I remember my Great Aunt Betty who family legend had it
owned a sugar plantation and when Batista took over
had to flee the country for her life and lived in poverty
the rest of it.
I remember the Cuban missile crisis when I worried
the world might end in nuclear explosions.
I also remember the exotic appeal of Havana’s
glamorous casinos and rhumba-salsa music.
This artist would have us remember the American cars
of the 50s and he places them against arches and columns
of what might be an art museum, a parliament, a palace,
places of culture and distinction.
There’s one the color of highway signs, GREEN
so bright, and its chrome so shiny it reflects.
Is it a Chevy coupe? The other, a Buick sedan?
Two tone, orange and white, like school colors.
The cars reveal the ingenuity of the Cuban mechanics
how they made parts from scratch and even adapted
old Soviet engines to keep them running.
They show us the glitzy shell of American-made
how America failed to help the poor with all its platitudes
about being the good guys after World War II.
Do they show what we have become-
a nation that allows Hispanic children
to be put in cages, how General Motors
left the people of Detroit for corporate profits?
Do they show how we have failed yet again
moving towards corruption and tyranny
But they might also be an act of grace-
For if a people can take an emblem
of American culture and turn it into
something of beauty, we as Americans
need to live up to that gift.