Reinaldo Arenas: “There’s just one place to live – the impossible.” / “Sólo hay un lugar para vivir – el imposible.”


Reinaldo Arenas (Gay Cuban novelist and poet, 1943-1990)




A bad poet in love with the moon,

he counted terror as his only fortune :

and it was enough because, being no saint,

he knew that life is risk or abstinence,

that every great ambition is great insanity

and the most sordid horror has its charm.

He lived for life’s sake, which means seeing death

as a daily occurrence on which we wager

a splendid body or our entire lot.

He knew the best things are those we abandon

— precisely because we are leaving.

The everyday becomes hateful,

there s just one place to live – the impossible.

He knew imprisonment offenses

typical of human baseness ;

but was always escorted by a certain stoicism

that helped him walk the tightrope

or enjoy the morning’s glory,

and when he tottered, a window would appear

for him to jump toward infinity.

He wanted no ceremony, speech, mourning or cry,

no sandy mound where his skeleton be laid to rest

(not even after death did he wish to live in peace).

He ordered that his ashes be scattered at sea

where they would be in constant flow.

He hasn’t lost the habit of dreaming :

he hopes some adolescent will plunge into his waters.


(New York, 1989)




Reinaldo Arenas (Escritor y poeta gay cubano, 1943-1990)




Mal poeta enamorado de la luna,

no tuvo más fortuna que el espanto;

y fue suficiente pues como no era un santo

sabía que la vida es riesgo o abstinencia,

que toda gran ambición es gran demencia

y que el más sórdido horror tiene su encanto.

Vivió para vivir que es ver la muerte

como algo cotidiano a la que apostamos

un cuerpo espléndido o toda nuestra suerte.

Supo que lo mejor es aquello que dejamos

– precisamente porque nos marchamos – .

Todo lo cotidiano resulta aborrecible,

sólo hay un lugar para vivir, el imposible.

Conoció la prisión, el ostracismo,

el exilio, las múltiples ofensas

típicas de la vileza humana;

pero siempre lo escoltó cierto estoicismo

que le ayudó a caminar por cuerdas tensas

o a disfrutar del esplendor de la mañana.

Y cuando ya se bamboleaba surgía una ventana

por la cual se lanzaba al infinito.

No quiso ceremonia, discurso, duelo o grito,

ni un tumulo de arena donde reposase el esqueleto

(ni después de muerto quiso vivir quieto).

Ordenó que sus cenizas fueran lanzadas al mar

donde habrán de fluir constantemente.

No ha perdido la costumbre de soñar:

espera que en sus aguas se zambulla algún adolescente.


(Nueva York, 1989)



Reinaldo Arenas came into conflict with Fidel Castro’s government because of his openly-Gay lifestyle and because he managed to get several novels published abroad without official consent. He was jailed in 1973 for “ideological deviation”;  he escaped and tried to flee Cuba on an inner-tube floating in the Caribbean Sea.  The attempt failed and he was jailed again, this time at El Morro – the roughest prison in Cuba.  He wrote letters for the loved ones of murderers and thereby gained some respect.  Upon his release in 1976 the government forced him to renounce his work.  In 1980 he came to the USA – one of many Cubans in the Mariel Boatlift.  He settled in New York City where he mentored other exiled writers – but he was never happy, and he was Cuban till the end.  Diagnosed with AIDS in 1987 he committed suicide in 1990, penning these words in a last letter (written for publication):

“Due to my delicate state of health and to the terrible depression it causes me not to be able to continue writing and struggling for the freedom of Cuba, I am ending my life. . . I want to encourage Cuban people out of the country as well as on the Island to continue fighting for freedom. . . Cuba will be free – I already am.”