23 July 2021

Don’t send money.  No food to buy.
One scanty meal at work or nothing.
Outside the factory today
There was a freedom demonstration.
The managers brought clubs for us:
“Go out and beat a demonstrator.
Your job is making Cuba safe.”
We said, “We will not beat our neighbors.”
They said, “If not, you’re fired.  You starve.”



Margaret Coats lives in California.  She holds a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and Language from Harvard University.  She has retired from a career of teaching literature, languages, and writing that included considerable work in homeschooling for her own family and others.  

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17 Responses

    • Kathleen

      I signed the petition, thank you for making it known.
      “Intelligence from Cuba” was shocking. For some reason, it hit home harder than a news report. Thank you for opening my eyes this way also.

  1. Mike Bryant

    Margaret, I’ve signed the petition. Wouldn’t it be great if the free people of Cuba could help to free the USA from our authoritarian overlords?

    • Anthony Duk

      Thank you for informing us Dr Coats. Communism is a horrible system to live under.

  2. Brian Yapko

    Thank you, Margaret, for a stark poem which powerfully expresses the intolerable and speaks to urgency above all other considerations. I’m grateful to live in a country where I don’t have to choose between expressing my conscience and losing my ability to earn a living. Let’s hope we can keep it that way.

    I’ve signed the petition.

  3. Michael Whitcraft

    Thank you for spreading knowledge of the plight of the poor Cubans who have suffered 62 years under the yoke of atheistic and dictatorial communism. It’s time for this to end! God bless you and your efforts Dr. Coats!

  4. Tim Reese

    Thank you for bringing to light the tragic plight of the Cuban people Dr. Coats, and the petition demanding that our leaders take action to free them from this tyranny. I fear lest this happen to us because of all the cancel culture.

    • Jonicis Bulalacao

      Thanks, Margaret, for making us aware of this very sad situation in Cuba. May many more people pray sincerely for Cuba as well as for our beloved USA.

  5. Margaret Coats

    Many thanks to everyone signing the petition. It’s addressed to Joe Biden, but readers who live outside the United States are welcome to add your voices in this call for urgently needed help to the Cuban people at this time. News of the many signers itself encourages Cubans who will hear of it, including the one whose very recent experience is told in the poem.

  6. Julian D. Woodruff

    Thank you, Margaret.
    Of course I signed. With the return of the 57 refugees, one has to ask: how far are we on the road to becoming a Cuba ourselves?

    • Margaret Coats

      Julian, I don’t know what to say about American officers and men who send fellow human beings to certain brutalization and death by starvation if not by violence, when the usual option is to release them into our country.

  7. C.B. Anderson

    It’s peculiar, isn’t it Margaret, that Cuba is the only Latin-American country from which the current administration will not accept refugees. The reason for this is chillingly obvious.

  8. Tom Rimer

    My wife and I have long enjoyed reading Margaret’s translations, and now what a surprise and pleasure to encounter a poem of her own, and on such a powerful subject. The starkness of her vision, and her trenchant choice of vocabulary, brings to mind (as the highest of compliments) those brilliant translations created some fifty years or so ago by Marc Blitzstein for a production of the Brecht/Weill THREE-PENNY OPERA.

  9. Margaret Coats


    The call came from Guantanamo:
    “She’s dead,” abruptly choked my brother.
    “Don’t come home to desperate waste.
    There’s no such item as a casket.
    I’m disassembling furniture
    For wood enough to build a box.”
    Born amid red revolution,
    Starved in its hellward-dragging chains,
    Rest, dear mama . . . pray your children
    Survive as communism rots.

  10. Margaret Coats

    Someone just asked me today whether the situations in “Intelligence” and “Update” were imagined for the sake of writing the poems. I am sad to say that I heard both stories from reliable individuals. Stores have no food to purchase. The factory incident happened as reported, although without follow-up contact, we don’t know if the workers were fired and thus lost their sole source of food. The story in “Update” (about different individuals) came from a woman in the United States who heard it directly from her brother in Cuba.


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