By Margarita Engle
They say the farm I loved in Cuba is abandoned to masses of impenetrable marabu, the dreaded bramble romantics still choose to call aroma, a plant brought to the island by a countess who found the pink powder puff flowerheads attractive.
They say the thorns are impassable, the net of roots indestructible, each segment sprouting into a new nightmare of wood so hard that only carboneros see its value, slow-burned in makeshift, teepee-shaped ovens, then sold as charcoal from a burlap sack slung over the weary shoulder.
They say the farm I loved in Cuba is sleeping, like Beauty's spellbound, spine-clad castle, waiting for a traveler's kiss.
Even the roads have disappeared.
To see the ruins of the farm I loved one last time before my death, I will have to travel on horseback. I can already smell the saddle's fragrance of equine sweat and oiled leather, the horse's scent of excited trembling, perhaps even fear...
and my own blood streaming, a metallic aroma from thorns concealed by delicate pink blossoms.
Margarita Engle is a botanist and the Cuban-American author of three books about the island, most recently a critically acclaimed historical account written in free verse, The Poet Slave of Cuba, a Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano (Henry Holt & Co., 2006), which has received multiple starred reviews, and is currently nominated as one of the American Library Association's Best Books for Young Adults. Short works appear in a wide variety of journals, anthologies, and chapbooks, including previous issues of VerbSap. Recent honors include a 2006 Pushcart nomination, and semi-finalist selection for the 2006 Nimrod Hardman/Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize. Margarita lives in central California, where she enjoys hiking and helping her husband with his volunteer work for wilderness search-and-rescue dog training programs.
Photo "Valle Vinales" (cropped), courtesy of Jim Waldron, Adams, Tennessee.
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