Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sabel

Aquel banco, aquel banco donde la ternura
trenzó una alcándara nacarada
flota ahora silencioso
sobre el cortejo

Are you still there? I need you, Jaime. Perhaps you can’t understand it, as I don’t understand now your irritated eyes, your clenched hands on the table. Why don’t you hold me? I want your warmth in all of me. Perhaps you don’t realize it. As you didn’t notice my eyes glazed with emotion and placid effort the day we made love, sweetly and outrageously, for the first time. Only my eyes were able to thank you for that instant of extreme voluptuousness. 
Come closer, Jaime. I know you cannot hear me, but look at my eyes. I feel such a bleak happiness. Forgive me for my whim of loving you so intensely and for my cowardly escape. Forgive me that life was not loyal enough to me, and that I had believed we were just playing some futile exorcism. Forgive me, please, my lifeless gaze, my inert mouth and this position of my body that incites an endless hustle among the nurses, the crispation of your fingers, Bercia’s tears.
It was the pain. I knew that infinite pain inside would have this face. Do not worry; I no longer feel it. I am happy like that morning that rained so much as we promenaded, that we decided to take shelter under the stagnant water of a fountain. “So we get soaked once and for all.” It was funny to see your beard with tree leaves and straws. Then, you were and elf and I, a nymph. “Let’s see who splashes the most.” That’s what we told the policeman who stopped us; and then let us go when he noticed your South American accent. 
Or when I told you one night about that film that impressed me so much, with monstrous worms crossed the desert, in a quest for water. My fingers roamed the dunes of your hair, in search of the life-giving substance. Five worms desperately chasing the sweet water of your mouth. By a happy transfer, the worms’ mouths were always my mouth; and, the sought after water, the breath on your lips, the exciting and pinkish moisture of your tongue. 
Always our disheveled bed exuded our sap; actually, the entire house, because there were no corner that didn’t hear the Babel-ish mix of obscene words and longing gasps that you called “our own Old High German.” 
I would say no more, Jaime. But you, didn’t you ever think about the cold? It was something that was there. On the other side of our caresses, next to that phrase so yours that hardened my flesh “you are my woman.” Each shared orgasm was the presage of an irreducible solitude. We didn’t realize it either the day I woke up crying. I had a dream; I didn’t know what it was. I was transfixed by an immense sadness. You tried to console me. You spoke of excursions, of intimate places your discovered where we could make love. You were smiling, but we were alone, Jaime. I didn’t want to believe it and, to conjure the premonition, I asked you for chocolate. Remember?

We laughed and continued, blind and happy, towards the inevitable. Later came the lacerating pains of childbirth. I know my screams horrified you. The aseptic and dead smell and the hallway lights, like an endless gallery, terrified me. There is no longer any smell nor lights. There are no galleries, and I am afraid. Are you there, Jaime? I am very scared and cold. I am cold…

Sunday, April 06, 2014

La Habana

By Isabel Manuela Estrada Portales

La Habana. The noble Havana of ancient columns with rare and different designs, which now display a unique gray, the gray of culpable neglect and oblivion. The place where walls flourish while cracking and crumbling. City of laughter and tears, missed by many who are far and while many who are in it wish they could miss it so. What does  the traveler see when she walks the streets she doesn’t recognize or remember? Of what does he who recently left them reminisce?
Photo by René Timmermans. Paseo del Prado in Havana, Cuba.
The promenade of yesterday, the Prado of the dreamers, remains the privileged place for those who walk at night, saddened by "the nostalgia of the day to come," married to a beauty of which only vestiges survive. Every Saturday we walk in the footsteps of the previous one, and friends tell each other the same story, promise the same fidelity, and wipe the same tears from each other’s eyes. The quiet question strikes the temples, while clenching the jaw so not to pronounce it: where will we be in a few years?

Possessions are few: a few years in college, twenty five years of growing old without experience, some readings that return to us, embellished, a landscape that we have never contemplated, a childish craving for adventure. It is strange to remain tied to a story that has not been ours, feel the loss of a city that we only actually met through old albums and literary descriptions, but we love this plaza because it was Lezama’s and Martí’s, Cabrera Infante’s and Villaverde’s, the plaza of those who were here yesterday and yesteryears, and, somehow, that makes it ours.

Others, also young, sitting in any corner of what yesterday was an enviable construction, let themselves be killed by time, bored out of habit, getting drunk to not cry ... or to not wait. Often life is difficult, but they do not quit. They lay their backs against braced columns and invent a compliment to any woman who waddles in front of their noses, while the wife waits. The rest is dominoes, music and illegal gambling.

The elders get up every day at dawn, with the wrinkles more pronounced and the garments more tattered; they get in long lines at newsstands to buy newspapers to be resold, and, at lunchtime, queue up in dark taverns. Still there, clinging to a life that has been ungrateful to them; they idealize the past and have faith: there will be worse times!

Nothing is too terrible that they cannot find an apparent solution and although we wonder why a thousand times, people laugh. Cubans laugh suffering and suffer laughing; when the reality is very overwhelming, Cubans escape and laugh; when the problem is insoluble, Cuban elude it and laugh; when the radical solution is impossible, Cubans forget it and laugh.

Adult women are crossed by the immediacy and age in their own eyes in front of the mirror; their moods sour; marriages fall into frequent crises; children become more independent and challenging; and there are no more onions, and sugar won’t last till the end of the month; and husbands’ meetings suspiciously multiply; and the nail polish is so darn expensive.

The girls, on the other hand, do not seem willing to inherit from their mothers anything other than beauty; they put on their makeup and comb their hair; some search for a future in less desirable ways; many are alarmed because they do not foresee any promised land; do not think about giving birth; do not stop dreaming; they are perhaps irresponsible, perhaps superficial, but mostly indifferent.

Kids ask, wish, scamper in the rain and remain the greatest force of subversion. Perplexed by the new technologies, they yearn for computers and electronic games and lose their innocence when they discover that money is a fairy godmother.

Tourists look around without seeing anything. They cannot understand the secret spell of that magical city that contains mysterious challenges for each of its inhabitants. The streets contemplate, await and remain majestic. Ah, my city! Sure it's not true that every man is born with a map of La Habana in the head, but that's because we are not perfect. Always from afar, we send to La Habana the poet’s message: “tell her that I miss her when the cold is bitter, when nothing is mine, when the world is sordid and strange.”

Miami, March 1998.

Read this post in Spanish: La Habana
Lea esta crónica en español: La Habana