Fiction   Essays   Poetry  The Ten On Baseball Chapbooks In Memory

Margarita Engle


Arched above the old windows
    and doors of Havana
     are half-moons
      of radiance

Stained glass lunetas
    their light like the glow
     of fireflies transformed
      into music

Their colors the shimmer
    of hummingbirds
     flying up
      from dreams.


Lately the dreams about a land bridge to Cuba have tapered off. The flying dreams ended a long time ago, along with the aquatic railroad dream, and the lucid one where I reach the island of my ancestry by stepping on the heads of cooperative alligators. With all the talk in Washington, D.C. about tightening travel restrictions again, I can't help wondering, "What's next?" Maybe it's time to start re-designing that saddle for dolphins, the one I rode a few years ago, when so many of my travel dreams required an uncanny ability to breathe underwater.


Baseball in Cuba was symbolic
a workingman's game
prohibited by Imperial Spain
simply because it came from the North
where kings were no longer needed.

Islanders risked their lives to pitch balls of string
smack them with sticks, set the spheres free
creating movement, making life soar.

Village teams chose courageous
idealistic names.

Commoners began refusing to attend the traditional
bullfights where noblemen sat in the shade
and seats in the sun were reserved for the poor.

El beisbol was more than a game by then.
It became a matter of equality, the peasants' wordless
declaration of independencia, available to all who frequented
farms, muddy streets, and the wild tropical mountains
where teams eventually went into hiding
taking up weapons
while keeping their courageous
idealistic names.

©2004 by Margarita Engle

Margarita Engle is a botanist and the Cuban-American author of two novels, Singing to Cuba (Arte Publico Press) and Skywriting (Bantam), as well as short works published in a wide variety of anthologies, chapbooks, and journals. Literary awards include a Cintas Fellowship and a San Diego Book Award. Works pending publication include a young adult novel-in-verse (Henry Holt & Co.), and a collection of poems for children (Elin Grace Publ.). Margarita lives in central California, where she enjoys hiking and helping her husband with his volunteer work for a wilderness search-and-rescue dog training program.

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