It is the opposite of winter,
this place, except for the long shadows.
I was under one –
under the windmills at Guantanamo, the day Ted Kennedy died.
on the lowered U.S. flag at the top of John Paul Jones Hill
tall and still above the cactus bushes
Castro left behind as his front line.
They stood in the shadows, the bushes,
like bastard gremlin-soldiers waiting for liberation day.
This scorch-metal place a frozen American Brigadoon with
ice cream trucks and outdoor movies like when young Teddy first arrived in ’62.
And I was under Windward Point Lighthouse
the day the earthquake, swallowing 300,000 across the bay in Haiti,
whipped from island to island
like a jagged underwater snake –
me and Tommy drinking Bud Talls
at the picnic table, just back from the trials
when the old Cuban refugee boats all around us,
boats with hopeful names like Benita and Estefana,
smashed together like accordions,
and the lighthouse snapped its roots and staggered to the sea,
and the three laughing Filipinos, sprung from the mess hall, on their way
to scuba dive at Cable Beach, crashed into a gaping ditch as the road opened up.
We ran to them, My Morning Jacket’s “One Big Holiday”
still blaring from their truck radio, but it was, of course, too late.
Tortoise Man, the Green Beret leaving for Afghanistan,
sharing a smoke at the backyard party, out of the side of his mouth said
he was going to miss it here,
miss scavenging Bargo inlet for bottles
that float down on the tide, ancient Cuban names
and dates still etched on them after he pulled them from the muck.
History, he said, his words
floating out over the bay, we’re all history here.
And I’m under the windmills again, the banana rats
scrambling in the bush, watching the flag and lights of downtown,
the Jamaicans fighting it out in the stadium,
a Zooey Deschanel comedy crawling wordlessly across the movie screen.
The fence line twinkles like Christmas lights under dark-massed
mountains as the stench of burning trash fingers us from far-off cities.
Guantanamo, I thought, where everything is always on the verge –
a dining room table, formally set, waiting for someone to come into the room.
The giant blue blades above my head
fall like endless water wheels as I look down the hill:
on the rare occasion the flag throws her stripes to the wind,
the red lines seemed to point to the bay, the sea, the way home:
toward exodus, toward life beyond life at this rim.
Without the wind, in the stale static of gitmo heat,
as now, immobile, the red stripes are made as of tears:
running, running, running always from that face so dark,
so dark, so still and so blue.