How to Buy a Gun in Havana
First, never say the word gun.
Talk instead about platanos. And smile.
You'll know the bodega;
it's the one in Los Sitios with the wooden
parrot clipped to the wire on
the left side of the door. When the wind
springs up off the sidewalk,
the parrot bobs slightly, banging its crimson
head against the building's wooden slats.
Go inside. On the far wall above the shelves
of candles and tilty stacks of shirts,
you'll see the blackboard. It's the
same in every store: an inventory
of frijoles negros, arroz, and leche de coco,
menued in white chalk. You will
scan the inventory for platanos, hoping
they are in stock. You never know.
You will have brought with you
a pouch of powdered milk. Inside
will be powdered milk and eight hundred
fifty Euros. No dollars. No sterling.
The pouch will be glued shut. No tape. No
staples. You will, as you do with
your wife, your children, your boss, barter.
There is no baby formula in Cuba;
no cow's milk. You will hand over
the pouch and ask for platanos.
It is said that at a similar bodega in Vedado,
you look the man behind the counter
in the eye. But here, you are supposed to settle on
the framed photo of the Catedral
de San Cristobal nailed to the wall above
the shirts. The woman will place the
platanos in a plastic bag. You will take them.
You will not say thank you.
No one knows the precise chain of events,
not even you, because, as you are told,
you turn away. You will walk over to the shelves
next to the old Coke cooler and ruffle
through Frisbees, pantyhose, and postcards of
Che playing golf in Army fatigues.
By the time you are finished, your bag of
platanos will feel heavy. At that point,
you walk out of the store, and out
of Los Sitios, and make your way to
the Malecón, and you gaze at the lovers lounging
on the wall and you stop
for mango ice, and you ask yourself,
as you have done with everything
meaningful in your life, what happens now?
Reading Yeats's "The Second Coming" On January 1, 2001
To begin, to start out, to turn. To expand: to center and to throb.
To fall apart. To eat in the dark grammar.
To spiral and to oh; to if.
To ask of the tantrum wind. To labor, to invoke bone, to anoint. To vex:
to wish, to want and to want. To will. To waste. To plug time's stoma.
To unfasten and to abandon. To
erect: to shutter. To bleed. To unbuckle
the sprung sun. To plummet. To thigh. To saddle venom's gleam and to
To limn or fringe. To regret the angel. To rivet. To say riddle, substrate, alter.
To rise the way bodies
rise: to succumb: to chisel. To slit or suture; to slash.
To compress the ferric. To loose, to halo, to
burn and congeal: to splinter.
To eat syntax in reverse, to limn wind's stoma, to saddle gleam, to ride venom.
To auger. To hear whelp, seraphim, imago. To leaden and live. To shiv, to sin.
To rend-to rip the gyre. To aport,
to absess, to abseil. To apprehend.
To write born, Bethlehem, beast. To erase palm, coffin, corpse. To upend, to
To begin, to start out, to turn. To anoint bone, to rivet dark grammar. To slouch.
Self Portrait: blizzard
Dropping from the sky
like flakes of soap,
big heavy chunks
like frozen leaves
Dropping like wings of small birds
like thick onion skinst
that freeze their own tears,
like bits of alabaster flesh
searching for bone,
like sugar cubes or lily petals,
like clumps of
feathers or dandelions:
crumbs of white bread:
the dust of clouds:
Snow falls because it cannot rise,
cannot bend its knees,
spread its wings.
It has no arms and cannot
climb the thin threads
streaming from the sky.
The more it falls, the more
it remembers its absence of rising.
To descend is not to
And not to ascend is to fall.
And to fall is to lose.
Snow is tired of losing.
to watch TV on Sunday.
It wants to hibernate in the
winter, wear glasses
And put on a tie.
wants to learn to tell time.
Snow wants to eat Bar-B-Q ribs,
and listen to Elgar,
It wants to kiss
a man or a woman.
Snow wants to wonder about God.
It so happens that
Snow wants to be rain:
to dance on leaves
in the green of spring.
Snow wants be made love in,
sliding down buildings or
It wants to plunge on alfalfa and
corn stalks, it wants to sound like a slap.
also wants to feel like the ocean.
Snow is ready for water.
Snow wants to keep flowing.
But April retreats
like a distant shorline,
leaving Snow to dream
of Rangoon, San Tropez, Antigua,
where it can take
off its fuzzy coat
and return to the source of its making.
But, snow wakes to its work,
down on linens
left out on the line,
landing on underwear and tanktops,
where it melts into big
dirty drops salty as tears.
-from Works & Days
Watch Dean Rader read his work here