If We Didn’t Need to Win, Then What?



Manuel Maria

always blinks tightly


with both eyes,

then opens wide


like he has

a startling

piece of news,


or is waiting for it.


I still don’t understand

why his second name


is Maria. An

American thinks


macho means

so many things


that it isn’t.


He brings out the busty statue

of his wife’s great grandfather:


An admiral and commander

of the Spanish naval fleet,


he sailed to Santiago

to break the blockade.


Now, he is a Spanish

hero. And Manuel is


so proud of his wife.

He says her family

is so connected

or important?


That they even print a newsletter.

Back then, Spain

wanted Cuba,


and now Manuel looks

at night for his wife.


She goes about sleeping

while he turns the pages


of beaten words that antes,

had so much longing.

I come on Tuesdays

to sit down with Manuel


and our languages,

these new ways of


wanting to say something

we think we’ve said before.


Today is a history lesson

about the sea,


and the people you can conquer

with a famous fleet.


As he crafts and molds

his words, I wish I could hear


the melody of El Andalus,

or understand a political uniquity.


I wish I couldn’t

see his pain before me,


or the long, bloody sea

stretching out for spaces


that wars and

fleets won’t win.


-Jennifer Sandberg