In The Rivers Are Inside Our Homes, Cuban American poet Victoria María Castells explore how we can salvage our notion of paradise in an overspent Eden. In thwarted homes located in Havana and Miami, Rapunzel and her prince, persecuted nymphs, Morgause, and Bluebeard’s wife speak to us directly, all in need of returning to safety. Confronting machismo, illness, heartbreak, and isolation, the poems depict how women are at the mercy of men, either husband or oligarch. Yet all generations of Cubans are bombarded with this need to return or to leave, to have both, to have neither.
There are no powers adrift from dictators.
Nicolás Maduro can enter in you like chemo:
king of medicine, lord of cancer, ruler
of hospital beds. A royal hand enflamed
in kilowatts, a golden cloud of electricity
or brittle oil buried in a thunderbolt,
a Zeus and a czar.
Under the disappeared water, hospitals
are flickering kingdoms of mattresses
and prayer. You can feast and heal
in their blackouts, break apart air
in your hands and dream of light,
generators failing around you in stunned
voltage as darkness replaces oxygen.
But wait for the Cuban doctors arriving yet
at your door with votes and pills in hand,
a reelection for blood pressure medication
and fealty, a godly bargain. Wait for the spirits
of the dead to fill up the heavens, the assassinated
to wait for their turn and the autopsies to never come.
Let the police shoot in the throat who would
take to the streets. Protests dispersed.
Wrap the head under a plastic bag
and beg the body to breathe.
Maduro receiving the Sputnik vaccine:
he feels fine, he says. All is well.
The prisons are safe. He feels healed.
How Can You Make a Communist Flower?
To make a flower out of pseudo ham,
buds assembled, petals beamed out
A Soviet harmony of equaled
roots deep grown, an invasive song long-
plant prefabricated and mild,
half ham-scented, overboiled under
Learning to swim then droop,
find extinction in the water,
risen from soil to make the sea,
to bleed your seeds to eat,
to sing and burn and stop
and try to burn the trees,
to leave Havana disassembled,
durable termite under flower,
folding seafront under light.