Those of us abroad when Covid-19’s impact hit were about to have our travelling lives interrupted. It was to have been a writing trip, a month in a place that I love. Baracoa is a small city near the northeastern tip of Cuba, facing the Atlantic Ocean with mountains to her back. Geography makes it rather isolated and beautiful. I would visit friends, but mostly I would walk the long malecón and then the much longer curve of beach, and I would write. But then the news broke that airlines were cancelling flights, boarders were closing: paradise interrupted.
THE DOVES SEEM TO CROON TIPPY CANOE TIPPY CANOE Baracoa and Boca de la Miel, Cuba
Rain falls overnight
cleansing heat and dust of day
susurrus song on the pillow.
Travelling news greets morning
airlines suspending flights
a case of coronavirus at home
factories and daycares closed
the mantra of self-isolation repeated
while the sun rises above Baracoa
of ocean waves and mountain breezes.
You feel a bit like Robinson Crusoe.
Woodcut visions of medieval plague
bodies stacked and dangling from carts
emaciated people leaning from balconies
cross your mind before you quickly wipe
Walk miles of ocean shore
to lounge upon a sheltered beach.
Eat uva caleta grapelike berries
from the tree of Columbus’ cross.
Crack almond shells with a stone.
At the small fishing village of Boca de la Miel
listen to riffs of Spanish voices
drift across Made’s verandah
devour fried platano sip ice-cold cerveza walk home to your casa on Calle Maceo
close to the malecón.
From your small balcony roof-top high
you listen to doves cooing in their dovecot tippy canoe tippy canoe a rooster crowing.
if you’ve slipped into Alice’s rabbit hole.
Night’s rain has emptied clouds.
The sullen sky has changed to blue.
Time flattens like a Dali watch.
The doves sing their haunting song.
When this pandemic passes and we travel again, if Cuba is on your list of places to visit, think about contacting my friend Alber the Hiker who is a wonderful guide who will share his knowledge of Cuba from its history to its unique flora and fauna. He knows his island home from west to east, north to south. He’s a great guy.
Writing Tip: If you haven’t yet joined a writing group, think about doing it. They bring creative people together for sharing, inspiration, encouragement, and often, like SOTH, offer publishing opportunities.
Sometimes the mind drops a memory like a thud into an otherwise perfectly normal day. You might be washing breakfast dishes or riding your bike, when—Wham—the time-machine reverses. But it isn’t simply an old movie that reruns across your inner eye. It is that, but it is also a surprising connection to the present…an insight into who you’ve become.
Winter dances in the church hall
families and a band
fiddler and a square-dance caller
piano guitar accordion player
shirts that matched (or not).
Swinging my legs
from a chair, one ringing the dance floor
I watched couples spin like tops
to a polka do-si-do and sashay
in a square and
women peeking over men’s shoulders
as couples smoothly floated by
my hard folding-chair
and I counted one-two-three
to a swirling waltz.
Daddy stood in front of me
took my hands to lift me down
my head a bit past his waist
my feet on his we glided
to the song’s cadence
one of the haunting war time
melodies beautifully sad.
I did not have a word for yearning
yet felt loss and longing
a prescience perhaps.
Writing a poem begins with an action, image, emotion, memory or idea, but by its last line, it discovers something deeper. Ideally, it elicits from the reader a memory and insight in his or her own life. Even if you’ve never experienced a country dance in the 1940s or ’50s, I hope this poem stirs a memory and perhaps an ah ha moment of how that memory awakens a new awareness for you.
Thank you, Bruce Kauffman, Quintesentially Canadian editor, Devour: Art & Lit Canada, for selecting my poem “Daddy” for inclusion in the Summer 2020 issue (page 91).