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.

All May Come

Mirta Aguirre
Cuban
1912 – 1980

 

All may come by the roads
we least suspect.
All may come from within, wordless,
or from without, burning
and breaking itself in us, unexpectedly,
or grow, as certain joys grow,
with no one listening.
And everything may open one day in our hands
with wistful surprise
or with bitter surprise, unarmed, undressed,
with the sadness of he who suddenly
comes face to face with a mirror and doesn’t see himself
and looks at his eyes and fingers
and uselessly searches for his laughter.
And that’s the way it is. All may come
in the most incredibly desired way,
so strangely far
and coming, not come
nor leave when left behind and lost.
And, for that encounter, one must gather poppies,
a sweet bit of skin, peaches or child,
clean for the greeting.

Twilight

Juana Borrero
Cuban
1877 – 1896

 

All is peace and calm… In the twilight
The aroma of jasmines can be smelled,
And, over the glassy surface of the river,
Is heard the flapping wings of the swans

Which, like a bunch of snowy flowers,
Glide over the smooth water surface.
Now the dusky bats reemerge
From their many secret hiding places,

And a thousand turns, and capricious spins
They make in the tranquil atmosphere;
Or fly very close to the ground,

Barely grazing with their gray wings
The yellow petal of the bitter thistle,
Or the virgin corolla of the humble mallow.

To a Swallow

Juan Clemente Zenea
Cuban
1832 – 1871

 

Thou messenger, far wandering,
Who ‘neath my cell art fluttering
And round and round me gayly fly,
Whence comest thou, on restless wing?
And whither, swallow, dost thou hie?

To this south country thou hast flown
In quest of flowers and zephyr’s breath,
While I within my prison moan
And clamor in my dungeon lone
For wintry skies and snowy heath.

With longing heart I long to see
That which thou’st lightly left behind;
I long to fly beyond the sea,
To feel anew the northern wind,
To be a swallow and to flee.

I long again to find my nest
And there, as was wont of old,
Without a fear to mar my rest,
Repose in midst of Love’s sweet fold,
With wife and child to make me blest.

And if my dear ones, lost to me,
Should ask that thou a message bring
When thou again wilt cross the sea,
Pursue thy flight, thou bird of Spring,
Be not detained by thought of me.

For if thou, wanderer, seekest there
To find a drooping willow where
It shades the dust of him that’s free,
Thou swallow fair! thou swallow fair!
Thou’lt seek in vain where I will be.

So seek not thou with restless flight,
To find my dark and hidden grave,
For know’st thou not, thou winged dace?
O’er the poet’s tomb no willows wave,
No cypress marks his resting-place.

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.