Tired Old Rebel

in endless march
a floating child
very last vestige
of the embryonic army

the powerful march of history
violates your soil
infiltrations of nests of thieves
murder is committed with impunity

on your fragile neck
scars left
by a carnivorous animal
the U.S. colonial yoke

this is the other side
of the imperialist coin
a castrated freedom
lying within the masses

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you who live
though you have died
broke the noose
internal birds began to stir

an outbreak of fury
dazzling glitter
restless butterflies
beat their wings

an implacable tyranny
and blood fell on your soil
into trenches of freedom
an anonymous mass of

tired old rebels
massacred
by the revolutionary movement
that kills their own children

this cruel habit
rifles of peasant soldiers
crushed under boots
of wild blood thirsty animals

hyenas and jackals
that mock the will of the people
the revolutionary spirit
a pointless oratorical tournament

how much black
the oppression holds
when darkened
by a different sun

thrash your waves
tired old rebel
rise and fall
demand your freedom

from your gravediggers
sell-out governments
and the pages of history
you didn’t get to write

pour out your sorrows
whatever weighs your soul
as the artist armed
with sticks stones and machetes

every piece of your marble
powerful weapons of struggle
guided by love
you dream with open eyes

the artist may die
binding our faces to the Sun
you left us your character
your example bears

fruit here that is red
and there white
a white rose
on new horizons

your anxious hand stretched forth
writing with your own blood
a glorious and indelible
page of history

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About “Tired Old Rebel”

This poem was written at the end of my stay in Havana, Cuba while partaking in the J-Term course, “Postcards from Cuba.” Throughout my studies there, the contradictions and dichotomies of Cuban culture began to show themselves. The pastel façade on the Malecon and the regal statues that stand tall in the city’s public squares diminished after walking through impoverished side streets lined with decomposing architecture. The lyrics of song sung in the colonizing language, Spanish, were submerged in the percussive backdrop that reverberated with enslaved African traditions. The rebellious spirit that Cuba is renown for loomed away from the fading spray paint that exclaimed “Patria o Muerte!” Instead, the rebellious spirit played on makeshift soccer fields in abandoned stadiums and on empty concrete lots, splattered onto walls in the form of immaculate and felicitous street art, and danced to salsa, funk, and jazz in youthful crowds that exchanged kisses, rum, and companionship. By using the words of their revolutionary heroes whose ideals and in the case of Castro, Guevara, and Sanchez actions that were corrupted, I attempt to paint a picture of what I saw as the modern revolutionary spirit of this country. A spirit that doesn’t hide from the past or falter from hardship, but perseveres and is galvanized by the smiles, music, and love of one another.

All words and phrases used in the poem are from selected speeches, poetry, and quotes of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Jose Marti, and Celia Sanchez. I’ve altered most of the prepositions to “you,” removed the punctuation and used English translations of their original words spoken in Spanish.

Email Cristiano Rotolo at [email protected]

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