John Ashbery: “Paradojas y Oxímorones”: un poema del inglés

Sunflower and Bee_July 25th 2016_Toronto

John Ashbery (born 1927, Rochester, New York, U.S.A.)

Paradoxes and Oxymorons


This poem is concerned with language on a very plain level.

Look at it talking to you. You look out a window

Or pretend to fidget. You have it but you don’t have it.

You miss it, it misses you. You miss each other.


The poem is sad because it wants to be yours, and cannot.

What’s a plain level? It is that and other things,

Bringing a system of them into play. Play?

Well, actually, yes, but I consider play to be


A deeper outside thing, a dreamed role-pattern,

As in the division of grace these long August days

Without proof. Open-ended. And before you know

It gets lost in the steam and chatter of typewriters.


It has been played once more. I think you exist only

To tease me into doing it, on your level, and then you aren’t there

Or have adopted a different attitude. And the poem

Has set me softly down beside you. The poem is you.




. . .

John Ashbery (nace 1927, Rochester, Nueva York, EE.UU.)

Paradojas y Oxímorones


Este poema trata del lenguaje – sobre un nivel muy puro.

Mira como este poema está platicando contigo.

Contemplas, desde una ventana,

O finges andar como pepita en comal.

Lo posees pues no lo tienes; lo faltas y ello te extraña;

Ustedes se extrañan – uno al otro.


Este poema está melancólico porque desea ser tuyo pero no puede.

¿Qué es, un nivel puro? Es eso – y otras cosas –

Poniendo en práctica – entrando en juego – un sistema de todo.

¿Entrando en juego? En hecho, sí.

Pero considero que el juego existir como


Una cosa más profunda y externa, como un patrón soñado de papeles,

Como hay en la división de la Gracia

Durante los días de la canícula en agosto

– sin prueba. Con final abierto. Y, antes de darte cuenta,

Ello se pierde en el vapor y en la cháchara de las máquinas de escribir.


Ha estado tocado, una vez más. Creo que vivas para

Provocarme hacerlo, en tu nivel; pues no estás allí

O has asumido una actitud distinta. Y el poema

Ha dejarme – tiernamente – al lado de ti.

El poema

Es tú.

. . . . .

Elizabeth Bishop: “Un Arte” / “One Art”

Elizabeth Bishop_the poet as painter_Interior with Extension Cord_Watercolour gouache ink

Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979, Massachusetts, U.S.A.)

One Art


The art of losing isn’t hard to master;

so many things seem filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster.


Lose something every day. Accept the fluster

of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.


Then practise losing farther, losing faster:

places, and names, and where it was you meant

to travel. None of these will bring disaster.


I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or

next-to-last, of three loved houses went.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.


I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,

some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.

I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.


––Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident

the art of losing’s not too hard to master

though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.




. . .

Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979, Massachusetts, EE.UU.)

Un Arte


El arte de la pérdida no es algo complejo para dominar;

tantas cosas parecen metidas con la intención

estar perdidas que su pérdida no es un desastre.


Pierde algo cada día – acepta el revuelo de

llaves de puerta, perdidas, y una hora torpemente gastada.

El arte de la pérdida no es difícil a dirigir.


Pues entrena perder más allá – y rápidamente:

lugares y nombres, y donde estaba habías querido viajar.

Ningunos de estos jalarán el desastre.


Perdí el reloj de mi madre. Y mira como fue

mi última, o penúltima, de tres casas bien amadas.

El talento de soltando amarras es posible perfeccionar.


Dejé correr dos ciudades – algunas encantadores.

Y, aun más vasto, unos reinos que poseía – dos ríos, y un continente.

Les extraño, pero no fue un desastre.


Aun mi pérdida de ti – con tu voz chistosa o un gesto que me encanta –

no habré mentido. Es obvio que

el arte de la pérdida no es algo duro para aprender,

aunque se parezca como (¡Escríbelo!)

el desastre.




. . . . .

Anne Carson: un poema traducido del inglés: “El Listado de Dios – sobre Líquidos”

Photograph © Kent Lorentzen_Wild rosehip on the Mississippi riverbank

Anne Carson (born 1950, Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

God’s List of Liquids


It was a November night of wind.

Leaves tore past the window.

God had the book of life open at PLEASURE


and was holding the pages down with one hand

because of the wind from the door.

For I made their flesh as a sieve


wrote God at the top of the page

and then listed in order:











. . .

Anne Carson (nace 1950, Toronto, Ontario, Canadá)

El Listado de Dios – sobre Líquidos


Fue una noche de noviembre, una noche de viento.

Las hojas corrían por la ventana.

Dios estuvo agarrado el Libro de la Vida

abierto a: EL PLACER –


y estuvo manteniendo apretado las páginas con una mano

(a causa del viento de la puerta).

Porque Yo hice la carne de ellos como un tamiz,


Dios escribió en lo alto de la página,

pues enumeró en orden:

los tragos,

la sangre,

la gratitud,

la memoria,

el semen,

el canto,

las lágrimas,

el tiempo.




. . . . .

Linda Pastan: “La Ética” / “Ethics”

Unos libros míos...Hacia el estudio de la Ética_Some books of mine...Toward a study of Ethics_julio de 2016
Linda Pastan (nace 1932, Nueva York, EE.UU.)
La Ética
Hace años, tantos años, cada otoño en la clase de la ética,
nuestra maestra nos preguntaba:
Si fuera un incendio en un museo,
¿cuál salvarías, una pintura de Rembrandt
o una anciana que – de cualquier modo –
no tuviera quedados muchos años?
Nosotros, preocupándonos poco por retratos o la vejez,
y inquietos sobre nuestras sillas duras,
optábamos por la vida, un año, y por el arte, el próximo
– cada vez con poco entusiasmo.
A veces la mujer tomaba prestada la cara de mi abuela,
saliendo de su cocina habitual para vagabundear en
un museo vago y con corrientes de aire.
Un año, sintiéndome lista, respondí:
¿Por qué no dejamos decidir a la mujer ella misma?
Pues la maestra informó: Linda evita la carga de responsabilidad.
Este otoño, en un museo real,
estoy parado ante una Rembrandt real,
y yo soy, yo misma, casi una anciana.
Los colores dentro de este marco son más oscuros que el otoño,
aun más que el invierno; son los marrones – castaños – de la tierra,
aunque los elementos más radiantes de la tierra
están ardiendo por el lienzo.
Ahora entiendo que la mujer, la pintura, la estación
– son casi una unidad.
Y están todas por encima de un salvamento por unos niños.
. . .
Linda Pastan (born 1932, New York, U.S.A.)
In ethics class so many years ago
our teacher asked this question every fall:
if there were a fire in a museum
which would you save, a Rembrandt painting
or an old woman who hadn’t many
years left anyhow? Restless on hard chairs,
caring little for pictures or old age,
we’d opt one year for life, the next for art
– and always half-heartedly. Sometimes
the woman borrowed my grandmother’s face,
leaving her usual kitchen to wander
some drafty, half-imagined museum.
One year, feeling clever, I replied:
why not let the woman decide herself?
Linda, the teacher would report, eschews
the burdens of responsibility.
This fall in a real museum I stand
before a real Rembrandt, old woman,
or nearly so, myself. The colours
within this frame are darker than autumn,
darker even than winter – the browns of earth,
though earth’s most radiant elements burn
through the canvas. I know now that woman
and painting and season are almost one,
and all beyond saving by children.
. . . . .

Tom Wayman: “¿Me perdí algo?” / “Did I miss anything?”

Unos libros míos...julio de 2016_Some books of mine...July 2016

Tom Wayman (born 1945, Hawkesbury, Ontario, Canada)

Did I miss anything? (1994)


[ Question frequently asked by students after missing a class ]


Nothing. When we realized you weren’t here

we sat with our hands folded on our desks

in silence, for the full two hours.


Everything. I gave an exam worth

40 percent of the grade for this term

and assigned some reading due today

on which I’m about to hand out a quiz

worth 50 percent.


Nothing. None of the content of this course

has value or meaning.
Take as many days off as you like:
any activities we undertake as a class
I assure you will not matter either to you or me
and are without purpose.


Everything. A few minutes after we began last time

a shaft of light descended and an angel

or other heavenly being appeared

and revealed to us what each woman or man must do

to attain divine wisdom in this life and the hereafter.

This is the last time the class will meet

before we disperse to bring this good news to all people on earth.


Nothing. When you are not present

how could something significant occur?


Everything. Contained in this classroom

is a microcosm of human existence

assembled for you to query and examine and ponder.

This is not the only place such an opportunity has been gathered


but it was one place,


and you weren’t here.

. . .

Tom Wayman (nace 1945, Hawkesbury, Ontario, Canadá)

¿Me perdí algo? (1994)


[ Una pregunta común de los estudiantes – después de saltarse una clase ]


Nada. Cuando nos dimos cuenta no estuviste presente

nos sentamos al pupitre, en silencio, con las manos unidas,

por las dos horas completas.


Todo. Distribuí un examen que vale

40 por ciento de la nota de este trimestre,

y asigné unas lecturas – vencen hoy –

y estoy a punto de repartir una prueba sobre ellas

que vale 50 por ciento.


Nada. Ninguno del contenido de esta materia

tiene valor o significado.

Sáltate tantos días como quieras:

cualquier actividad emprendemos como un grupo

no importará a ti o mí, de una u otra manera;

te garantizo que no tiene propósito nuestra actividad.


Todo. Algunos minutos después de comenzar la vez anterior

descendió un rayo y apareció un ángel

o un otro ser celestial,

y él nos reveló

lo que debe hacer cada mujer y hombre

para alcanzar la sabiduría divina durante esta vida y el más allá.

Esta es la última vez que se reúne la clase

antes de dispersarse para llevar las buenas noticias

a toda la gente en este mundo.


Nada. Cuando no estás presente, ¿cómo puede ocurrir algo significativo?


Todo. Porque…contenido dentro de esta aula hay

unos microcosmos de la existencia humana,

y están ensamblados para que tú los interrogues, investigues y reflexiones.

Aquí no es el solo lugar

donde ese tipo de posibilidad está reunido,


pero fue un lugar,


y no estuviste aquí.

. . . . .

Denise Levertov: “Llevado en mente” / “In Mind”

Denise Levertov (U.K./USA, 1923-1999)

In Mind (1964)


There’s in my mind a woman

of innocence, unadorned but


fair-featured, and smelling of

apples or grass. She wears


a utopian smock or shift, her hair

is light brown and smooth, and she


is kind and very clean without

ostentation ––

but she has

no imagination.


And there’s a

turbulent moon-ridden girl


or old woman, or both,

dressed in opals and rags, feathers


and torn taffeta,

who knows strange songs ––

but she is not kind.

. . .

Denise Levertov (Reina Unido / EE.UU., 1923-1999)

Llevado en mente (1964)


Hay en la mente una mujer…

alguien de ingenuidad, sin adornos,

de rasgos claros, y que huele de

manzana o hierba. Lleva


un atuendo o guardapolvo utópico;

su cabello es de castaño claro, y

es atenta – cálida – y sana,

sin ser chillona ––


pero no posee imaginación.


Pues hay una muchacha

o una anciana – o las dos –

turbulenta, montada por la luna,

vestida de harapos, tafetán rasgado, plumas

y ópalos –

alguien que conoce unas canciones raras ––


pero ella no es atenta – no es cálida.

. . . . .

Women poets of Cuba: a selection of poems translated by Margaret Randall


Amelia Peláez_Cuban painter (1896-1968)_Fishes (1958)

Amelia Peláez_Cuban painter (1896-1968)_Fishes (1958)


Here we feature a selection of poems from the volume

Breaking The Silences: an Anthology of 20th-century Poetry by Cuban Women.

[ The original edition contained biographical introductions and quotations from each poet, with editing by / translations from the Spanish by, Margaret Randall. It was published in 1982 by Pulp Press Book Publishers, Vancouver, B.C., Canada. ]

. . .

Dulce María Loynaz (born 1902)

The Traveller


I am like the traveller

who arrives at a port where no one waits for her:

I am the shy traveller who moves

among strange embraces and smiles

which are not for her…

Like the lonely traveller

who raises the collar of her coat

on the great cold wharf…

. . .



Someone squeezed the juice

of a black fruit from my soul:

It left me bitter and somber

as mist and reeds.

No one touch my bread,

no one drink my water…

Everyone, leave me alone.

I sense something dark and wide

and desolate come over me

like night above the plains…

. . .

Mirta Aguirre (1912-1980)

All may come


All may come by the roads

we least suspect.

All may come from within, wordless,

or from without, burning

and breaking itself in us, unexpectedly,

or grow, as certain joys grow,

with no one listening.

And everything may open one day in our hands

with wistful surprise

or with bitter surprise, unarmed, undressed,

with the sadness of he who suddenly

comes face to face with a mirror and doesn’t see himself

and looks at his eyes and fingers

and uselessly searches for his laughter.

And that’s the way it is. All may come

in the most incredibly desired way,

so strangely far

and coming, not come

nor leave when left behind and lost.

And, for that encounter, one must gather poppies,

a sweet bit of skin, peaches or child,

clean for the greeting.

. . .



I know, friend,

it is all within me as in

a sonorously mute coffer.

All sleeps within me,

tremulously quiet,

and in active rest,

in a brief palpitation of palpitating entrails,

in such sweet presence as to be barely presence at all…

I know, friend,

my friend, blinder than dead serpents,

my friend, softer than overripe fruit:

It is all within me.


It is all within me silent, subterranean, fused

in pale stratas of light and silence,

nourishing my life,

growing my life…


There are sorrows that wear red in the streets.

There is a pride that screams.

There are joys in colourful dress

and songs that rent the sun.

There are many things, my friend, many things

– my friend, softer than overripe fruit –

at the surface of its skin.

And in me all is



so silent I can even forget it,

as dimmed as a child dying.

All as in a mutely sonorous coffer

trembling in stillness…

. . .

Digdora Alonso (born 1921)

Two Poems for my Granddaughter




You’ll soon know your name is Vanessa

and then

that Vanessa is the name

of a brilliant butterfly.

Then you’ll learn other words


atomic bomb



and we’ll have to tell you

what those words mean as well.




Vanessa asked me what a beggar is

and absentmindedly, thumbing the pages of a book,

I say:

“someone who asks for alms.”|

Then she asks again,

more insistently,

“what is asking for alms?”


I put down my book and look at her

I look at her long

I look at her through my tears

I kiss her and kiss her again

and she doesn’t understand why.


My granddaughter doesn’t know what a beggar is,

my granddaughter doesn’t understand asking for alms.

I want to run through the streets

congratulating everyone I see.

I want to go out into the streets

knocking at all the doors

and kissing everyone.

I want to go out into the streets.

. . .

Fina García Marruz (born 1923)

I too am now among the others


I too am now among the others

who looked at us, and with their air

of such infinite sadness, said “Go on, play”

so as to be alone. And in the lovely dusk

of those park benches, late afternoon,

what did they talk about, please tell,

and who were they?

Grownups, gods, we squirmed.

They seemed so alike, their slow

gaze, their far-off look, like a group

of trees holding an autumn day together.


I too am now among the others,

those we taunted from time to time

standing there like dumbells, so tired.

We, the little ones, we who had nothing

watched them unseeing, stunned

by the way they always agreed among themselves.


And now

that I have come slowly to their benches

forever one of them,

I too am now among the others,

the adults, the melancholy ones,

how strange, is it not?

. . .

This page too


The final wind will tear this page out too,

water will wet its letters til they become

impenetrable as stone, and lily-vane.

Their contours will fade like clouds

– those clouds that can no longer tell us why they move so sadly –

why they lost the key, confused the bond.

. . .

How rudely you speak to me


How rudely you speak to me!

Would that I understood

that lonely girl

struggling in a black sea

until exhausted she sinks,

would that I understood

the child devoured without pity

by the marine beast.

And even conciliate

his terrible cry and helplessness

with the untried flower,

in that passionless humility,

the radiance of an infinite blue sky.

. . .

You too


You said you were


not its master.


You too are alone.

. . .

Carilda Oliver Labra (born 1924)

Verses for Ana


I don’t have your way of staring in a mist

nor your hands like flowers on your lap;

all dead butterflies

and purple family sunsets give me pain…


But you, whose sadness is your crutch,

your blondness beneath the apple tree;

you know, nevertheless,

how to console the poor with the word saturday…


Where do you get that picture of sugar?

that warm arrangement of festive simplicity?


Ah, woman sustained by a musical colour,

how carefully they made your hands, half open…!

. . .

Rafaela Chacón Nardi (born 1926)

*Amelia’s Colour


Her delicate way

came from a blue planet

from indigo tinting

shadows or space… Dawn

open to crystal… Her own

way of taking

the first light’s secret

triumphed… And a thousand

formulas of moon and shadow,

of turquoise and of spring.

. . .

*Amelia Palaez, Cuban painter: 1896-1968

. . .



Immobile, transparent,

with neither blood nor pulsing vein

the grey gaze spent

Zoia is laid out

with the gentle gesture of a wounded dove.


Her tormented skull,

the pupil of her eye asleep in screams.

(When all this has passed

she will return to life

in fruits and grasses.)


Naked, immobile, dead,

budding light and shadows,

with her broad smile

surprising life

in triumph over root and hate and death.


Immobile, transparent,

with the gentle gesture of a wounded woman…

forever with us,

in you, Zoia, burning

on eternal snow:

Life salutes us!

. . .

*Zoia was a Soviet guerrillera, tortured and murdered by the Nazis. A Heroine of the Great People’s War.

. . .

Cleva Solís (born 1926)

The Road


You know the lark

will not abandon me

and so you judge my faith

safe in your lap.


I am at peace

because abandonment does not exist.

Only the road exists, only the road.

. . .

The Traveller


What do we know of the road

where a traveller

tries to avoid approaching the beggarwoman:

love’s perdition?


And so the violin suddenly

shakes off its indolence,

its useless ambiguity,

and takes leave in those

lilies, those roses,

veiled by the wind.

. . .

Teresita Fernández (born 1930)

A Fallen Needle


A fallen needle on the pavement,

a rose dried between the pages of a book,

a lofty selfishness…

Who am I? What is my name today?

Loneliness takes my only mirror.

Mole. Mortuary candle. Black snail.

Something like one hundred reduced to zero,

without shadow moving before

or a light within.

Dryness of an antique table.

Everything is too much in this desert.

I think of seeing you again.

Where did the perfume go?

Why does the bird come back

to peck at me?…

. . .

I escape


I escape from the anguish of beating

the unredeemed

and of ruminating infinite bitterness…

Agate, agate to my moan,

sphynx before my cry! Being so much

the same, I emerge

from a different pit.

. . .

Our Mother America

(To Cintio Vitier)


Grave mother of ours

rankled and sleeping.

Too simple,

my water’s game

cannot sustain your weight

nor comprehend the mystery

of your shore.

Now I think

of your love’s

possible eternity.

America Our Mother

I raise my open song

without the décima so ours

without the softly wailing flute

offering balm to your sorrow.

Newborn queen,

when do they leave you alone

on suicide waters

black with sin.

Upon your clean

mother indian breast,

original and eternal

as a shell,

a firefly,

the husk of an unnamed

brief and perfumed jungle,

place my poem.

. . .

Ugly things (a song)


In an old worn out basin

I planted violets for you

and down by the river

with an empty seashell

I found you a firefly.

In a broken bottle

I kept a seashell for you

and, coiled over that rusty fence,

the coral snake flowered

just for you.

Cockroach wing

carried to the ant hill:

that’s how I want them to take me

to the cemetery when I die.

Garbage dump, garbage dump

where nobody wants to look

but if the moon comes out

your tin cans will shine.

If you put a bit of love

into ugly things

you’ll see that sadness

will begin to change colour.

. . .

Georgina Herrera (born 1936)



And so the stork,

that long-leggéd bird of the grand venture,

as of today

stops working.

My reality has left her unemployed.

In the great room

so fabulously and artificially cold,

cornered by the greatest pain

and the greatest joy to come,

I work the miracle.

The Parisian

packs up her long and useless beak,

maternal bag,

her history and both her wings.

Ah, and her old invented journey.

I prefer birthing.

. . .



Watching my enemy’s corpse passing before my door…


My enemy is at peace.

So much so,

that he can’t tell calamity from joy.

Meanwhile…what to do

in my narrow doorway,

back turned on tenderness, seeing

that he doesn’t even bother

to leave by his own account.

They take him.

At the end of this July, as laughter

fades from my mouth,

my enemy is fresh.

I ask:

to what avail

have I longed for this moment

if he can no longer rival me?

My enemy, sightless,

passing before my door, unknowing.

My enemy should be coming in soon

through a wide door,

he’d have the whole silence

of her who pleads a bit.

What a time of shame he’s had

from misunderstanding reduced to insult

to poor revenge consumed.

Better to have been

the two of us here, like this:

braided, the fingers of both hands,

the two of us alive,

working for the good,


. . .

Lourdes Casal (1936-1981)

Conversation at the Bridgeport train station with an old man who speaks Spanish

(for Salvador Ocasio)


Torn coat

dusty shoes

thin white hair

Strange gentleman’s stance

I think: This old man has a Unamuno head.

Trenches rather than furrows

line his olive face.

He speaks haltingly.

Moves his hands slowly.

Sixteen years, he says,

Bridgeport and sixteen years of his life.

Sixteen years without sun

for these colourless trousers

and this bitter weariness

that give his smile a steel hue.

. . .

Now I know


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,


in spite of the illusory possibility

of the telephone

it is thick, and long, and wide.

. . .

I live in Cuba


I live in Cuba.

I’ve always lived in Cuba.

Even when I thought I existed

far from the painful crocodile

I have always lived in Cuba.

Not on the easy island

of violent


and superb palms

but on the other,

the one that raised its head

on Hatuey’s indomitable breath,

that grew

in passages and conspiracies;

that staggers and moves forward

in the building of socialism;

the Cuba whose heroic people lived through the sixties

and did not falter;

who has been

darkly, silently

making history

and remaking herself.

. . .

Magaly Sánchez (born 1940)

End of the First Act: Ovation for Théroigne de Mericourt*


The tricolour badge sings audacity on her hat,

pistol and knife at her waist,

her fingers threatening the enemy,

shouting, bread in her throat,

today as it rains water and

Revolution in Paris.

Théroigne de Mericourt

agitates the violent ladies of Liberty

(kitchen wenches, raging mamas,

a few of the concerned bourgeoisie),

and she captains the march of Justice

to the Royal Palace.

Théroigne de Mericourt advances,

the jubilant one, the actress,

Théroigne de Mericourt

in her best rôle of the season.

. . .

* Ana Josefa de Trevagne. An actress known for her talent and beauty. During the French Revolution she took part in the armed struggle, organizing a battalion of women.

. . .

Nancy Morejón (born 1944)

Woman in a Tobacco Factory


A woman in a tobacco factory wrote

a poem to death.

Between the smoke and the twisted leaves on the racks

she said she saw the world in Cuba.

It was 1999…

In her poem

she touched flowers

weaving a magic carpet

that flew over Revolution Square.

In her poem

this woman touched tomorrow’s days.

In her poem

there were no shadows but powerful lamps.

In her poem, friends,

Miami was not there nor split families,

neither was misery

nor ruin

nor violations of the labour law.

There was no interest in the stock exchange,

no usury.

In her poem there was a militant wisdom, languid intelligence.

Discipline and assemblies were there

in her poem,

blood boiling out of the past,

livers and hearts.

Her poem

was a treatise in people’s economy.

In it were all the desires and all the anxiety

of any revolutionary, her contemporaries.

A woman in a tobacco factory

wrote a poem

to the agony of capitalism.

Yes sir.

But neither her comrades nor her neighbours

guessed the essence of her life.

And they never knew about

the poem.

She had hidden it, surely and delicately,

along with some caña santa and cáñamo leaves

between the pages of a leather-bound volume of

José Martí.

José Martí (1853-1895)_Poet, journalist, Revolutionary philosopher_A Cuban national hero

José Martí (1853-1895)_Poet, journalist, Revolutionary philosopher_A Cuban national hero

Minerva Salado (born 1944)

The News


All arguments break down before the news.

The church remains to offer an ave maría,

its brief tower searching the hollow space of loneliness,

who knows: perhaps a gothic paradise

hidden beneath the monks’ skirts.

It seems that deep among the minor bourgeoisie

there’s always some adverse sentiment;

Marx predicted escapism and flight,

but lovers don’t,

those still anxious and hopeful witnesses.

Now where we move at this implacable spot

a collection of intentions will flower,

another word in your vocabulary,

a song repeated by multiple jugglers,

a new place for a poem in peace

– innocence, the sinuous noun,

language’s useless home.

. . .

Special Report for International Women’s Day


A woman is on fire.

She’s twenty and her body goes up in flames.

Her belly pulsates

her white breasts embraced and upright

her hips dance

her thighs simmer.

Anh Dai’s body

is burning.

But it’s not love.

It’s napalm.

. . .

Excilia Saldaña (born 1946)

Autobiography II


If we have to begin I want to tell you everything;

it’s not worth keeping it secret anymore.

I was born one August 7th, in 1946,

a year and a day after Hiroshima

(remember? our neighbour’s great achievement).

I was born because all attempts at abortion failed.

And because I was stubborn, even in that

my father was a playboy

(that’s what they called them in those days,

when the son of the family was a no-good-bastard).

Well, it wasn’t his fault,

like it wasn’t his fault that he smoked marijuana,

gambled and screwed around.

Imagine the context:

my trembling mother,

the proverbial cavity.

The thing is – as I was saying –

my father was a bit of a playboy…

And I was born.

When they saw me everyone knew what I’d be:

my mother, a doctor;

my grandfather, a druggist (the family name);

my grandmother, a teacher.

The dog barked; maybe she wanted me to be a bitch…

I grew chubby and cross-eyed,

abominably silly,

samaritan by vocation,

sister of charity, guardian angel

to birds, cockroaches and beggars.

And one fine day, when my

“high-yalla” future was all but set,

The Revolution came to power

(yes, I know you know all about

Agrarian Reform and Socialism).


I’m not going to talk about that,

but about my small anonymous life

collecting bullets and buttons,

listening to the arguments of the adults.

I want you to know I didn’t understand a thing,

but Fidel’s hoarse voice sent shivers down my spine.

I want to tell you my father slapped my face

the day I shouted “Homeland or Death!”

(Can you understand what that means

when there’s never been an embrace?)

I want to tell you the blue birds are moulting,

there’s unjustified mourning this tedious dawn.

The gods are so angry,

and there’s so very much lost

– and so much

– and even more.

Photograph of a small Cuban lizard...a "caguayo" of the species "anole"

Photograph of a small Cuban lizard…a “caguayo” of the species “anole”

Albis Torres (born 1947)



The long wooden steps

are ripe with pine needles,

an occasional travelling spider,

and the blue-green of the caguayo lizard,

dreaming himself a sphinx among the boards.


Lord and master of the planks,

passageway and railings;

tenacious; holding his poor kingdom

against poles and stones.


No one knows how long he’s lived,

running on the railings,

and when death descends from all his years,

no one sweeps his rotting corpse away,

opening and drying on the wood.



prints his obstinate figure

in the memory of passageways.

. . .

Coffee Field Dorm

(To Amarilys Rodríguez)


Ancient legends

of the coffee fields

conspire against us.

Some lost mule’s bell

sounds in the night.

Who knows

where he balked,

tired and frightened,

before the mocking

rustle or hiss?


But our laughter is stronger

than all the legends.

It’s us, compañeras,

rousing day among the leaves

and coffee beans,

dripping the night’s last yawn.


The cold, the toil,

the coffee jug from mouth to mouth,

rebuilds us as a single body.


Coffee field dorm,

woman’s good arm

against all that silence kills.

. . .

Mirta Yañez (born 1947)




keep in mind

that posterity is for

future students

– frivolous and curious passersby –

to take advantage

of the living flesh

poor poets have left

in their letters,

in their miserable sheets,

their gaze hanging from a tree.

But keep in mind – as well –

that poets dream

with their posterity

for which they build cathedrals

and poems.

. . .

Springtime in Vietnam


Ho Chi Minh,

winter won’t come to your verandah anymore.


Small citizens,

pale army wounded and fighting

beside the fuse,

the green fields in flames;

they return from battle,

in peace they hold the tide,

the roads,

the birds,

the peasant air.


Ho Chi Minh waits for them,

astonished spring.


You’ve fanned the buds

with a single flash

of your legendary hand.

. . .

Yolanda Ulloa (born 1948)

She went, she said, losing herself


If I write this poetry

it’s not just for my delight

but rather to give a fright

to that sinister treachery.

Violeta Parra


For Violeta was the name

of a flower,

an Andean woman,

her guitar.


Violeta, the name of a bird

that sings in the country’s hills,

that sings in Chillán.


Bass guitar,

and song made of wine,

copihue buried

in so much solitude.


Violeta alone, fighting

tears, sweat, the laughter and shouts

in her search for bread,

for a way to say mountains,

to tell the Mapuche

beware of the beast.


Alone once more and always she moves off

with the mist

of the Bío-Bío in her hair,

tall, perennial, strong as the jungle of the Americas,

as its deep oils.


Children danced a cueca about her,

lending joy to her soul,

her captivity.


Cautín River, Lautaro, Villa Alegre,

her body wounded but free

as an uncaged bird on the plain,

or the wind’s breast

rent as it crosses the peaks.


Because she filled memory

with image, bloom and song,

its limits in absence.


She stayed, beneath her poncho,

free from all:

bandore and bass guitar against her death.


Violeta was also the name of a shiver

of trees that grow,

their birth and death

under the fire of the earthquake at Chillán.

Violeta Parra (1917-1967)_Chilean composer, musician, singer and folklorist

Violeta Parra (1917-1967)_Chilean composer, musician, singer and folklorist

Soleída Ríos (born 1950)

Difficult Hour


The smoke traces its figure over the papers.

The smoke dances magically

around exhaustion and coffee cups.


I’m about to write:

“Uvero, December 6th, 1971.

Raúl, I’m reminded of your name –

daybreak and I are with you…”


But I’m awake.

Time wants to win this set from me.


In War Scenes it says

that after the surprise at Alegría

we came down

by the dog’s tooth,

and that once in a while a plane

circled over the sea.

That the worst thing was the thirst…


If I can’t untangle the knot of days that followed,

up to high ground and all that happened then,

I won’t be able to talk to the children

about The Republic of Cuba,

the great human victory at Girón,

nor the relative peace with which right now

I close my eyes again for an instant,

and open them to go on…

watching the smoke dancing its magic figures on the papers,

on this table, in this hut, by the light of this candle.

. . .

I also sing of myself


I celebrate myself, I sing.

Walt Whitman


I sing of myself because by force of love

I stand,

squeezing this curve of time

between my hands.


The morning stretches out over silence,

and my steps call back the high sounds.


I sing of myself and beyond,

I sing of what I will become

when night is rent by sun

and another music fills my footprints as I go.


I sing of myself

for having come from the breath of a summer

among these palms that will watch over me.

I take my place among the living,

I make infinite my thirst,

striking myself,

I sing.

. . .

Other poets not included in our selection here, but who were also featured in the 1982 book, are:

Milagros González, Lina de Feria, Enid Vián, Reina María Rodríguez, Zaida del Río, Marilyn Bobes, and Chelly Lima.

. . .

From the 1982 book’s foreward:

Margaret Randall has been living and working in Cuba for more than a decade. Her other books include: Women Now; Part of the Solution; Doris Tijerino; Inside the Nicaraguan Revolution; and Carlota: Prose and Poems from Havana. Since early in 1981 she has been in Managua, Nicaragua, where she is now working with the Women’s Association.

. . .

Margaret Randall was born in 1936 in New York City, USA.

She is a writer, photographer, activist and academic.

When she was in her 30s and 40s she lived in México, Cuba, and Nicaragua. In a 1987 interview, upon her return to the States, she said of the years she spent in Cuba, that she was wanting “to understand what a socialist revolution could mean for women, what problems it might solve and which leave unsolved.”

. . . . .

Damaris Calderón: “Ésta será la única mentira…”

Holguín_Cuba_mayo de 2016_Al fondo del Museo La Periquera
Damaris Calderón (nace 1967)
Con el terror del equilibrista
…las aguas del abismo donde me enamoraba de mí mismo (Quevado)
Sobre el espanto del pozo
siempre pensé tocar el agua.
Nunca lavar las manos,
no mancharlas.
Sólo el pozo y mi sed.
Nunca las viejas bocas
ni los baldes usados en balde.
No el agua que titila
su confortable techo
y toda la pasión de sus ahogados.
el ojo contemplativo.
Todo esto lo digo
con el terror del equilibrista.
. . .
Ésta será la única mentira en la que siempre creeremos
a fuerza de admitirla tantas veces.
alguien intentará leer el ojo de un vecino
con el fin de saber si la tristeza
(esa muchacha indócil que va escupiendo amor)
es una amiga sádica de siempre
o un pez muerto nadando en la garganta.
Sería difícil disfrazar la felicidad.
(A ella siempre le quedaría corrido el maquillaje.)
Pero de todos modos tendrás que perdonarme
que no te ladre amor junto al oído.
Podrían despertarse muchos muertos
que están bajo nosotros.
Es una historia triste
jugar a ser perfectos.
. . . . .

Odette Alonso: La ciudad dentro del poema

Mi sombra en la pared bajo el puente_Toronto_junio de 2016

Odette Alonso (nace 1964)

Extraños en la ciudad


Ellos nos vieron con sus ojos de vidrio

algo nos delataba

nos declaraba inmunes

éramos dos extraños en la ciudad neutral

y los sabían.

Qué podían hacer

las ciudades neutrales son un banco de arena indiferente,

una llanura virgen.

Nadie levanta su dedo ante el viajero

nadie acusa al que pasa sin dejar una huella.

Ellos nos vieron

así nos desnudamos en todas las paredes

nos sacamos el alma como una tela blanca

y sonreímos.

Qué suerte los extraños en la ciudad neutral

Qué suerte el horizonte de breve promontorio.

Así debiera ser la libertad

un desandar las calles y luego el cuerpo amado

sin el ojo pendiente ni la señal de alarma.

La paciencia nos trajo

La paciencia que acaba al medio del domingo.

La paciencia son dos que esperan para amarse

otra ciudad neutral donde nadie los sepa

donde ningún vecino y ninguna ventana

donde todos nos miren con sus ojos de vidrio.

. . .

Llanto por la ciudad cuando me alejo


Qué sola te quedaste,

mi madre, con tus huesos (Eliseo Diego)


Qué culpa tiene madre

con tanto orgullo y tanto título en la frente

de que sus hijos huyan para hacerse crecer.

Qué culpa tiene la pobre de los muros

del que se eleva sobre su cadáver

y le vacía el alma.

Oh ciudad

cuánto amor se me cae

qué triste te me vuelves entre tanta montaña.

Qué sola estás.

A qué manos entregaste tu vejez

con qué artificios te cubren el semblante.

Cómo es posible ciudad

cómo es posible

este patriótico olvido en que te dejan.

. . . . .

Habaneras Ellas: poemas de Juana Rosa Pita, Minerva Salado, y Elena Tamargo

Vista de La Habana desde El Cristo_foto © Altervista punto org

Juana Rosa Pita (nace 1939)
Ciudad de mis ojos
Las campanadas tienen duende
y las fuentes son nómadas.
Los árboles extienden su cultura
con la amistad del hombre
y se hacen confidentes, marineros.
Hablo de la ciudad muy bien mirada
por ti: inventada hasta el colmo.
Aquí se da cobijo a los que se aman
y se desacralizan los relojes.
No hay violencia ni incuria:
un caballo dará paso a un cangrejo
aunque no anide mar el horizonte.
Hablo de la ciudad con mirador
hacia todas las otras.
. . .
No es ver la luz lo original:
el que la luz nos vea
resulta imprescindible para amarnos mejor.
La soledad es transitiva:
los cauces de la angustia
confluyen en la fuente donde
Dios bebe al anochecer de nuestras manos juntas.
No hay distancia:
si podemos hacer viajar a un árbol
¿por qué los pensamientos quedarían encallados,
remotos de su destino en otros pensamientos?
No es vivir lo esencial:
el dejarse vivir por lo que vibra
en nuestro breve tiempo
fortifica la plaza para siempre.
. . .
Mi país es un árbol de lluvia,
isla de fuego en flor,
un pequeño Infinito,
cantor de arcanos y alegrías.
Mi país es tu abrazo, tu palabra,
tu fantasía, tu sueño, tu presencia;
señor de la tormenta,
mi país en ti despierto, duermo y vivo.
El puerto de mis manos y mis rosas,
mar abierto de todos mi deseos,
aire de mi silencio,
música callada de mi país,
hombre encino
el corazón meciéndose entre sol y luna,
mi país me espera…
. . .
Minerva Salado (nace 1944)
Poema a perpetuidad
La eternidad es este instante en que cubro tu mano con la mía.
La eternidad es una sábana extendida húmeda tras el amor
y aquel vocerío que nos ensordece
cual buitres sobrevolando una costa y la otra.
La eternidad es tan efímera como el cruce de una estrella desvelada
a través del espejo.
No tiene la infinita dimensión que le dimos
y es sólo un fugaz rayo en medio de las sombras,
una luz que aferramos por un tiempo
y se extinguió después entre los dedos.
La eternidad
no es más que un minuto, tal vez un breve instante,
la frase que pronunciamos sin aliento,
el destello de un beso,
ese espacio en que cabe la palabra siempre
y que me sientas tuya en el círculo concéntrico
que se nombra eternidad y que termina.
. . .
El amor es un templo al que hay que entrar
con miel de las abejas en tus manos
preparado para el acíbar de todos los días
y la música de la naturaleza estallando en las sienes.
El amor es un riesgo por correr
acecha en los buenos momentos
y en los peores
es una herida por rasgarse.
No hay eficiencia en el amor,
ni lluvia pertinaz,
ni buenas tardes cada día;
las matemáticas no existen
y esperan por él todas las viudas
las vírgenes del planeta.
El amor es una cuenta mal sumada
escapa como paloma
se pone el sol y en pleno eclipse
cae la oscuridad sobre el pasado.
El amor es toda inseguridad,
ninguna convicción,
jornadas que transcurren como años
a la espera del otro,
en la llamada de su propio
único corazón;
intacto para ti,
tuyo en la lealtad,
en el susto por el tiempo que pasa.
Hay que empujar la puerta
sin mentiras,
sin miedos.
El amor es siempre un peligro.
El amor es un templo que hay que abrir.
. . .
Elena Tamargo (nace 1957)
Habana Tú
Y hoy está crecido el mar
no es que la marea suba por un hecho natural
es que llora Yemayá. (Juan Formell)
De niña, entre las grietas de la tierra
buscaba en ti mi aurora
a semejanza mía, a semejanza tuya
cuerpo oscuro y esbelto de mi sueño.
Puras ante la espera las imágenes
emisarias de la tarde que caía
pegada a su horizonte.
Tenías en secreto tu espigón de metales
inclinada en tu borde, busco el ancla perdida,
te busco en el regreso, estás llena de pájaros,
vuelve a secar tus manos y cuéntamelo todo.
Era esto el abandono y lo sabías.
Óyeme estos lamentos que me salen ardiendo,
yo sólo te deseo,
la sombra de aquel tiempo en ti misma entrevista
con inútil ternura –
y tú me dabas fuerza
rendida y dócil como el mar sabe serlo.
Aquel concilio que tantos han cantado
sin una urgencia propia como ésta de este instante.
Tampoco fue tu culpa si no les comprendiste la amargura
faltándoles la leche y el abrigo –
te lo dieron todo, vida que no pedías.
. . .
Habanera Yo
Soy otra vez muchacha en el invierno
y nadie me regala una gardenia.
Pero al regreso de mis lunas
ahíjo taciturna del fondo de la calle
casi feliz, aletargada
bajo esta piedra roja.
Retozo como un campo de caña florecido
es la herencia adecuada de una mujer despierta
un sueño desprendido del cuerpo que lo ha usado.
Los lirios de Rosita
mis únicos testigos
esperan la lechuza
en el silencio mío del oeste.
Vuelvo en la medianoche de este invierno
acércate a escuchar mi tambor y mi oboe
acércate con riesgo de hechizarme.
Ciudad, ciudad
no mates mi manía de ser bella
de pasearme desnuda y cepillarme el pelo.
Ciudad con pajaritos y cisternas
el probable lugar donde acabó una historia.
Ay, mi ciudad
mi pasto
mi sitio recurrente
a la hora en que duermen las palomas.
Ciudad que has bendecido mis vigilias
arrástrame hacia el mar
sin farolas ni víctimas
con algas en mi pelo
y en tu pelo sal.
. . .
Fragmentos de La Habana
Pensar, robar, gozar
todo un único espasmo.
Arpegia y pica, Lázaro.
Salta de los tejados cuando nadie te vea
y muestra el interior de la sonata.
Aquella criatura desenfrenó la nada.
Es la maldad tan natural lo que te bambolea.
Veo tu insomnio a su manera
veo el disco girar y a los hombres
veo charcos, tranvías,
veo enormes pedazos de La Habana.
A los negros los veo
resonando a sus pies el toque de los siglos.
Negros espirituales.
Blanco el mantel del primer desayuno
blanco mi abuelo
blancos en el exilio, desconcertados,
borrachos de blancura,
blancos los hospitales,
negro mi cuerpo en el primer amor.
Llegan las mariposas a confirmar que ardí
y me dejan besando su jadeo
la inútil ceremonia
junto al candil oscuro.
. . . . .