*Julián del Casal. Cuban poet (1863-1893), one of the first Latin American modernists, and considered, with José Martí, one of the two most important poets of the late 19thCentury.
*son. Traditional Cuban music form that became popular in the 40s and 50s and again in the wake of the film Buena Vista Social Club.
*Teodora Ginés. Freed slave who is said to have invented the son at the end of the 16thCentury.
*Malécon. The seawall that runs the length of Havana, and the boulevard that parallels it.
Death’s Like That
Fatso has died who could inflate
bicycle tires with his lungs
he used to get drunk in front of the Castillo de la Punte
hiding from daylight
Patricio has died his small dry hands
clasping a final lottery ticket to his breast
Tente, from Palmira, has died in his filthy bed of straw
poor old santero
He died at midnight while pouring aguardiente
for Oggún Arere his protector
I don’t know why I’m so sad about Tente
Israel has died who sold cloth wholesale
and filled with nostalgia would announce
‘I’d like to eat figs in Poland’
Susanita has died, the old hotel keeper, worn out from weeping
in the courtyard armchair
her keys at her waist and her thick nose...ah, Susanita!
The hustler died — I can’t recall his eyes —
who used to lounge for hours
against the post with the streamers
on the Paseo del Prado
Oscar the bookie has died, but more slowly,
soaked to the ears in violet water
weighing at the end no more than a husk
The gypsy organ grinder is dead
whose monkey danced its tender dance
at the end of its leash all over town
Lucía, or was it Lucrecia, is also dead
my mother’s seamstress
who sweated over her sewing machine day and night
to support Humberto, her eternal husband
Those eyes of hers pierce his body now
Jesús is dead — I wish this was over —
the mulatto from the library
They told me to read a lot. I don’t know anything.
Picasso is dead, hung
from a bar of chocolate
did amazing things
at the circus!
Dead. This is awful
Once again I don’t know why I say the name
I wish I could flow like a river
I wait for you
beneath the wrecked marquee
of the Chinese movie
in the yellow smoke
of an extinct dynasty
I wait for you
by the gutter
where black ideograms
that no longer say anything
I wait for you at the door
of a restaurant
on the Paramount lot
where they shoot the same film every day
Anticipating your arrival
I allow the rain to cover me
with its broken lines
Accompanied by a choir of eunuchs
and Li Tai Po’s
violin with just one string
I wait for you
But don’t ever come
what I want in truth
is to wait for you
On Cat’s Feet
The wind has scorched my fur
the cold wind, the leveler
On cat’s feet I glide through the dark.
Carefully, with a wild beast’s caution,
I approach your heart,
your scent and the night my compass.
As if you don’t know that I exist you expose yourself
to helplessness and fright.
After all you are weaker
than a ball of yarn
and you haven’t learned to run away.
Only the rain silvering your arms
hovers between us.
You can’t see me, my path hidden beneath trees
The night, prodigal with dreams, plays again
its dirty trick on me.
Fiercely I drink your nakedness until my lips
dry out or forget.
God grant that an arrow pierce your heart
to remake you as I see you, to revive you.
Not for its apparition do I blame the night
but for its ghosts.