Comité Nacional por la Libertad de los Cinco Cubanos

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Poems for the Cuban Five
Tony Walton

The Miami Five
Cubana Flight Four-Double-Five
Interrogation For The Cuban Five
A Heroine Against Scant Credibility
In The Eye Of The Hurricane
by Antonio Guerrero
Heroes Of Endurance
Message To René Gonzalez
The Heart Of A Friend
The Most Potent Weapon
In The Hole
Dignity In Indignity
Poem For Pablo

“Nelson Mandela will not go down in history for the twenty-seven consecutive years that he lived imprisoned without ever renouncing
his ideas. He will go down in history because he was able to draw from
his soul all the poison accumulated by such an unjust punishment.”

~ Fidel Castro (1999)

“Mandela’s greatness is that he remained bigger than his captors, that his mind stayed large enough to imagine for them what they had not dared to imagine for themselves: that they might become better than they had been, that they too might attain the only dignity worth having: the dignity of common humanity.”

~ Fintan O’Toole (2003)

The Miami Five

Don’t ever think twice about Miami vice:
It’s never been pretty, it sure isn’t nice.
They want to free Cuba, like under their fist:
There’s nothing they won’t do, no way they won’t twist.
The ones left behind, better dead than alive,
And there’s none they hate more than the Miami Five.

The Miami Five were protecting their nation
When they came on their mission of deep infiltration.
They gave what they found to the old FBI
And were put up on trial in the blink of an eye.
Serving fifteen years minimum, some double life,
And they can’t even look through the glass at their wife.

The American government’s an exile-crowd pleaser:
Nine times they’ve turned down one request for a visa.
Amnesty’s efforts and United Nations
Have all been ignored in their representations.
The authorities duck, the authorities dive,
And they won’t lift a hand for the Miami Five.

There’s an evil wind blows through the streets of Miami:
Got you this way and that way, a real double whammy.
There’s terrorists there waging war as they please
In a land of the free that leaves justice to freeze,
And the Miami Five for ten years now denied
The right to be heard with the truth on their side.

So for René, Antonio and for Ramón,
Gerardo, Fernando we’ll keep fighting on.
We can’t hope to spring them from out of their cages
But we can write their story on history’s pages,
And we can sing a song to remember their pain
Until they can see all their loved ones again.

This is the first poem I wrote for The Five after I first heard about their case from an advertisement by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign in ‘New Statesman’ in September 2008 on the tenth anniversary of their arrest – where they were referred to as The Miami Five.

I sent a copy of the poem to each of the Five. As far as I know, Ramon never received it.
Fernando did not receive it for about six months, and René only received it at the second attempt
in January 2009. Gerardo and Antonio received it quickly and responded straight away, and
my correspondence with them has continued.

Cubana Flight Four-Double-Five

6th October 1976

The passenger plane was blown out of the bright sky.
No one aboard it could hope to survive.
None of the seventy-three even knew why
They drew so much hatred while they were alive.

Goodbye to the Guyanese and North Koreans
And six teenage fencers, young girls yet to wive.
Their names all live on in the island of Cuba,
Who died on Cubana Flight Four-Double-Five.

The cowards who killed them call Castro a tyrant
And say that they all of them needed to die.
They laugh at the grief of the families who loved them.
They turn a deaf ear to their agonised cry.

Goodbye to the Communist Party adherents
And six teenage fencers, young girls yet to wive.
They’re remembered as well back in Venezuela,
All those on Cubana Flight Four-Double-Five.

They flew from Caracas, stopped off in Barbados,
But they’d never see Cuba again in their lives.
To the blue Caribbean they went down in a fireball,
And Justice is strangled till no truth survives.

Goodbye to brave concepts like freedom and honour
And six teenage fencers, young girls yet to wive.
Their loyalty’s shafted and peace is a goner,
Gone down like Cubana Flight Four-Double-Five.

To be sung to the tune of ‘Incident At Los Gatos (Deportees)’ by Woody Guthrie


Interrogation For The Cuban Five

“I know the depths to which our government is capable of sinking….
This case is truly the bottom of the pit…. Just how is it that we have become
a safe haven for alleged terrorists?”

Lawrence Wilkerson
Colonel, US Army (retired)
Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell (2002-05)

How many lies can a government sponsor
before it just drowns in a sea of lies?
How many ways can the Truth be hidden?
How many times can Justice despise
the basis of its jurisdiction,
the honesty that makes it wise?
How much cruelty done to its victims,
ignoring the people’s vehement cries?
How can the Five even now be imprisoned
under a regime we so despise?

How can Luis Posada Carriles
escape the penalty for his crimes?
How can Orlando Bosch live as a free man
boasting his actions how many times?
How can Alvarez, Mittat and Ferro
flourish as war-lords against Freedom’s chimes?
How can the Bush vigilantes continue
thriving, surviving by diving for dimes?

How long can five men be trapped in their jails?
How many times be forbidden to see
their loved ones? And how come compassion fails
in the Land of the Brave and of fair Liberty?

But how proudly the ship in support of them sails
the broad ocean currents until they are free.


A Heroine Against Scant Credibility

For Adriana Pérez Hernandez

She has a battle to win: a battle
she never wanted to begin: a battle
forced upon her by the cruellest circumstance.

She shows no sign of weakness: the tear
that falls shows only her humanity.
And she shows no vanity: the battle
is one she will win through humility.

She speaks softly and persuasively,
with a voice that is clear in its meaning
and firm in its unshakeable conviction.
Unjust convictions are what she fights against.

She has a battle to win: a battle
with adversity, and there is no time
for truce or despair. There are many who care
and support her cause. They call without pause
for these men to be turned loose.

She was so young when they met: it seems
so long ago now, does she sometimes forget
how it was between them, with their whole lives
ahead of them, together? For all four wives,
the separation is a violation,
denounced by our fiercest indignation.

The future can only make sense through their
returning. Their yearning is burning,
is an intense turning of their hearts
like flowers to the sun. And they are not alone.
The Five are not alone. This injustice
will be undone, Adriana, and - as you say -
your marriages will be the best in the world.

It is a mark of your great courage
that you refuse to be hurt any more
than you have been made to hurt already.
Hold steady, bonsai, for the drum of
Freedom will beat a victory parade.

Gerardo has written : “I love Adriana’s poem a lot and will share a lot of copies with friends. Adriana will really appreciate it as well.”
‘Bonsai’, he told me, is his special name for Adriana, because “she is small and beautiful”.


In The Eye Of The Hurricane
by Antonio Guerrero

In the eye of the hurricane,
where so much injustice is felt,
a time of vengeance, a time of
bloodstained iron, I count on more
than four brothers, for I can count
on millions of brothers, their arms
raised and their voices raised - and I
do not falter. It feels like doves
wrapping my body, carrying
hope, hope of life, in their giant
wings; a troubadour playing his
guitar, singing my adventures
and my misadventures; or, with
a flower, a painter drawing
faces and more faces, cherished
and admired; and a poet with
a lamp that by day and by night
lights up everything: what more
do I need! In the eye of this
hurricane, all that was scattered
by malicious winds is really
worth being ready to die for.

En el ojo del huracán
written, in Spanish, in USP Florence, Colorado
2nd July 2008
retranslated 28th October 2008 by Tony Walton

Antonio wrote:
“Thank you for your letter, the translation of my poem and your wonderful book, which I have enjoyed very much and I have shared it with other inmates, who have loved your poetry.”

He added:
“Greetings to all our friends in the U.K.
¡Hasta la poesia y la victoria siempre!”
~ which prompted the following poem.


Heroes Of Endurance

Para Antonio Guerrero: un hermano

¡Si, Antonio! Poetry and Victory
Go hand in hand for ever: they’re never apart.
It is what I wish for you too, with all my heart,
That we should all be united in the glory:

The glory of Here and Now; of a life well-lived;
Glory of Love and Brotherhood, of doing Good
To drive out hate and evil from the sacred wood;
The true and shining story of a life well-lived.

The beautiful Muse is resting gently on your head;
The turtle-doves of Love and Peace nest in her hair;
And you must wait out this too-long time in there.
But as you wait, your courage grows as it is fed;

As it is fed by the thoughts that carry on the breeze,
Our thoughts of fiercest solidarity,
Our wishes for equality and parity,
And for the justice that one day comes and frees you:

Frees you and your Four Brothers,
Frees you to walk free and blossom again,
Frees you of separation’s pain
In the triumph of that victorious hour:
United - again - as petals of the same flower.

The last line quotes the last line of Antonio’s poem ‘I Want’.
The third verse refers to a beautiful self-portrait in pencil that he copied to me.


The following poem is a response to René’s New Year message to supporters of The Five, which was issued in December 2008.

Message To René Gonzalez

The people’s cries against the lies
of those who despise their own laws

are a tower of strength, a flower
that mocks the abuse of power,

that rocks the establishment’s blocks
on justice, and clocks the hour

when you will be free. Your just cause
draws applause from a human tide

with the strength of numbers on its side,
on its freedom ride for The Cuban Five.

Injustice must withdraw its claws,
and ignore no more what pours forth

in international condemnation.
A rational indemnification

is the only proper outcome.
They cannot stop a beating drum,

cannot forever overcome
this tidal wave of protest

determined to save what is best
and never to pause or to rest

or fail the test. And the accursed
who boast that they have done their worst

will be brought at last to account
for their wicked past, as we mount

the summit of this achievement,
in tribute to the bereavement

of those whose loved ones cruelly died
at the hands of those on the other side.

René, do not lay down your pride,
or set the will to fight aside,

or abandon your endurance
and your courage. Jurisprudence

will be co-opted; justice will
be adopted. Wear your armour till

the day of your freedom dawns at last
and this long nightmare is in the past.

René responded to the previous poem by saying:
”I was taken by surprise by your beautiful poem, which was very moving to read….
What can I say? Well, maybe that your words penetrated my armor. How could they not?
How could I miss the encouragement those words bring to me, by failing to open a bit
my defenses to them? As the Cuban poet said, “it’s the heart of the friend, let us open the wall”.
I did a little research and realized he was referring to the national hero José Martí.
Thanks to him and to René, the following poem virtually wrote itself.


The Heart Of A Friend

For René Gonzalez

It’s the heart of a friend; let us open the wall,
and tear down the defences we have erected.
They were a necessary barrier to all
of the hatred we have for so long suspected
and the recipe of lies so well confected;
but here now we are resurrected from our fall
by the heart of a friend: let us open the wall.

Our enemies are big and we are only small;
and they have hurt us with cruelty inflicted,
seeking to cut us down before we grow too tall.
Our truth confronts their falsehood, that’s all conflicted
against us, and their harsh command has evicted
us from the garden of our innocence. Hopes stall.
But the heart of a friend lets us open the wall.

It is the chink in our armour; it is our heel
of Achilles; it is our saving grace: to feel
the balm of friendship that displaces disgraces
in our heart, and occupies the holy spaces
where we truly dwell; making us as strong as steel
even though we are kept apart in dark places.
It is the heart of a friend that’s truly real.


The Most Potent Weapon

For Steve Biko and all Prisoners of Conscience

In all the prison camps and torture chambers of the world
the same mistake is made and endlessly repeated.
The oppressor’s fatal error of supposing he will win
by gaining control of his victim’s mind is a hope
of which he will always be cheated.

He will sometimes succeed (he will often succeed)
in crushing his victim’s resistance completely,
of driving him mad and reducing him to something
less than human, and worthless to his cause.

He will sometimes succeed (and will often succeed)
in securing false confession and gaining
an allegiance that is not worth gaining;
for what can be turned so easily in his favour
can be turned again with equal ease against him.

And he will sometimes fail (yes, he will often fail)
no matter how hard he tries; because some men and women
will never be broken, will never renounce the Truth
that sounds with each beat of their heart; and a part of them
will remain inaccessible to the very worst
that he can do; and will survive to defeat him.
For the most potent weapon against the hand
of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.



For Antonio, Gerardo, René, Fernando & Ramón

Life chooses us in unexpected ways.
However carefully we plan the route,
we never know what, in the turning days,
awaits to ambush us, or overshoots
our rapid progress, or somehow waylays
our purpose; which is when we fill our boots
or fall by the wayside. Pride strips the praise
from our song, if the choice we make is wrong.

We will not be long for this world when this
befalls us: failure appals us; it’s all
we can do. And if we would try to dis-
entangle our crown of thorns, we must fall
into a new pattern; accept the wis-
dom of the harder road, the higher call
to greatness sorely earned; and know the bliss
of slowing to standstill in our growing.

Yet we will know, in ways unexpected,
a different kind of growth; as we take arms
against our sea of troubles, dejected
as we may well be. Amulets and charms
assume new significance, confected
to escape the prison-house; and new balms
salve wounds we never could have projected
in advance, as we learn a different dance.

Chance is the opportunity; or our
undoing if we let it; and the test
of our mettle, the petal on the flower
of our enlightenment. As for the rest,
we never can foretell the final hour;
but just content ourselves to do our best,
as it presents itself within our power.
Through the bars that constrain us shine the stars.


In The Hole

For Gerardo Hernández

They want to steal your soul
So they throw you in the hole
Where the shit runs down the walls
And where no one hears your calls
Where the naked light-bulb always burns
The trapped man takes two steps and turns
Takes two steps back as his heart yearns
For the white-washed well
And the strong church-bell
And the fresh-baked smell
Of the sun-warmed earth
In the land of his birth

And the sound of human laughter
Unmediated by madness.

Maybe you’ll stay here till you die
They say. They cannot tell you why
Except for “orders from on high”.
But they know they try to break you
As they harrow you and rake you
Push you hard so you forsake belief
In everything except your grief
And everything that lies beneath
The constant grinding of your teeth
You lose all track of normal time
You suffer for the noble crime
Of challenging their paradigm
You don’t know if it’s night or day
Or how long things will stay this way
You fall down on your knees and pray

Remembering the sound of human laughter
Mediated by compassion.


In The Hole : 2

However long, you will be strong
You know that you are right and they are wrong
You try to hold on to the song
That bubbles from the source within your heart.
You know that you must win this fight.
That they are wrong and you are right
You know that after darkest night
The sunlight opens up a brand new start.

You hold the truth within your soul
You know that even in the hole
They can deny you food and drink
But not deny the thought you think
The human heart will not be bought
But play the part the way it ought
And always be victorious
Happy, proud and free and glorious.

This poem is based on Gerardo’s experience of the solitary confinement in which all five men were held, in Florida, for the seventeen months between their arrest in 1998 and their trial in 2000 –
as told in an interview with Saul Landau.

His response to the poem was this: “I like very much ‘In The Hole’. Thank you.
I really appreciate it. I like ‘Dignity In Indignity’as well. Both are great.”

‘Dignity In Indignity’ – which follows – was inspired by another letter from Antonio,
which is why itias dedicated to him especially.


Dignity In Indignity

Para Antonio Guerrero y sus hermanos

Convicted for their conviction
that the Truth must be told - the Truth
that defends their people, as it
condemns their enemies - these men
will never be the same again.
They were heroes at the outset,
but now they are like saints in their
martyrdom to hypocrisy
in the so-called Land of the Free,
where there are more men behind bars
than anywhere else in the world.

Their War on Terror is in fact
war against those who would resist
the terror of America
visited upon their own lands.
Their hands, though chained, are quite unstained,
and their resistance is sustained
even in the isolation
where they’re penned, with desperate men
who are also victims of this
rapacious and systematic
dereliction of our duty,
as brothers, to love each other.

Through the bars of his cell, he is
determined that not a single
snowflake will escape his notice.
Exercise outside has been stopped,
as a further punishment of
the punished. But nothing escapes
his notice, and every minute
of every day of ten long years
and counting confirms what he knows
to be the Truth of this. And he
is never alone. He tells us:

Our strength never weakens - au contraire:
solidarity grows, our firmness grows;
our optimism multiplies and
(yes, indeed) our dignity holds fast.


Poem For Pablo

“I did not come here to resolve anything.
I came here to sing and for you to sing with me,”
~ Pablo Neruda ‘Canto Genera

And we do, Pablo - just as your songs sing on with us still.
Your songs will never be ended. But you are too modest,
As always. Resolution is exactly what your songs
Achieve. Resolution is our aim and purpose: the bold
Resolve to solve the problems we pose ourselves; to achieve
A lasting resolution in the chorus of our souls,
Joined together in the music, joined together in Love.

On the wings of our singing, in the time of our singing,
We will rise up above all the errors we have made here:
We will soar with our song up to where we truly belong;
Where our hearts are pure and our motives are joyfully clear.

What better resolution could we hope to be bringing
Than to sing together, in celebration of our dear
Humanity. What better cure for all our vanity;
What better route to the deep-down root of our sanity.

Our words fit the music like the hand slips into the glove.
Our Love for each other glows bright in our eyes like hot coals.
We can meet this challenge, as long as we truly believe
That nothing can stop us, no matter how bitter the cold
Winds of change. The days of old still hold for us what belongs
To us, what’s rightfully ours. Let us not be too modest
To sing as you sung, Pablo, of our own free will.

With love & thanks to Antonio Guerrero

Antonio gave me this poem, by giving me the words of the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda,
which provide the epigraph. This poem is not just about The Five, nor just about Prisoners
of Conscience or those who resist oppression and lies. It is about all of us ~ and I have read it
to audiences of my friends, who understand it as such.
~ T.W. 2009

The most revolutionary thing one can do always
is to proclaim loudly what is happening

Rosa Luxemburg

He who desires, but acts not,
breeds pestilence
Willam Blake

La distance n’y a fait rien;
il n’y a que le premier pas qui coute
Marquise du Deffaud

Poems are rough notations
for the music we are

Jalalludin ar-Rumi


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