Elegy and Such

10-20 Pinera
Virgilio Piñera
Cuban
1912 – 1979

 

I invite the word
walking its barren bark among the dogs.
Everything is sad.
If it crowns forehead and breasts with shining leaves
a cold smile will blossom on the moon.
Everything is sad.
Later the sad dogs will eat the leaves
and bark out words with glistening sounds.
Everything is sad.
A dog invites the hyacinths by the river.
Everything is sad.
With loony words, with doggerel arrows,
with tiny toothy leaves
the hyacinths wound the mute damsels.
Everything is sad.
The black grass grows with a quiet hum,
but shiny edges caress the rhythm.
Everything is sad.
Behind the words the serpents laugh,
deaf earth allows no sound.
Everything is sad.

A heavenly bird barks in the sky
to scare death away.
The bird discovers it with with the flowers of night
and seduces it with words of a dog
and buries it with a cupful of earth.
Everything is sad.
I invite the earthbound word
that cuts through life and mirrors
and splits the echo of its image.
Everything is sad.
A play of words and barks.

Everything is sad.
A javelin whooshes through the speeding wind
in virile variations.
Half a cup of earth silenced the music.

Everything is sad.
Then the earth drank itself.
Everything is sad.
And when the time for death arrives
place me before a mirror where I may see myself.
Everything is sad.

I Will Appoint Things

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 100th birthday.

09-25 Vitier
Cintio Vitier
Cuban
1921 – 2009

 

I will appoint things,
the sound heights that see play the wind,
the deep porches, screens closed shade and silence.
And the internal sacred,
the gloom that ply the dusty offices,
the wooden man, the night wood of my body when sleeping.
The poverty of the place,
and the dust where the footsteps of my father made a will,
the clear and decisive stone places,
bare shadow, always the same.
Not forgetting the piety of the fire,
in bad weather the distant home,
nor the joyful sacrament of rain,
the humble cup of the park.
Neither you wonderful wall,
noon and indigo skies and endless.
With the building of the summer look,
my love will remember the paths
to where they escape the greedy Sundays,
Mondays and return with bowed head.
I will appoint things, so slowly,
that when I lose the Paradise of the road,
and oblivion me turn into a dream,
I can call them suddenly with the dawn.

Out of Africa

09-10 Pintado
Carlos Pintado
Cuban
b. 1974

 

You know you are truly alive when you’re living among lions
Isak Dinesen

I never had a farm in Africa, nor was I at the hills of Ngong, and perhaps because I was a rebellious youth, I refused to read the book. Isak was a country on my mind, never a body skinny and consumed by the syphilis, an echoless shadow the grass cut through without any perceived musicality.

For years I held the book in my hand and my hands would tremble. I recall the rain falling over the prairies. If I closed my eyes I would see those men lingering at sunset, seen from that false luminosity that only the written page can give.

Death moved the doors. The lover or the money vanished like leaves. I never had a farm in Africa; I never felt the smell of coffee invading the rooms at sunrise. There were only lions occupying my sleep, their roaring was the only memorable thing as I awoke.

Scene in the Tropics

08-04 Casal
Julián del Casal
Cuban
1863 – 1893

Insects and dust. A leaden atmosphere
Where loud the clappings of the thunder sound.
Like swans in mud, pure white against a ground
Of ashes, clouds immaculate appear.
The sea has paralyzed its waves, their clear
Green rush is still; above that bosom round
Lightning, within a frame of peace profound,
Lets forth a swift and sudden crimson spear.
Dreamily nods the lazy tree its head;
Deep calm, unbalanced, reels before attack,

And rapid sea gulls rend the air amain.
Across the spacious vault a bolt is sped,
And then upon the earth’s great smoking back
Sharply descend the crackling drops of rain.

Farewell to My Mother

Placido
Cuban
1809 – 1844

 

The appointed lot has come upon me, mother,
The mournful ending of my years of strife,
This changing world I leave, and to another
In blood and terror goes my spirit’s life.

But thou, grief-smitten, cease thy mortal weeping
And let thy soul her wonted peace regain;
I fall for right, and thoughts of thee are sweeping
Across my lyre to wake its dying strains.

A strain of joy and gladness, free, unfailing
All glorious and holy, pure, divine,
And innocent, unconscious as the wailing
I uttered on my birth; and I resign

Even now, my life, even now descending slowly,
Faith’s mantle folds me to my slumbers holy.
Mother, farewell! God keep thee — and forever!

Anonymous Landscape

Excilia Saldaña
Cuban
1946 – 1999

 

Every afternoon
The woman sits
before an open window
guilty of not being air, water
–or at least a wing that flies-
of being only a woman before an open window.

Every afternoon
the sky hangs itself out to dry
beyond the open window
ashamed of not being man, flesh, body
—or at least earth—
of being only sky beyond an open window,
Secret passion of guilt and shame:
a golden woman of violet sky
every afternoon through an open window.

Of the Word

Carilda Oliver Labra
Cuban
1922 – 2018

 

I won’t tell you about truth,
because the word’s going to die
and others
will need it.

You came bearing the word
and I was sensitive to it.
I said:
give me a little of it…
I was weak
and I took the word from your shoulder.
You see:
it’s so heavy
that I, too, double over.

I want to say the word
over your grave,
but a flower already blooms there.
Between the final truth
and immortality
stands the poet
whose word was murdered by gunfire.

They killed your word
and covered you with earth,
but it doesn’t matter,
you’ll sing in the seeds.

Zoia

We present this work in honor of the 20th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Rafaela Chacón Nardi
Cuban
1926 – 2001

 

Immobile, transparent,
with neither blood nor pulsing vein
the grey gaze spent
Zoia is laid out
with the gentle gesture of a wounded dove.

Her tormented skull,
the pupil of her eye asleep in screams.
(When all this has passed
she will return to life
in fruits and grasses.)

Naked, immobile, dead,
budding light and shadows,
with her broad smile
surprising life
in triumph over root and hate and death.

Immobile, transparent,
with the gentle gesture of a wounded woman…
forever with us,
in you, Zoia, burning
on eternal snow:
Life salutes us!

To the Mountain

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 130th birthday.

Mariano Brull
Cuban
1891 – 1956

 

Just as soon as Mass is over,
Put our pious airs away;
And with luncheon in our baskets,
To the mountain! To the mountain!
To the mountain for the day!

Hark, the bells of glory ringing
From the belfries of the Spring!—
Sun and sky! — oh, what a blessing
After gloomy days, they bring!

How the water o’er the mill-wheel
Rumbles furious and fast,
Bursting through a thousand echoes
Until — there — ‘tis gone at last!

For the woods our hearts are hungry;
Every bird hears us reply;
Incense seems to sweep our bosoms—
To the mountain! To the mountain!
To the mountain, let us hie!

Every grotto holds a secret;
Every cleft its creed and rite;
On the slopes is scattered grandeur—
Hawthorn flowers and crags in sight!

On the peaks the wind is hymning,—
Heaven is nigh — the town, far down;
Ah, why should not human dwellings
All the free-world mountains crown?—

At the nightfall — with our baskets
Empty — to the town we haste;
All the mountains fill with shadows,—

Spirits of the dreaded waste!

The Bride of Lazarus

Dulce Maria Loynaz
Cuban
1902 – 1997

 

You come to me at last, just as you were, with your ancient emotion and your unspoiled rose, Lazarus the straggler, a stranger to the fire of hope, forgetting disintegration even as it burned to dust, ashes, nothing more.

You return to me, in one piece and not even out of breath, with your great dream immune to the cold of the tomb, when already Martha and Mary, weary of waiting for miracles and plucking the leaves of twilight, have slowly descended the slope of all the Bethanies in silence.

You come, relying on no more hope than your own hope, no more miracle than your own miracle. Impatient and sure of finding me still yoked to the last kiss.

You come all flowers and new moon, quick to wrap me in your pent-up tides, in your stormy clouds, in your confused fragrances which I begin to recognize one by one.

You come still yourself, safe from time and distance, safe from silence, and bring me like a wedding gift the already-savored secret of death.

But here I am, a bride again, not knowing whether I rejoice or weep at your return, over the terrifying gift you give me, even over the joy which strikes me like a blow. I don’t know whether it is late or early to be glad. Truly, I don’t know; I no longer remember the color of your eyes.