Liberation War + On National TV

Leslie Sainz

Liberation War

Dos Ríos, Cuba, 1895

It began beneath a children’s moon.
The fish in the river stagnant as earlobes,
their bluelessness appearing sudden.

I was sitting on my hands. Daughtering.
At first, I didn’t see the soldier braiding sleep
among the vine, but his horse, white,

a single light taffied across muscle.
You must know that I am honest,
disciplined. I fingered the small cross

around my neck because I know G-d is
activity—I tried. The sky hocked water
the size of tobacco seeds. His black jacket

strewn across fog, I held it, made it
clean, and each time the river hosted
my hands, my eyelids like just-rung bells.

Hours didn’t pass so much as I lost them.
He woke but was beyond waking, my ear
to his chest, I kissed the gold right out of him.

On National TV

The leading man does not know us as we know us.
He does not consider what we could do
for him, for his country.

The small fan blasts its ricket, ricket. The television moves
its Russian hips. I raise an index finger to my mouth
when Miguelito’s crying gets loud,

though it makes my face a steeple.
The government asked him to paint propaganda:
large fists eclipsed by stars, the machine guns

of El Comandante—
and he told them he would rather fuck his boyfriend.

They won’t come for him until he’s sleeping.

I try to raise the volume, and the glow of the television turns
blue. Miguelito presses his forehead against the screen
as if to fuse into it, but America does not enter us.

All along the street, varying degrees of dimming.
Everyone we know ends the day this way, making
lifelines of their eyes.

Before he takes what’ll be his final sleep as a free man,
Miguelito rips the Christ mounted on the wall.

Christ with the slung head, the outstretched arms, watches
blood pool around Miguelito’s fingernails.

If you believe that hope is a tonic, know my country waits in spoonfuls.

Leslie Sainz is a first generation Cuban American, born and raised in Miami, Florida. The recipient of a 2021 National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship, she received her MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from New England ReviewKenyon Review Online, AGNI, jubilatNarrativeBlack Warrior Review, and others. A two-time National Poetry Series finalist, she’s received scholarships, fellowships, and honors from CantoMundo, The Miami Writers Institute, The Adroit Journal, and The Stadler Center for Poetry & Literary Arts at Bucknell University.

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