O Boy-God, Muse of Poets
Come sit on my shoulders while I write
Cuddle up and fill my poem with love
And even while I fly on billows of inspiration
Don’t forget to tickle me now and then
For I am going to write on World Issues
which demands laughter where we most believe…
My subject, Dear Muse, is Fidel Castro
Rebellissimo and darling of the Spanish-American lower classes
A general who adopted for his uniform
The work clothes of the buck private and the beard of the saints
A man fit for ruling a great nation
But who only has an island.
Irene, the beautiful Cuban, has his picture over her bed
Between Rudolph Valentino and the Blessed Virgin—
He stands large and flabby between the perfect body and the purest soul
And one dove for crown standing on his head—
He is not afraid of birdshit, his face is radiant.
The Hotel Teresa in Harlem is a dumpy landmark in a slum
But when Fidel Castro went there to stay
And when Nikita Khrushchev went up and hugged and kissed him
for being Mr. Wonderful
Right out in public (they get away with it those foreigners)
Then Harlem became the capitol of the world
And the true home of the United Nations…
Bombs going off all over Havana
In Rockefeller Center the Cuban Tourist Office is closed
And across the skating rink men are putting up
The world’s largest Christmas tree which will never be Christian
Even if you cut it down, make it stand on cement, decorate it with balls
It will still scream for the forest, like a wild animal
Like the gods who love freedom and topple to the saws of commerce
The gods who frighten us half to death in our dreams with their doings
And disappear when we need them most, awake.
By the time you see this, Fidel, you might not even exist anymore
My government is merciless and even now
The machine to destroy you is moving into action…
But I wish you well, Fidel Castro
And if you do succeed in making that island
The tropic paradise God meant it to be
I’ll be the first to cheer and come for a free visit if invited.
So you’re not perfect, poets don’t look for perfect
It’s your spirit we love and the glamour of your style
I hope someday the cameras of the world
Are turned on you and me in some spot like Harlem
And then you’ll get a kiss that will make Khrushchev’s be forgotten
A kiss of the poet, that will make you truly good
The way you meant to be.
From “Ode to Fidel Castro,” from Edward Field’s book Stand Up, Friend, With Me (New York: Grove Press, 1963), which won the Lamont Poetry Award. This excerpt was anthologized in Walter Lowenfels, Poets of Today: A New American Anthology (New York: International Publishers, 1964).