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.

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.