Thirty Years

Juan Francisco Manzano
Cuban
1797 – 1854

 

When I think on the course I have run,
From my childhood itself to this day,
I tremble, and fain would I shun,
The remembrance its terrors array.

I marvel at struggles endured,
With a destiny frightful as mine,
At the strength for such efforts:—assured
Tho’ I am, ‘tis in vain to repine.

I have known this sad life thirty years,
And to me, thirty years it has been
Of suff’ring, of sorrow and tears,
Ev’ry day of its bondage I’ve seen.

But ‘tis nothing the past—or the pains,
Hitherto I have struggled to bear,
When I think, oh, my God! on the chains,
That I know I’m yet destined to wear.

To a Rose

Emilia Bernal
Cuban
1884 – 1964

 

Oh rose, rose of mine! that once sprang sprightly up,
why do you bend double, flaccid, weak and sad,
your petals withered, your once-green calyx pale?
Do you tell the earth the sweetness of your past,
like the long secret story of dead hopes
a dying virgin whispers to her priest?

Thinking on what was, and to see how you decline,
I’d wish to raise the stalk on which you languish,
to give fresh strength to you; beauty, color;
to return, with a sigh, your perfumed breath
to bring you to my lips and in a long, long kiss
press upon you new, most softly, heat and fire.

Now I Know

Lourdes Casal
Cuban
1938 – 1981

 

Now I know
that distance is three-dimensional.
It’s not true that the space between you and me
can be measured in metres and inches,
as if the streets might cross each other freely,
as if it were easy to hold out your hand.

This is a solid, robust distance,
and the absence is total,
complete;
in spite of the illusory possibility
of the telephone
it is thick, and long, and wide.

Death of the Eagle

José María Heredia y Heredia
Cuban
1803 – 1839

 

Although beyond the eternal snows, aspires
The vast-winged eagle still to loftier air,
That nearer to the sun in blue more clear
He may renew his eyeball’s splendid ires.

He rises. Sparks in torrents he inspires.
Still up, in proud, calm flight, he glories where
The storm breeds lightnings in its inmost lair;
Whereat his wings are smit by their fierce fires.

With scream, in waterspout borne whirlingly,
Shriveled, sublimely tasting flame’s last kiss,
He plunges to the fulgurant abyss.

Happy he who, for Fame or Liberty,
In strength’s full pride and dream’s enrapturing bliss
Dies such undaunted, dazzling death as this.

Epitaph for a Rose

Mariano Brull
Cuban
1891 – 1956

 

I take apart a rose and I don’t find you.
To the wind, thus, columns of floating petals,
the palace of the rose in ruins.
Now—impossible rose—you begin:
by needles of interwoven air
to the sea of the intact delight,
where all the roses of the world
—before they were a rose—
are beautiful without the prison of beauty.

Iron

We present this work in honor of the 55th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Emilia Bernal
Cuban
1884 – 1964

 

A man of iron!
Iron the flesh of his invincible chest.
Iron his biceps and triceps, his arm raised in triumphant sign.
His hands of iron and his belly.
And his thighs potent columns of iron, and his calves,
brave pedestals sustaining that formidible Titan,
with his foot nailed to the earth, with clawed fingers he seizes
the roots of the tree from the Biblical Adam.

Iron his eyes.
Iron his teeth.
Iron his brain, his lungs and heart,
his kidneys, spleen, and sex.
Inside and out a man completely made of iron.
Strength!
The greatest strength that time has launched
is his incarnation.