Mark Weiss: From “The Whole Island,” Six Cuban Poems

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 7:02 AM
Here is a brief selection—six poets a poem each—from my bilingual anthology The Whole Island: Six Decades of Cuban Poetry (University of California Press, 2009). It’s of course far too brief to be representative, and, unlike the anthology, for reasons of space these are all short poems.

I have deliberately chosen poets who are almost entirely unknown in the anglophone world, to suggest how rich a tradition has been hidden from us.

All of the translations are mine.

Mark Weiss


Luis Rogelio Nogueras (1944-1985)
LOSS OF THE LOVE POEM CALLED “MIST”

For Luis Marré

Yesterday I wrote a magnificent poem
sadly
I lost it somewhere
and now I can’t remember it
but it was great
it said more or less
that I was in love
it said it, of course, in another way–
it was really good–
but she was in love with another guy
and then there was a really beautiful part about
the trees the wind and then
it said something about death it didn’t
say death, of course, it said
dark claw or something like that
then there were some extraordinary lines
and toward the end
it told how I walked
through an empty street
convinced that life would begin again
on some corner
of course it didn’t say it that pretentiously
it was a good poem
sad loss
sad memory

Delfín Prats (1945-)
WIND OUT OF PATMOS


Season of green figs
Season of green figs
Each morning I see farther beyond the wall
that separates me from the Garden of forbidden illusions
and repeat the urgent slogan:
It’s a season of green figs.
I wake up with this conviction
it stays with me through the difficult day
buffeted by stupidity and uselessness
and at the hour of the yearned-for meeting
I share it with you
in places condemned to ruin
strictly separated from God’s affection.
This is the season of green figs
The animals appear to sense it
they keep a cautious distance
they stray from whoever we continue to wait for.
For amorous friendship
it’s also the season of green figs.
I have seen too much to do nothing
The wind out of Patmos moves my beloved papers
hovers above my parents’ house
it’s threatening the places that you and I,
together, are trying to save from chaos and ruin.
I have seen too much to wait calmly
for the revelation to happen.
Civitas Dei, your cry in the wilderness, your sign
in the rainbow displayed as an only token of survival

Soleida Ríos (1950-)
MALEVA AND THE CHILDREN IN PARADISE

To Carolina, Estela and Chiqui

The only paradises not forbidden to man
are those that are lost.

J.L. Borges

In the garden,
further back, Maleva sees
children falling from the trees.

Those innocent children that we once were
diapered in white
fall from the trees.
But they fall to their deaths
so that we may forget.
And they laugh as they fall
because they enjoy in advance
the sorrow to come
the despair that
soon or late
we all succumb to.

The death of these children is not predestined.
They prefigure it in the oddness of their games.
Before, whether an instant or
two hundred centuries ago,
the children invented games
as if nostalgic for earlier children.

(The first, the last that return
to begin the lines
now invent nothing, they shout
mummymeat mummymeat we want
the head on the shield.)
Who pretend to be the last
Who are the first.

The children
whether an instant or two hundred centuries ago
came into the garden with roles assigned.
They fall from the trees.
They fall

Iraida Iturralde (1954-)
THE FACE OF THE NATION


Lost in the flounces of a foreign mother
the tongue becomes twisted.
Pronouncing its name.
Memory is the prop, the mariner
who in his wandering
arrives at our door.

Let the dam hold back
the water from that soil
filled with aphorisms.
Let that insolent icon
rot from within,
its burden of shards
a stink in the night.

Cry out now:
those who wander there
have fallen mute.
Intent on the sea,
they flee.

Ramón Fernández Larrea (1958-)
THE LAND OF ELVES


maybe you’ll never breathe
your hand is on your belly don’t breathe
maybe you’re not dreaming
you may not sleep
with your hand in your groin you’re not asleep
don’t breathe
maybe there’s never been
a golden root or branch or earth for you to wallow in
the land of elves awaits you
the land prepares your coming
you are tiny don’t breathe don’t dream
because the ogres could find you
the land feels wretched without your feet on it

my name is ramón
unfortunately my name is ramón
at my feet is a tiny land
I am a gnome a wingless elf
I’m not breathing there’s no god as small as me
in the land of elves my name is ramón
there are 24 hours in a day
the day is a kind of land
my name is ramón I’m not dreaming
and I don’t invent another land beneath my belly
I’m always wingless
the land will always be far away
like a dream like a belly like the land of elves
damn

Alessandra Molina (1968-)
A CHILDISH ROUND


From albino lashes
no thicker than pollen in light
her personal allergy descends,
in the form of a sudden sneeze.
Allergic, albino, she could be a goddess
if despite her finicky eating
her transparent skin exploded in purple blotches,
and her eyes distended
as if the rush of blood were a sacrifice.

In this place without seasons or ancient goddesses,
here where there are no crimes,
where a fiction is better than crime,
she recounts what a neighbor, a
voice teacher, the newlyweds, the goatherds, the young
novelist, the psychologist tell her.
They repeat a childish round of shrill stories that approach
and exceed the wildest of tales in their trashy
projections of horrors.
They speak of a broken doll, the foot of a girl,
a whole toy store hanging among the branches;
they speak of the copulation of nocturnal beasts.
In this place without seasons or ancient goddesses
or authentic toads.

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