by Margarita Engle

The Simple Verses of Jose Marti
were set to music long ago,
a Cuban folk rhythm, tropical percussion,
a dance of hands on guitar strings.

Later,a folksinger made the song famous overseas,
in a muted, slow motion, North American form.
All over the world, listeners heard about a sincere man
from the land where the palm tree grows.
Everyone sang along with the chorus--
Guantanamera, guajira Guantanamera,
wistful lyrics about a country girl from Guantanamo,
humble girl, quiet place...

Now the lyrics have lost their rustic quality.
Images of hooded prisoners of war darken the music...
yet there is still the stanza about a wounded deer
seeking refuge in the wilderness,
and there will always be a line where the poet
pleads for a chance to send verses flying
from his soul...

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