lying face-down in the dirt.

Juanita, dead in the morning like this.   

I raise the machete—

what I take from the earth, I give back—

and cut off her feet.

I lift the body and carry it to the wagon,   

where I load the cane to sell in the village.   

Whoever tastes my woman in his candy, his cake,   

tastes something sweeter than this sugar cane;   

it is grief.

If you eat too much of it, you want more,   

you can never get enough.