guantanamera poem poetry

Guantanamera

You sing it. Yourn — they mourn, they
Wring it over, ragdolls and wine,
Listening somber, listening longer
Than anyone else in the “N” train’s crowd.
Others ignore you, mothers note the
Boredom born in baby faces.
Teens spend their braincells as tender
On turn-based games in their tiny screens.

You sing it. Yourn — they mourn, they
Wring it over, opium petals drip.
None here know: Now is Cuba.
The sounds of the lady: alma my lover,
Alma mi mater de terra mi pater
Torn out of time the trucks of the fifties,
The men who make more on donuts
Than dentistry or law. Done are the days
Of teeth and order, taken, embargoed so
Long ago, oh. The Long Islands
Commuters make no memory of this
Your National Anthem. Theirs announces an
Empire’s entrance, an empires sins and
Strangleholds. But strings on your
Guitarra strain to say, “We are strong
Because we stay carried away by
This woman, my Cuba.”  The closest we come
To a fair hearing?  “Come here.
Is that guy singing something about
Guantanamo bay?” Goes away: intimacy.

You leave it. Yourn — they mourn, they
Wring it over, towels and the blood.

Train doors slide.

Your pronedance moaning dulce o(u) salé
Dies as our crowd’s drain tides you off.


:: 58 poems written at 29 years ::

This year, for the 58 @ 29, I plan to focus on alliterative meter such as in the guantanamera poem above. It’s the meter used by Middle English and Old English poets as well as Latin and Greek poets. Basically all epic poets use some form of alliterative meter and it hasn’t been used in English for a thousand years. I will be pulling from the rules offered in Lewis’ article on The Alliterative Meter:

In the general reaction which has set in against the long reign of foreign, syllabic meters in English, it is a little remarkable that few have yet suggested a return to our own ancient system, the alliterative line…. Alliteration is no more the whole secret of this verse than rhyme is the whole secret of syllabic verse. It has, in addition, a metrical structure, which could stand alone, and which would then be to this system as blank verse is the syllabic….

A few successful specimens of alliterative meter would be an excellent answer to the type of critic (by no means extinct) who accuses the moderns of choosing vers libre because they are not men enough for meter. For if syllabic verse is like carving in wood and verse libre like working with a brush, alliterative meter is like carving in granite.

“Vers Libre” for those who don’t know is Latin for “free verse.” Lewis has, ultimately, offered for my poetry just the kind of reaction I prefer in all of my life: a reaction that is, deep down, orthodoxy. A reaction to dead leaves as radical as the radish itself: radical because it is the living root of the thing.


lancelot tobias mearcstapa schaubert monogram

cover image by uncorrectedproofs

READ NEXT:  If Ever • from 54 poems at 27

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