for Laura Pollán (1948-2011)
The streets of this city are laid on teeth.
You have to dig to see them. They wear out
the human in your hands. You serve your nights
in dreams of fingers clawing, skeletal,
at rocks hard as the ironshore’s canines.
At the old Hilton lounge, the name now ash,
foreign reporters don’t bother with such.
Stories. They want stories. So they wait.
So men on hunger strike fade more each day.
So women march with locked arms. So they wield
sword-flowers, scabbed-over wounds, white banners,
their torches shedding sparks that die on stones
smooth as toothless gums, too ill and too young.
The police batter in and crush more than bones.
The sun bleeds, then it’s gone. Night grins with stars.
(This poem first appeared in Massachusetts Review. Laura Pollán was a Cuban human rights activist. She died on October 14, 2011. October is significant in Cuban history because on the 10th the First Declaration of Independence was issued, leading to the unsuccessful 10 Years War against Spain (1868-1878)).