Pukapuka Books


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Pukapuka Poem #12 - Michael O'Leary

A Sonnet to Ché Guevara by Michael O’Leary
(For his place in Popular Culture)

‘Looks a lot like Ché Guevara,’ I heard David Bowie say
Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, otherwise known as Ché
Was tired of witnessing widespread poverty and oppression
Hopped on his bike and headed towards the Revolution
His travels and readings also led him to view liberation
As not for one country, but borderless. His conception
Became disenchantment as the Realpolitik in Cuba too
Began to make Castro’s ideals seem to ring untrue

Irony is the meat and blood of life and love and pop
Culture also. Lennon’s take on Leninism and Mao -
Hate ‘Ain’t going to make it with anyone, anyhow’
But ‘posterboy Ché’ and ‘Moondog Johny’ lives both stop

By a bullet: Ché, murdered on Lennon’s birthday, his last words can
Be for both of them, ‘Shoot, coward, you are only going to kill a man’

This sonnet was written in 1997 when Guevara's body was exhumed from its communal grave in Vallegrande and returned to Cuba. The 30th anniversary of his death was celebrated across Cuba. (Ché died on the 9th of October, 1967, John Lennon’s 27th birthday.) Ché was 39 when he was shot, John Lennon was 40 when he was shot in 1980.
"Why did they think that by killing him, he would cease to exist as a fighter?" Castro said at the ceremony to mark Ché’s reburial. "Today he is in every place, wherever there is a just cause to defend."
This poem was featured in the 2007 book ‘Ché in Verse’ – a collection of international poets writing poetry about Ché Geuvara edited by Gavin O’Toole and Georgina Jiménez. It included many other poets from around the world including Pablo Neruda, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Edward Lucie-Smith, Robert Lowell, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Hans Magnus Enzensberger and Peter Weiss, to name but a few. O’Toole also mentions my poem in his scholarly introduction. There are three poets from New Zealand chosen by the editors. Michael O’Leary, Mark Pirie and Bernard Gadd. 

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