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.”

. . . . .

Luis Rogelio Nogueras: “Canta” y “Pérdida del poema de amor llamado Niebla” / “Sing!” and “The loss of a love poem entitled Mist”

Detalle de un mural en hierro y bronce sobre el cuento histórico del pueblo cubano_Plaza Marqueta_Holguín_Cuba_mayo de 2016

Luis Rogelio Nogueras (1944-1985)



Canta, amigo mío, la canción de mañana.

Mira el crepúsculo, escucha el viento

que barre la gran plaza asoleada donde

anoche nos reunimos para oír los más hermosos discursos.

Ven, canta una canción que se escuche en el confín del mundo;

una canción que sea al mismo tiempo

un canto de guerra y un canto de cuna,

un himno y un íntimo, delicado canto de amor.

Amigo mío, ven y canta el instante en que

la mañana más hermosa de la vida calienta las corazones;

canta al mar,

a la Revolución,

al rostro de esa muchacha que hunde los dedos en la tierra de tu alma

– y siembra una semilla.

Canta a la noche y canta a los martillos

que cuando amanece

comienzan a golpear el hierro al rojo vivo

para moldearlo a nuestra imagen y semejanza.

Canta al coraje,

al álgebra,

al amor,

al trabajo,

a la dialéctica.

Firma todas las libretas escolares

y endurece tus manos

hombro con hombro

con el fuego.

Escribe el verso de este tiempo, amigo mío,

para que seas un poco el humo que anuncia en lo distante

las grandes siderurgias,

los grandes complejos industriales,

los grandes incendios.

. . .

Luis Rogelio Nogueras (1944-1985)



Sing, my friend, the song of tomorrow!

Look at the dawn, hear how the wind

sweeps across the grand sunny plaza where

last evening we gathered together to hear the most beautiful speeches.

Come and sing a song that may be heard to the outer limits of this earth;

a song that may be all at once

a song of war, a lullaby,

a hymn and an intimate, a delicate, love song!

My friend, come and sing this moment in which

life’s most beautiful tomorrow warms the heart;

sing to the sea,

and to The Revolution,

and to the face of that girl whose fingers delve into the earth of your soul,

there to plant a seed.

Sing to night, sing to the hammers

that start striking red-hot iron at dawn,

molding it to a resemblance of ourselves.

Sing to courage,

to algebra,

to love,

to work,

to dialectics: the battle of words!

Finish with / sign off from your scholastic notebooks

and, shoulder to shoulder / side by side,

harden your hands to the fire!

Write poetry about this time, my friend,

so that you might be but a curl of vapour announcing, far off,

the big iron foundries,

the great industrial complexes,

the grand conflagrations!

. . .

Pérdida del poema de amor llamado “Niebla

(para Luis Marré)


Ayer he escrito un poema magnífico


lo he perdido no sé dónde

ahora no puedo recordarlo

pero era estupendo

decía más o menos

que estaba enamorado

claro lo decía de otra forma

ya les digo era excelente

pero ella amaba a otro

y entonces venía una parte

realmente bella donde hablaba de

los árboles el viento y luego

más adelante explicaba algo acerca de la muerte

naturalmente no decía muerte decía

oscura garra o algo así

y luego venían unos verso extraordinarios

y hacia el final

contaba cómo me había ido caminando

por una calle desierta

convencido de que la vida comienza de nuevo

en cualquier esquina

por supuesto no decía esa cursilería

era bueno el poema

lástima de pérdida

lástima de memoria.

. . .

The loss of a love poem entitled “Mist

(for Luis Marré)


Yesterday I wrote a magnificent poem;

(pity, I’ve lost it – don’t know where.)

Now I can’t recall it;

but it was superb.

It was saying, more or less,

that I was in love;

it said it, of course, in another way;

I’m telling you now, it was excellent!

But she was in love with another man…

And then came the really beautiful part

all about the trees and the wind –

and further along it explained something about death

(it didn’t say death – naturally – it said the dark talon or something to that effect).

And later came some extraordinary verses,

and approaching the ending

it recounted how I’d walked along the empty street,

convinced that my life could begin anew – on whichever street corner.

It didn’t put it in such a cheesy, affected way (of course);

it was a good poem.

A pity, that loss.

Pitiful memory.

. . . . .

Poetry and The Revolution: Cuban poems from the 1960s

Wilfredo Lam (1902- 1982): Untitled (1957)_pastel on heavy paper and canvas

Wilfredo Lam (1902- 1982): Untitled (1957)_pastel on heavy paper and canvas


We have chosen the poems featured below from the anthology Cuban Poetry: 1959 to 1966.

The anthology was published by The Book Institute, Havana, in 1967.

The book’s prologue (Foreward) and biographical sketches were written by Heberto Padilla and Luis Suardíaz.

Editorial supervision for the book was through Claudia Beck and Sylvia Carranza.

. . .

Excerpt from the Foreward:

This is not an anthology of all contemporary Cuban poetry. It takes in only the period from 1959 to 1966; and only the poems of authors of several generations who have had at least one book published in those years.

We have selected the years beginning with the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, because during this period an extraordinary change has taken place in the life and work of our poets. It is easily discernible that the poetry written in these last seven years sharply breaks away from the poetics which to a large extent dominated our literature. A new universe of expression has dawned, a new truth, a new life.

We have been guided in our selection by the Revolution’s impact on our poets, and by the unique characteristics that make them outstanding in our language. It is an impact that delves into everyday reality, analyzing it and reflecting it in all its dimensions. Whenever possible, we have preferred a criterion of historic evaluation rather than an aesthetic one. Each poet is represented by those poems that we have considered to be more characteristic of his works, of his themes; but we have chosen with special care those that express the problems set forth by History. This does not mean that this selection of poetry is solely social or militant; reading it will prove just the opposite. It is simply the poetic testimonial of men of different ages and different literary backgrounds that carry out their work and are participants in one of the most intense and moving periods of our entire history.

. . .

Cuban Poetry: 1959 to 1966 focused on the verse of poets born between 1894 (Manuel Navarro Luna) and 1944 (Nancy Morejón – one of only two female poets – the other being Belkis Cuza Malé – included in the selection).

. . .

Translations from Spanish into English of the poems which follow were done in 1966 and 1967 by:

Claudia Beck, Rogelio Llopis, Sylvia Carranza, Stasia Stolkowska, and R. Frank Hardy.

. . .

Alcides Iznaga

(born 1914, Cienfuegos, Las Villas)



Time stands still in the school patio

amid fenced-in almond and cedar trees,

under a sky fraught with heavy rain,

between old and stately walls,

burning blindly,

non-committal and innocuous,

immutable, independent,

unattached to the trees,

to the fences and walls,

to the sky and the vertical air,

so free from corrosion

and so intense

that it fills to the brim the patio and the sky.

. . .



I remember you as the river we have lost and kept;

because we are impotent.

Now these birds are chirping.

Now the wind escapes.

Now the doves are flying

and I am sitting by the Hudson.


Some passers-by hurry along

and I ask myself whether their rush will get them anywhere.

I feel downcast,

and you have died so hastily and unexpectedly.


I see people dragging along the leash

lap dogs, mean looking and toy-like,

or listening to their toy-like, jabbering transistor radios,

completely unaware of Riverside’s charms at this time of day,

and I am touched by the way the wind seems to spur them on.


I cast a look on Time

and before losing what I lose

and giving what I give,

I know the reverse.

But we are impotent;

we are not the returning wind;

we are doves,

birds that chirp for a while

and are heard no more.

. . .



I see the afternoon take shape before me silently

but I have withdrawn to my airless room.

The afternoon has not diminished its brightness;

it brings out the green in the trees,

the marble-like whiteness in children’s cheeks,

the contrasting colours of nearby buildings;

but all this will last out an instant,

because the trees, the children and buildings

are one with the tremulous afternoon in my heart.


I pass my finger through its hair,

and touch a flower visibly withering

like the flower which yesterday bloomed everlastingly

and has now become minutes of ashes.

. . .



Very few Sundays did we have for us,

very few nights, too.

Behind the table we would seek refuge in ourselves:

joking, roughhousing,

and the pointless strolls on the Prado.

Why did we then waste away

those times so beautiful and ours?


I was somewhat hesitant toward you,

timorous – as I’ve always been –

instead of letting you seduce me.

Now all of me is in you, within you

– attentive to your every throb, even the least perceptible;

to your eyes that always dream;

to your eyes somewhat sad;

to your eyes so deep.

. . .

Day’s Story (A Variation)

(for Isabel Castellanos)


The day throws off its shell,

it rises and starts on its way

distributing winds, surge of waves, tenderness;

distributing songs and tearing down bastions

belonging to the absurd stage of our history;

slowly, it has to make a stop;

it transpires and smiles

and begins shaking hands with its friends;

and all begins to change,

and the taxi’s fare rejects the back seat

and sits in front with the driver;

and they both talk amiably

as though they were old friends;

on all this the day looks on quite pleased.


Some basilisks,

some executioners,

some businessmen,

some generals

try to block the successful day,

but it just slips away from them

like water through disabled fingers;

and only when its mission is fulfilled

does it make its voluntary exit,

colouring our thoughts with its irrevocable accomplishments.

. . .

Eliseo Diego

(born 1920, Havana)

Only This


Poetry is nothing more

Than conversation in the shadows

Cast by an ancient stove

When all have gone,

And beyond the door

Murmur the impenetrable woods.


A poem is only a few words

One has loved,

And whose order time has changed,

So that now

Only a suggestion,

An inexpressible hope,



Poetry is nothing more

Than happiness, a conversation

In the shadows

After everything else has gone

And there is only silence.

. . .

Jesús Orta Ruiz (Indio Naborí)

(born 1923, Guanabacoa)

Exposure and a Way


The new roof was not to have

Fifteen gutters deflecting rain.

The roof had to be only rain.


The moon did not appear;

Hidden were the stars.


But even so,

That night was a clear night.


We saw that men who differ

Go opposing ways,

And we struck out on ours.

A revolutionary soldier caught on camera by chance as he was struck by the bullet that killed him_Tirso Martinez_Cuba, 1958

A revolutionary soldier caught on camera by chance as he was struck by the bullet that killed him_Tirso Martinez_Cuba, 1958

Roberto Branly

(born 1930, Havana)

Reminiscence: January ’61


The Year of Education has hardly begun

and already we are hustling off to the trenches.


It was like the strategy of golf;

the manoeuvre followed by the tin-horn heroes,

by Wall Street’s golf strategy.


Hardly had we time

to whiff at the gunpowder from our rifles

and already the salt spray from the sea

and the gusts of winds announcing rain

were upon us;

we were like sentinels, with our eyes glued to the night.


We rested our mouths on the butts of our rifles

and bit into them during our sleepless wait;

we had a drawn-out taste of military life,

under the light of the stars,

amid the dew-covered, knee-high grass.

. . .

Antón Arrufat

(born 1935, Santiago de Cuba)

Tempo I


I look at your face

Before our fingers begin the work of love.

Love is a futile crime,

Much like death herself,

Because we always die too late.

I must stagger under

The cruelty of that presence

And that punishment

Beneath the sun.

(Snow never comes to console us in the tropics.)

. . .

Domingo Alfonso

(born 1936, Jovellanos, Matanzas)

People like Me


People like me

daily walk the streets,

drink coffee, breathe,

admire the Sputniks.


People like me

with a nose, with eyes,

with marital troubles,

who take a bus,

and one fine day

sleep underground,

unnoticed by all.

. . .

Crossing the River


The oxen and the horses wade through the waters of the river.

A yellowish, foam-capped streak of water rhythmically laps the river banks.

The horsemen goad the herd, make nervous use of their spurs.

The sweaty beasts are water-drenched.

Blood begins to stain the water.

A little girl is heard crying.

We do not know why.

. . .

Señor Julio Osorio


Señor Julio Osorio remembers every day the good old times

when not a year passed without his travelling to New York.

Those were the times my father was out of work,

and my sister Rita was the victim of old Doctor Beato’s offspring,

while my mother sewed pants on a Singer

for private tailors with a meagre clientele.


Now I work, my sister is about to graduate from High School,

and little do we care whether Señor Osorio

makes his yearly trip to New York or not.

. . .

A Love-Affair at Forty


Carlos never had a wife.

Luisa never had a beau.

Carlos longed to marry.

So did Luisa.

Luisa was thirty-five,

Carlos almost fifty.


Carlos and Luisa were united in wedlock.


Luisa was not in love with Carlos;

but had no use for spinsterhood.

Carlos was not in love with Luisa;

but was in need of a wife.

. . .

Poems of the Ordinary Man


I am the ordinary man;

during certain hours, like millions,

I go up and down elevators,

then I have lunch like everyone,

talk with students

(I carry no cross on my shoulders);

day in and day out I meet up with many people,

people who are bored, people who sing;

next to them my insignificant figure passes;

the soldier suffers, the stenographer stoops.

I sing simply of the things felt by

the ordinary man.

. . .

As Hard as Myself


As hard as myself

is that small man,

my constant companion;

inflexible, strong;

he weighs, he analyzes;

he judges every single thing.


But now and again

he lets me down;

he cuts a flower.

Dausell Valdés Piñeiro_born 1967_Cuban painter: "They are dreams still" (Son los sueños todavía)_acrylic on fabric

Dausell Valdés Piñeiro_born 1967_Cuban painter: “They are dreams still” (Son los sueños todavía)_acrylic on fabric

Luis Suardíaz

(born 1936, Camagüey)

When They Invented God


When they invented God,

Words hadn’t gotten very far;

The alphabet was still unborn.

This was at the beginning.


When they turned out the first books,

They stuffed them with metaphysics

(not even very well thought out)

And the bludgeon of the supernatural


It is a thankless task –

Launching forays against the outworn creeds

Of men long dead –

An ineffectual tactic.

Let’s put the angels in their place,

Consigning celestial vapours to oblivion,

And the fine biblical precepts

To the crucible of class struggle.


We materialists feel sorry for

That host of believers graduated from Oxford,

And stockbrokers who invent a hundred swindles

– and meanwhile go about their rituals,

Pressing their suit with heaven.


When they invented God,

Things were different.

Now we have to put our house in order.

In the beginning there was matter.

It was later on there came

All this mix-up about the heavens and the earth.

. . .



How much love

In a cup of coffee shared.


In hands

Fused in a single melody.


In the dusk

Opening and closing before the eyes of lovers.

. . .

The Seed


They told us,

“This is beauty.”

So that we

Might not see her for ourselves

Or create her for ourselves.


So now it is hard to say,

“This is beauty.”

And we refrain,

Since we would make a fatal mistake.

. . .

Armando Alvarez Bravo

(born 1938, Havana)

Concerning a Snapshot


Quite so, it is myself among them

In the snapshot,

And then it comes back again:

A peculiar mania we have:

The zealous hoarding of Time’s faces.


Still, I do not remember

Exactly, I have forgotten

That day, the light

Of that morning,

What we were talking about,

Who we were,

The wherefore of that picture.


Time has passed – thousands of years.

Days linked to one another in a chain.


Past is the time of facile reference.

And I learn suddenly

How terrible, how simple, how beautiful and important

Were the words, the names,

I got from books, from movies,

from the letters of that friend,


Passing hungry days in an ancient European city,

Invited me

To share his pride of exile.


Thousands of years have passed.

I am no longer this double,

Looking out at me, so alive,

Frozen forever on a landscape

Where some, perhaps, move about

Through comfortable force of habit,

Unconscious of erosion’s transformations.


Something has happened between us,

Making us different, separating us.

Our times are incongruent.

Wilfredo Lam (1902- 1982): La Barrière, or: The Barrier or The Obstacle or The Gate_oil on canvas_painted in 1964

Wilfredo Lam (1902- 1982): La Barrière, or: The Barrier or The Obstacle or The Gate_oil on canvas_painted in 1964

A Bit of Metaphysics


There we find ourselves again,

At home, sitting in the livingroom,

As though none of it had ever happened.

Outside, the over-reaching trees

Dig themselves into the night.

The silence – almost perfect.

Suddenly the rain begins,

As when one of us told the first lie.

. . .

David Fernández

(born 1940, Havana)

A Song of Peace


[ Associated Press: Redwood City, California, November 17th:

Only four days after reading a letter from their son in which he told them that his luck was running out, Mr. and Mrs. Silvio Carnevale received a telegram telling them of his death in Vietnam.

“I feel sick; sickened by what I’ve done and by what has happened to my friends,” said the letter. “I feel as if I were a hundred years old…My luck is running out. Please do whatever you can for me…Dad, I don’t want to die. Please get me out of here.” ]




Perhaps some time or other,

under rosy California orange trees,

stolen by your grandfather from our grandfathers,

you dreamed you might become

President of your nation,

or, perhaps, only an honest citizen.

Possibly the simpler dream only

spurred on your great-grandfather,

and when he fled from distant Italy,

and here founded family, homestead and new hopes

in North America, the new and promised land.




(I am only imagining,

only leafing through your possible history,

making up a future

you will never have,

since the promised land

has appointed you a grave

far away, very far

from your orange groves.)




Also, perhaps,

you never even knew

about this corner of the world,

known as Vietnam

where daily you are dying,

daily you feel how lost

your interrupted childhood,

where you lose all sense of logic,

where you wield a rifle,

(I know why but you do not),

no longer now in play.

Here arraigned against you

are the shadows and the trees,

the wind, the roads, the stones,

the very smoke from your campfire,

and the silence of the mountains,

none of them yours – nor to be.

And the drinking water, heat and rain.

And, of course, the bullets ––

the things you took there turned against you.




Perhaps you never thought

it could happen.

This is not a dream;

this is breaking something in you,

blotting out the orange groves

of your grandfather,

which are so far away.

Perhaps you would like to be there now,

sitting in the shade with your friends,

in the shelter of a song of peace,

because you are already fed up with the whole thing.

You never knew why

they cut off that song of peace in the middle.

Yet here you are, following after

others like yourself,

who came to destroy

the homes, the families, the budding hopes of this people

– this people named Vietnam.

You probably never heard of it

until that dark day when they sent you,

together with your buddies,

without a word to tell you why,

over to this land where now,

undone by the very arms you brought along,

you are dying, dying;

daily, hopelessly, endlessly dying.

. . .

Guillermo Rodríguez Rivera

(born 1943, Santiago de Cuba)

Working Hours


And now that things have settled anew

And can move toward their likely destiny

The grieving image will take another form.


That voice

Will not be heard again.

The presumably right way of doing things then

Will not be mentioned again.


One will pick himself up from that handful of dust,

From that terror of darkened stairways,

From the rains that made him shudder in the afternoon;

And will utter the word made flesh just now.

And will find that it suffices.

. . .



You will use words from stories you have read,

You will talk of seafoam, roses,

All in vain.

For you will understand that

This story is different

And cannot be written that way.

. . .

Víctor Casaus (born 1944, Havana)

We Are



We are.


We are

Above the yellow

Words of the cables

In this shining island

Which was built the day before yesterday.


We are,

Even with our eyes red from the dew,

With the fist and the shortcoming

And the mistake and the man who doesn’t know –

And the man who knows but has made a mistake.


We are underneath the weak

Smiles of the bland and defeated

Butterflies. We are forever in

This small zone we live in.


(To be,

simply to be,

is – in this place and in this latitude –

a by-no-means trifling victory.)

Cover of a "notebook" (cuaderno) of poems by Nancy Morejón_published in 1964

Cover of a “notebook” (cuaderno) of poems by Nancy Morejón_published in 1964

Nancy Morejón (born 1944, Havana)

A Disillusionment for Rubén Darío


“A white peacock passes by.” / “Un pavo real blanco pasa.” : R.D.


If a peacock should pass by me

I would imagine your watching over

its figure, its legs, its noisy tread,

its presumed oppressed walk,

its long neck.


But there is another peacock that doesn’t pass by now.

A very modern peacock that amazes

the straight-haired poet in his suit weatherbeaten by the saltspray of the ocean.


But there is yet another peacock

not yours,

which I destroy in the yard of my imaginary house,

whose neck I wring – almost with sorrow,


whom I believe to be as blue as the bluest heavens.

. . .

Miguel Barnet (born 1940, Havana)



Ché, you know everything,

Each nook and cranny of the Sierra,

Asthma over the cold grass,

The speaker’s rostrum,

Night tides,

And even how

Fruit grows, how oxen are yoked.


I would not give you

Pen in place of pistol,

But it is you who are the poet.

. . .



You and I are separated by

A heap of contradictions

Which come together,

Galvanizing all my being.

Sweat starts from my brow,

Now I am building you.

. . .

Barnet’s poems in the original Spanish:

. . .



Che, tú lo sabes todo,

los recovecos de la Sierra

el asma sobre la yerba fría

la tribuna

el oleaje en la noche

ya hasta de qué se hacen

los frutos y las yuntas.


No es que yo quiera darte

pluma por pistola

pero el poeta eres tú.

. . .



Entre tú y yo

hay un montón de contradicciones

que se juntan

para hacer de mí el sobresaltado

que se humedece la frente

y te edifica.


. . . . .

Fayad Jamís: “At times” and “For this freedom” / “A veces” y “Por esta libertad”

Fayad Jamis: Poema gráfico_1971

Fayad Jamis: Poema gráfico_1971

Fayad Jamís (1930-1988)

A veces


A veces,

en el silencio del pasillo, algo salta,

rompe alguien algún viejo nombre.

La mosca enloquecida cruza zumbando, ardiendo,

lejos de la telaraña luminosa.

Esto es así, tan solo, pero tan lleno de sorpresas.

Caserón de fantasmas sin hijos, en que el polvo

hace nuevas ventanas, nuevos muebles y danzas.

No, tú no lo conoces, tú no me has visto mucho las pupilas

y por eso te llenas de lágrimas.


mi casa no se fuga; está lejos siempre.

Por estas escaleras se sube hasta lo negro.

Uno no se cansa de subirlas y jadeando se duerme

sin saber ni los días, ni la fiebre, ni el ruido inmenso

de la ciudad que hierve al fondo.

A veces,

en el silencio del pasillo, alguien nace de pronto,

alguien que toca en la puerta sin número y que llama.

No, tú no has estado aquí jamás. No, tú no vengas.

Mi palabra es abrir, pero es que casi siempre

ando de viaje.

. . .

Fayad Jamís (1930-1988)

At times


At times,

in the silence of the corridor,

something leaps up,

someone breaks apart an old name.

The ‘loco’ fly, made mad, buzzes by,

far from the gleaming spiderweb.

Being all alone this is how it is – yet so full of surprises.

A big giant house, a house of ghosts and no kids,

where the dust makes novel windows – furniture – dances.

You don’t really know it here, no.

And you haven’t truly seen the pupils of my eyes;

and so you well up with tears.

Listen to me:

my house doesn’t break away, it’s always been distant.

Via these stairs one can climb down into the dark;

one never tires of the stairs; one falls asleep, panting,

not knowing what day it is – or which fever – nor

what that immense noise is of the city,

seething there in the background.

At times,

in the silence of the corridor,

someone is suddenly born,

a someone who knocks on a numberless door,

a someone who’s calling.

You have never been here, no;

you do not take revenge.

My words are an “opening”,

but almost always

I’m off travelling somewhere.

Fayad Jamís_dibujo con tintaFayad Jamís_un dibujo con tinta

Por esta libertad


Por esta libertad de canción bajo la lluvia

habrá que darlo todo.

Por esta libertad de estar estrechamente atados

a la firme y dulce entraña del pueblo

habrá que darlo todo.

Por esta libertad de girasol abierto

en el alba de fábricas encendidas

y escuelas iluminadas,

y de tierra que cruje y niño que despierta,

habrá que darlo todo.


No hay alternativa sino la libertad.

No hay más camino que la libertad.

No hay otra patria que la libertad.

No habrá más poema sin la violenta música de la libertad.


Por esta libertad que es el terror

de los que siempre la violaron

en nombre de fastuosas miserias.

Por esta libertad que es la noche de los opresores

y el alba definitiva de todo el pueblo ya invencible.

Por esta libertad que alumbra las pupilas hundidas,

los pies descalzos,

los techos agujereados,

y los ojos de los niños que

deambulaban en el polvo.


Por esta libertad que es el imperio de la juventud.

Por esta libertad

bella como la vida,

habrá que darlo todo

si fuere necesario;

hasta la sombra

y nunca será suficiente.

. . .

For this freedom


For this freedom of songs in the rain

one must give one’s all.

For this freedom of being intimately bound up with

the strong yet gentle essence of the People

one must give one’s all.

For this freedom of the sunflower a-bloom

in the dawn of factories going full tilt

and schools all lit up;

of the earth a-crackle and the child awakening

one must give one’s all.


There’s no alternative but freedom,

no other road, no other homeland,

no more poems ––

without the violent music of freedom.


For this freedom

that is the terror of those who always violated freedom

in the name of lavish squalor.

For this freedom

that is night for the oppressors

and the definitive dawn for all the now-invincible People.

For this freedom

that lights up caved-in eyes,

barefoot, shoe-less feet,

rooves full of holes,

and the eyes of the children

who were roaming in the dust…


For this freedom

that is the empire of youth.

For this freedom:

beautiful as life!

If necessary one must give one’s all

even our own shadow

and it will never suffice.

. . . . .

Poemas de un desterrado: Raúl García-Huerta

Teléfono público_Public telephones_Holguín_Cuba_mayo de 2016

Raúl García-Huerta (nace 1929)

No puedo…No quiero


No puedo olvidar, no puedo

la tierra donde he nacido,

la brisa que me ha mecido

cuando sentí el primer miedo.

Yo canturreaba muy quedo

canciones que me aprendía

desde el alba al mediodía

de mi abuela y de mi madre

mientras slbaba mi padre

una triste letanía.


Frágiles alas de un ave

provocaban un suspiro

oyéndose un son guajiro

al repicar de la clave.

Una melodía suave,

en el momento oportuno,

la volvía en son montuno,

sin que diestros bailarines

desde los cuatro confines

perdieran compás alguno.


Yo quiero sus huracanes,

picada de su mosquito

y un manjuarí dormidito

con mordidas de caimanes.

Entre hojas de guayacanes,

si me retuerce la pena,

cristales veo en su arena

rajando el mar en su playa

y en el puerto una talaya

con el nombre de Carena.


No quiero volver, no quiero

porque ella no es ya la misma.

No huele igual su marisma

ni moja igual su aguacero.

Volver a verla no espero

como era al despedirme.

Si vuelvo, tendré que irme

herido por su recuerdo

y la nostalgia que muerdo.

¡Mejor…prefiero morirme!

. . .

Raúl García-Huerta (born 1929)

I cannot…& I don’t want to


I cannot forget – I cannot

the land where I was born,

and the breeze that rocked me

when I first felt fear.

From dawn through the day

I’d hum gentle songs I learned

from my grandmother & mother,

and my father

he’d whistle his own sad refrain.


The fragile wings of a bird

invite a sigh, if one is

listening to the music of our countryside*

in its afro-cuban rhythm*.

A pleasant melody

at the opportune moment

becomes the mountain-music sound*

without which even skilled dancers

from the four corners

might lose the beat!


I want Cuba’s hurricanes;

to be bitten by her mosquitoes

and a drowsy needle-nosed gar-fish;

and the caiman alligator!

Apply leaves of the guayacan tree

if I’m twisting in pain!

Crystals I see in her sands,

when I’m slicing through the sea by her beaches;

and in the port there’s a watchtower

with the name Carena.


I don’t want to return – don’t want to

because she’s not the same Cuba now.

Her marshes won’t smell as they did

and her downpours won’t feel as before.

I hope not to return, not to see her

as when we bid farewell.

If I should go back…yet I’ll

have to go away wounded by her memory

and a longing which gnaws at me.

Better that I––

I prefer to––


. . .

son guajiro = the music of our [Cuban] countryside*

la clave = afro-cuban rhythm*

son montuno = the [Cuban] mountain-music sound*

. . .

Un siglo después


¡Qué ganas tengo que cien años vuelen

para esfumar todo recuerdo mío

abandonado a orillas de este río

con su caudal de penas que me duelen!


Donde olvidé que los jacintos huelen

y el cauce supe medir hondo y frío.

En sus riberas amansó mi brío

como los años dominarlo suelen.


Yo necesito generar olvido,

garantizarme con la paz, futuro,

borrar mi rastro por haber vivido.


Este camino ha sido largo y duro.

Para aliviarme el corazón herido

quisiera un siglo de silencio oscuro.

. . .

A century afterwards…


How I feel like a hundred years might fly

before all my recollections could fade

abandoned at the banks of this river

with a wealth of sorrow

that torments me!


Here where the water hyacinths are fragrant

and the riverbed’s depth and coolness I knew the measure of.

On these banks I soothed my spirit,

and with the passing years went on to master it.


I need to generate oblivion

guaranteeing for myself some peace, and a future –

by the erasure of my face (for having been worldly).


This road’s been long and hard.

To ease my wounded heart

would require a century in darkness and silence…

. . . . .

Antonio Acosta: “Mi poesía es la pura esencia de mi vida” / “My poetry is the pure essence of my life”

Crepúsculo en la Playa Esmeralda_Cuba_mayo de 2016

Antonio Acosta (nace 1929)

Mi Poesía


Mi poesía

es la pura esencia de mi vida;

raíz y simiente de mi infancia.

Es el clamor que busca una salida,

la gardenia que cuida su fragancia.


Mi poesía

es puerto donde carenan naves rotas,

es refugio de paz y de añoranza,

donde alzan su vuelo las gaviotas

buscando un nuevo grito de esperanza.


Mi poesía

lleva en cada verso su decoro;

no obedece a colores ni linaje,

no valora al hombre por su oro,

ni por su posición ni por su traje.


Yo quisiera

con mi vocablo endurecer el brazo,

pero jamás encallecer el corazón.

Unir en un binomio, en fuerte lazo,

la justicia humana y la razón.

. . .

Antonio Acosta (born 1929)

My Poetry


My poetry is

the pure essence of my life,

root and seed of my childhood.

It’s the cry that seeks a way out,

a gardenia safeguarding her fragrance.


My poetry is

a port where broken vessels sway,

a refuge of nostalgia and peace

where seagulls rise in flight

to call out with fresh hope.


My poetry

carries in each verse a decorum all its own,

adhering to neither colour nor lineage,

and esteeming a man not for his position,

nor for his garments or gold.


I would wish with my words

to strengthen the arms

but never harden the heart;

and that they join together,

in a solid-bond coupling,

both human justice and reason.

. . .



Soledad, amiga confidente;

¡cómo siento a tu lado

la armonía de todo el universo!

Hablemos de mis sueños, amiga soledad.

––De gaviotas errantes,

de mariposas tristes,

de las huellas del tiempo

en las rocas del valle,

dibujando poemas

por sus cauces de olvido––

––Soledad, mi canto es el grito

que lo grita el alma

pidiéndole al viento su viril demanda;

diciéndole al viento su dolor isleño,

su dolor de sangre,

su canción de alba.

Y mi lágrima tibia en ajenas orillas

se abochorna y se pierde

en las aguas nocturnas

de corrientes ignotas.

. . .



Solitude: friend in whom I confide

––how I feel the harmony of the whole universe

when I’m by your side!

Let’s talk about my dreams,


of itinerant seagulls,

wistful butterflies,

the foot-tracks of time

and the rocks of the valley

portraying poems from the riverbed of oblivion.


my song is the shout that the soul cries,

demanding of the wind a virile claim

and telling the islander’s sorrow,

a blood pain – a song of the soul.

And my lukewarm tears upon foreign shores

are overwhelmed – lose themselves –

in the nocturnal flow of unknown currents.

. . .



Me duelen los recuerdos de este lado,

lejanos de mi entorno y de mi mente;

dolores lacerantes del pasado,

pretéritos recuerdos sin presente.


Y en este interno dilema con mi hado

ya nada me parece tan urgente;

pues el tiempo me tiene así marcado

y no quiero dejar nada pendiente.


Por eso mis vivencias llevan alas

y van dejando amor en las escalas

de la trivial cruzada de la vida.


Y en terapia de arpegio en sinfonía,

la añoranza de Cuba me convida

a volver a mi tierra en poesía.

. . .




from this side,

they hurt me,

far from my surroundings / my mind;

excruciating pain from the past,

past-tense memories without a present.


And in this interior dilemma with my destiny

already there’s nothing that seems to me so pressing;

but Time has me marked, almost,

and I want nothing left unresolved.


So that’s why my experience bears wings

and such lessons leave love hanging on the ladder of

life’s trivial crusade!


And in a therapy of arpeggio & symphony,


–– a longing for Cuba ––

invites me

to return to my country

(if only in poetry.)

. . . . .

Fina García Marruz: “El momento que más amo” / “The moment I most love”

Cartel de la pelicula Luces de la Ciudad_1931

Fina García Marruz (nace 1923)

El momento que más amo

(Escena final de la película “Luces de la ciudad”)


El momento que más amo

es la escena final en que te quedas

sonriendo, sin rencor,

ante la dicha, inalcanzable.


El momento que más amo

es cuando dices a lo joven ciega

“Ya puedes ver?” y ella descubre

en el tacto de tu mano al mendigo,

al caballero, a su benefactor desconocido.


De pronto, es como si te quisieras

ir, pero, al cabo, no te vas,

y ella te pide como perdón

con los ojos, y tú le devuelves


la mirada, aceptándote en tu real

miseria, los dos retirándose y quedándose

a la vez, cristalinamente mirándose

en una breve, interminable, doble piedad,


ese increíble dúo de amor,

esa pena de no amar que tú

– el infeliz – tan delicadamente

sonriendo, consuelas.

. . .

Fina García Marruz (born 1923)

The moment I most love

(Final scene from the film “City Lights”)


The moment I most love

is the final scene in which,

without any hard feelings,

you are left smiling

before a happiness that’s out of reach.


That moment I like best

is when you say to the young blind girl:

“Can you see now?”

And she finds in the touch of your hand

– the hand of the beggar and the gentleman –

her mystery benefactor.


And all of a sudden,

it’s as if you wanted to go,

and then you don’t;

she’s asking your pardon – with her eyes –

and you return the look,


accepting in yourself your very real misery,

the two of you withdrawing from one another

yet staying, all the same,

in a brief, endless commiseration


– that incredible love duo,

that pain of not loving that you

– unhappy you –

give consolation with,

delicately smiling.

. . .

Berta G. Montalvo: “Destierro”, “Dualidad”, y haikús / “Exile”, “Duality”, & haiku

Patio atrás_Museo Provincial La Periquera_Holguín_Cuba_mayo de 2016

Berta G. Montalvo (1919-2004)


(para Ana Rosa)


Es el canto

del destierro

que llora

dentro del alma



Ese destierro

que se ensaña

en lo más profundo

de nuestro ser.


Que es destierro

de ayer, de hoy

y sabe Dios

de cuántas mañanas



Destierro que no consuela,

destierro que aviva


destierro que duele

todos los días.


Destierro que no pierde


pero que sólo


para esta generación anciana –

el día que nuestras cenizas

allá puedan descansar.

. . .

Berta G. Montalvo (1919-2004)


(for Ana Rosa)


It’s exile’s song

that wails within the anguished soul;

and exile is that which

shows no mercy

in the very deepest part of our being;

and what is there but

yesterday’s exile,

today’s exile,

and God knows

how many more tomorrows.


Exile doesn’t console you;

it sharpens memories,

making each day ache.


Yet exile doesn’t lose hope.

But it will only end

for this ancient generation –

the day our ashes

may be laid to rest


. . .



Es allá donde estoy

pero aquí donde vivo.


Allá donde la tierra huele distinto

y es más ardiente.


Allá donde las gardenias

perfumaron mi pelo

pero es aquí

donde vive el recuerdo.


Allá donde todo fue ayer.

Aquí donde todo es hoy.

Y…al despertar…

¿dónde estoy?

¿Allá o aquí?

. . .



It’s there that I am

but here that I live.


There, the land smells different

and is more ardent;.

there, gardenias perfumed my skin;

but here is where I live that memory.


There, everything was yesterday;

here, all is today.

And…each dawn:

where am I? There, or here?

. . .

Cuatro haikús


En el destierro


todos los días.


El espejo

nos canta

verdades amargas.


La vejez

nos humilla

día a día.


Algo nos dice

la noche

y yo no la entiendo.

. . .

Four Haiku


Exile is a place

where it rains





The mirror sings to us

its songs

of truth

bitter truth.


Old age

day to day

in a humdrum way

humiliates us.


Night is telling us something;

but I do not understand her.


. . . . .

Gastón Baquero: “El gato personal del conde Cagliostro”

El gato de Avenida Bain_Toronto_junio de 2016

Gastón Baquero (1914-1997)

El gato personal del conde Cagliostro


Tuve un gato llamado Tamerlán.

Se alimentaba solamente con poemas de Emily Dickinson,

y melodías de Schubert.

Viajaba conmigo: en París

le servían inútilmente, en mantelitos de encaje Richelieu,

chocolatinas elaboradas para él por Madame Sévigné en persona,

pero él todo lo rechazaba,

con el gesto de un emperador romano

tras una noche de orgía.


Porque él sólo quería masticar,

hoja por hoja, verso por verso,

viejas ediciones de los poemas de Emily Dickinson,

y escuchar incesantemente,

melodías de Schubert.


(Conocimos en Munich, en una pensión alemana,

a Katherine Mansfield, y ella,

que era todo lo delicado del mundo,

tocaba suavemente en su violoncelo, para Tamerlán,

melodías de Schubert.)


Tamerlán se alejó del modo más apropriado:

paseábamos por Amsterdam,

por el barrio judío de Amsterdam concretamente,

y al pasar ante la más arcaica sinagoga de la ciudad,

Tamerlán se detuvo, me miró con visible replandor de ternura en sus ojos,

y saltó al interior de aquel oscuro templo.


Desde entonces, todos los años,

envío como presente a la vieja sinagoga de Amsterdam

un manojo de poemas.

De poemas que fueron llorados, en Amherst, un día,

por la melancólica señorita llamada Emily

–– Emily Tamerlán Dickinson.

Emily Dickinson: "Una palabra está muerta"_traducción por Pedro González_de la revista Elegomata

Emily Dickinson: “Una palabra está muerta”_traducción por Pedro González_de la revista Elegomata

Gastón Baquero (1914-1997)

Count Cagliostro’s Cat


I had a cat named Tamerlaine.

And all he ate were poems by Emily Dickinson

and Schubert melodies.

He traveled with me: in Paris

they served him on lace doilies

chocolate confections made for him and him alone

by Madame de Sévigné herself.

To no avail: he waved them off

like a Roman emperor

after a night of orgies.


Page by page, verse by verse,

he wished only to chew on

old editions of Emily Dickinson’s poems

and he listened incessantly

to Schubert melodies.


(In Munich, in a German pension,

we met Katherine Mansfield,

and she,

who held within her all the world’s delicacy,

for Tamerlaine played sweetly on her cello

Schubert melodies.)


Tamerlaine passed away in the most appropriate manner:

we were on our way through Amsterdam,

through the ghetto, to be exact,

and as we passed the front of the oldest synagogue

Tamerlaine stopped,

looked at me with all love’s splendour in his eyes,

and leaped into the interior of that dark temple.


Since then, each year,

I send a bunch of poems as a present to

the old synagogue of Amsterdam.

Poems that were wept one day in Amherst

by Emily, that melancholy lady

–– Emily Tamerlaine Dickinson.

. . .

Translation from the Spanish © 2009 Mark Weiss

. . . . .

Alcides Iznaga: “Situación interior” y “Suspenso” / “Interior state” & “In suspension”

Decorative tiles and wrought iron gate_a museum in Holguín_Cuba

Alcides Iznaga (1914-1994)

Situación interior


Este refugio, mi lugar:
presidido de caos, de batalla y hechizo,
de claro terror y blanda duda.
Hasta las playas de la soledad
llega el chirrido del mundo;
( no deslumbra ese brillo; )
pero estoy herido,
de duro pensamiento, y certeza razón,
de implacable análisis y convencimiento.
En ese círculo desolado donde han ardido tantos,
sin evasión posible, de soledad herido.
Triste pavorosamente, maravillado triste.
El tiempo lento dobla su sombría campana:
martillea mi oído.
Hermético, sin adivinar salida a un agua devorante.

. . .

Alcides Iznaga (1914-1994)

Interior state


This refuge – my place:

presided over by the shambles of battles and incantations,

of obvious terror and feeble hesitation.

All the way to the beaches of solitude

the screeching world arrives;

(its brilliance doesn’t blind you).


Yet I am wounded

from hard thinking, from certainty and reason,

from unrelenting analysis and persuasion.

Inside that desolate circle wherein so much seething,

without any possibility of escape: a wounded solitude.

Terrifyingly – delightedly – sad.


Time, slow, tolls its dismal bell;

pounds away at my eardrums;

inscrutable, without discerning a solution

a “this way out” to the devouring waters…

. . .



Todo en suspenso
en este recinto de silencio,
como torres, como raíces
como mar sereno
o sabana de inmóviles palmas
o arroyo de quieto cielo.


¡Sin memoria ni pensamiento,
el alma, Nada mismo!
¡Solo el Tiempo!

. . .

In suspension


Everything’s put on hold,

here in this enclosure of silence.

Like towers, and roots,

and the calm sea;

or a savannah of motionless palm trees,

or gutter-water reflecting a still sky.


Without memory, without thoughts,

the Soul – and Nothing – are one and the same!

There’s only Time,

Time alone!

. . . . .