SWEEP Pa’ Siempre: Cuba Poems Renée Gregorio Across the way from our rented room after the hurricane rains came an old woman sweeps and sweeps the deluge of water from her living room floor onto the balcony then down to the street below. This woman without a roof in a house with minimal walls how she must sweep and sweep buckets of water how she clears her space. This woman who is alone who isn’t speaking to me with words her arms made strong by years of this her heart quiet and solid. How she sweeps the water into this city of music pulsing from boom boxes of dark virgins in church alcoves city of singers with bursting veins in their necks who fall to their knees as they belt out their lyrics city of crumbling facades buildings so nakedly exposed they show us what they’re made of, saying: this is who I am. Each clear morning she surveys her street from that balcony then goes inside, sits in her rocker the only piece of furniture her legs moving slowly up and down with her rocking as the young beauty down the way in her tight chartreuse top feels the kids’ laundry on the line while men’s voices carry all the way from the bay and the motors of the old Chevys rumble. Now the men are whistling and yelling back and forth somebody’s radio is tuned to something romantic while another woman leans on her wrought iron railing, her hands clasped together as if in prayer, her hair tight to her head in its white turban, her deep red sweater hugging her chest. The sweeper turns toward the street sounds as the music rises, all the voices join in unison truck tires rattle and she stares out— suddenly the motorbike’s engine chortles to a stop she tacks the broom to its piece of wall broom with bristles like stiff hair intricately braided together and rolled like a Cuban cigar joined by hands that know what it means to knot and stitch. ©2016 Renée Gregorio