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.

Conversation at the Bridgeport Train Station With an Old Man Who Speaks Spanish

We present this work in honor of the 40th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Lourdes Casal
Cuban
1938 – 1981

 

(for Salvador Ocasio)

Torn coat
dusty shoes
thin white hair
Strange gentleman’s stance
I think: This old man has a Unamuno head.
Trenches rather than furrows
line his olive face.
He speaks haltingly.
Moves his hands slowly.
Sixteen years, he says,
Bridgeport and sixteen years of his life.
Sixteen years without sun
for these colourless trousers
and this bitter weariness
that give his smile a steel hue.

An Obscure Meadow Lures Me

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 110th birthday.

José Lezama Lima
Cuban
1910 – 1976

 

An obscure meadow lures me,
her fast, close-fitting lawns
revolve in me, sleep on my balcony.
They rule her beaches, her indefinite
alabaster dome re-creates itself.
On the waters of a mirror,
the voice cut short crossing a hundred paths,
my memory prepares surprise:
fallow dew in the sky, dew, sudden flash.
Without hearing I’m called:
I slowly enter the meadow,
proudly consumed in a new labyrinth.
Illustrious remains:
a hundred heads, bugles, a thousand shows
baring their sky, their silent sunflower.
Strange the surprise in that sky
where unwilling footfalls turn
and voices swell in its pregnant center.
An obscure meadow goes by.
Between the two, wind or thin paper,
the wind, the wounded wind of this death,
this magic death, one and dismissed.
A bird, another bird, no longer trembles.

Peepholes

Caridad Atencio
Cuban
b. 1963

 

Over the brief crossing of two silhouettes
the calmness of the one who shall die first.

Depths in the fruit’s skin.

A tacit movement at the shadow.

Courage as a punishment,
obligation turned into desire.

I’m not afraid of hollowness.

It’s a pile of air

The fire you watched…

Only the weight of time creates a deaf heartbeat in my brain.

Resurrection

Ana Rosa Núñez
Cuban
1926 – 1999

 

Put me to death
in the blood of this crystal
that I might go unblemished to God.
An embrace of vineyards and sugarcane
overthrew the quietude in which I rose.
A sweet embrace remembered
will open into the light
the protected, ravelled way,
used for the first time
in centuries of brotherly silence.
Through so much anointing,
through so much stony silence
moist silence of tile sun of flight
— silence revived in cries.
Put me to death
in the mystery of Your wine and Your water
on the side through which I live,
on the rock in which I seek wisdom
through the fog of a mystical tropical morning.
If I am put to death this way
I might live forever in the silence
of a day without soil and brine.