Sunday, August 30, 2009

"The Cat" by Nayra Simonó

Nayra Simonó (1988) is a student at the University of Oriente and a graduate of the Centro de Formación Literaria Onelio Jorge Cardoso (Onelio Jorge Cardoso Center of Literary Formation). She has been the recipient of numerous prizes and grants for her work, including first place in the Encuentro Debate Provincial de Talleres Literarios in 2007.


The ceiling and the wall leave a crack. Through there the meows of the cat’s copulation slip at three in the morning. Since it's raining today the water drips through the slit, dampening the house. She is in the bed. There is cold and silence. A silence struck by the rain’s blows on the roof and the street. Me in the chair. The eyes on the painting of the wall that is disintegrating. A trail of color touches the floor and gathers in water puddles like the ghosts of my hands on your back, some weeks ago. The hands fearful at first, insecure, hands of bread you would say, kissing them. Hands of bread that, alone in the night’s coldness, look for a place to draw ghosts.

On the wall a few shadows barely survive. It has rained a lot. We knew at the first shower the watercolor would irrigate through the room. The unimagined was that the separation would anticipate the rain and that the ephemeral painting would be the last remaining, at least the last visible one, of what we had.

The cat jumps from the bed. Soon it will be three o’clock and she can feel it. The large drops are not over. She grows exasperated. She moves her tail, asking me about the rain’s end. The question becomes a plea that blooms from the green crystals in the face: When will it stop raining? Never. I hope it never ends. She cuddles at the chair’s feet. She fixes her eyes on mine and the crystals shine, like two spark plugs about to explode.

I put her aside and look at the wall. There we are. She in the center, you surely thought about my hands, because in the painting you had the astute look of when you want something, I smiled, guessing you wished that I would finish painting. Lucubrations. Dawns in which the moans here inside joined the cat’s on the roof. Now I hate her, because I have stayed to listen to her in this house’s solitude. She approaches again. I envy her meows, the caresses over her stomach. The rain stops and I start to become dry, inarticulate, without strength. I try to stop her from going out, but she manages to sneak through the half-open door.

The bustle on the roof. Me in bed. The bread hands circle my whole body. The moaning grows. I finish agitated like the cats, but alone. I am alone and terrified.

The cat comes in meowing; she climbs into bed and sheds some of her hairs on my breasts, still naked. She mocks my desire, the uncontainable wish to be pampered. Stupid cat, I yell, irritated.

In an attempt to avoid crashing the cat scratches her face against the painting. Outside, the silence, that muteness that devours everything. Here, something has changed, at the edge of a purple puddle that imposes itself between the others, the cat whimpers and drops her tail.

- Translation by Marcela Acosta. Photo by author.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

"The Tray of Cocoa" by Mireya Robles

Born in Guantánamo, Cuba, Mireya Robles has published three novels and two books of poetry as well as articles, short stories and poems in literary magazines in about 20 countries. She has received literary awards in the USA, México, France, Italy and Spain. Interviewed on radio and TV in Miami, New York, Buenos Aires, Madrid and Durban, South Africa as well as in the documentary film Conducta Impropia/Improper Conduct directed by Oscar winner Néstor Almendros. This documentary received the Human Rights Award in Grenoble, France and has been televised in France and Spain and presented in movie theaters in New York, Miami, Puerto Rico, Colombia and Venezuela.


A small, time-weathered café. Weathered by thousands of beer-drinkers that clinked pitchers of fat crystal with a cheerful spark in their eyes, saying, “Salud! I drink to you, because you’re here, alive and well,” without speaking a word. Small tables, tiny ones, square, with red-and-white-checkered tablecloths. All the tables squeezed so close to each other one can barely pass between them. The café petite and perfectly square. Walls of glass look out onto the town that isn’t a town but a beach, or a beach that isn’t for bathing but for fishermen. The sun, the light of the sun, is thick, yellow, dense and enters the café from the beach, ignoring the little densities of mist and leaving in peace the constant humidity. As if it weren’t concerned with heating or drying up, only beating into the café its torrent of heavy, brilliant light.

I come alone, without knowing why, without knowing where I’m coming from or how I got here. Only this moment matters. A moment in which I penetrate the world that talks and laughs. I don’t hear what they say. They’re unintelligible murmurs followed by laughter that seems sincere because it comes from within, as if pushed out by the diaphragm, localized just above the stomach. It’s not laughter produced artificially, with guttural sounds, forced.

I don’t have anyplace to sit. I have no place there, in this cramped, dirty, glittering world of those who laugh. Without finding a place, almost without looking for one, I see myself, in the moment, in the midst of my calm amazement, seated, waiting. I’ll say, because it has to be that way, because it can’t be any other way, that I’m twenty years old. Maybe I was seventeen, maybe sixteen or nineteen. A mature, familiar load of loneliness that I carry with me against my will tells me I’m twenty. I don’t know who, or what, I’m waiting for. I know I do not expect anything from the old, sweaty fishermen, with big cracks on their faces, with gratuitously febrile eyes, with their dirty, blue turtlenecks, with their knit caps, with their spontaneous laughter that responds to nothing. In them I’m not searching for anything. The desire to hear laughter, maybe, keeps me here, though the laughter may be a desultory sound.

Over and over, in front of my table, Ronald passes. He’s tall, sturdy—if he was a truck driver he’d be stocky—his body big and broad, his hair ash-chestnut, somewhat curly, bleached by the sun, in his eyes a brief spark that seems to announce the smile that never manages to appear on his lips. It’s him, he’s who I’m waiting for. He studies Medicine far from here. He’s not the owner of the café or a waiter, but he has for that place, for those people, for that moment, an inexplicable importance. I should say, I have to say, something leads me to believe that if it weren’t for Ronald, that moment wouldn’t exist. And with that moment absent, the café, the beer, and his smile would disappear.

Ronald passes by my side and I feel his presence, but he doesn’t approach. Ronald must know it’s him I’m waiting for. How wouldn’t he know I’m waiting for him, me being seated there by myself, alone among so many elderly men that smell of shellfish? How is it that, with me realizing he couldn’t choose anyone else and that I should wait for him, he could ignore that his predicament is the same as mine? Or maybe it’s not the same. When I leave the café, I’ll go back to my ruined parents, to the filth, to the daily hopes that die before being born, drowned in the absence of possibility.

I’m there, embedded in that chair, for an immeasurable interval of time, for days or minutes, or maybe for a life accumulated in an instant of waiting. It seems an eternity since the last time Ronald passed in front of my table. I have to find out, I have to know. Near me, there’s a stout woman, about fifty years old, her face still young-looking, dressed in all black, with big, shining, blue or greenish eyes. She sobs. She sobs inconsolably, sobs with the despair of someone that knows no one can console them. I speak to her feeling myself close to her, but without moving toward her. I know, without being told, that it’s about Ronald. I know, without being told, that it’s about that mocetón that passed in front of me, who never came to my table and to whom I imagined, so many times, saying my name and hearing his in return.

“It’s Ronald,” she told me. And I knew then it was the same Ronald and that he had been lost. A war, I thought; I kept imagining him dying in a war.
“Another of life’s absurdities,” she continued. “A bullet someone fired for no reason. With his right hand he touched the pain in his left shoulder, in his chest, his hand filled up with blood and he died right there.. I knew that she had to have another son and I asked her about him.
“He’s okay, he’ll be here soon.” I stayed there, waiting for the other without asking his name. I learned Ronald's name after his death. The name of this one was not important. The woman dressed in black disappeared from my vicinity. Because she was a vision or because she couldn’t cry in that café of laughter or because she stopped being important in that instant of my life.

Soon, very soon, the other appeared. Seventeen, eighteen, maybe. Big and powerful, but it never occurred to me to call him stocky. His hair straighter and black, his eyes big and brown, his skin olive-colored with a silky glow. This one seemed to understand, understood immediately, and soon we spotted each other in a living room empty enough where the presence of the other people mattered little. He reclined on the sofa, me at his side, and I wrapped my arms around his waist and lay my head on his chest. That was it. Maybe life wasn’t such a constant, difficult disjointedness, after all. Maybe life could be lived like this, lying on the chest that one must search for, that one has to find, and wait for death. Maybe life isn’t so difficult, maybe it isn’t a constant, painful disjointedness.

I had my eyes closed as if to accommodate myself and wake up at my destiny, but something inexplicable made me open my eyes slowly. I saw you there, in a rocking chair, in front of me, looking at me with resigned amazement and a sadness that, until then, had only been mine. You were calm and wordless, I would say that you were feeling for me a moment of compassion. You had on your face a weariness that you seemed to have literally stolen from me. You were close, with the full immensity of your devotion, but distant and incommunicable. I kept my arms wrapped around that mountain of strong and relaxed muscles and kept saying to myself that like this, with my eyes closed, lying on him, silent, in spite of everything, in spite of your compassion, maybe life wasn’t a painful, constant disjointedness. A sweet, firm movement separated my arms and I saw him, sweet nameless destiny, standing in front of me, ready to go. I didn’t ask for an explanation because it wasn’t necessary. His embrace, his closeness had been momentary. They had nothing to do with my plan to, once and for all, fit myself into life. Nothing to do with my intention to rest that way, hugging him and waiting for death. The hours of the night in which a man embraces a woman ended, the moment of departure, of disappearing without a trace into the night, arrived.

I went back to my place, walking barefoot on damp sand in the falling night. I arrived at my father’s small, ramshackle theater and saw him, with all his strength worn away, always on the verge of collapse, in the poor, overly lit stage, lashing the air as if he were threatening or punishing destiny so it would grant him the production that seemed eternally out of reach. I don’t know if he was waiting for a miracle. He was the owner of that theater, that building, that shell, but he would never have enough money to put on the show. I had grown up hearing his cries and lashes in the air. Without actors, without a script, without a team. His only employee was a flabby, pudgy young girl, her fat, eternally wet lips half-open and showing a few broad, gapped teeth. Wearing a clown dress, white with huge red dots and a straw hat like a schoolgirl, with two ribbons hanging from the back part of the round brim. Eventually, a few people appeared. The idiot collected the ten-cent per-head entrance fee. My father’s fury multiplied. He had managed to get six, ten, twenty people to come see what he had to offer; he had managed to collect a few miserable reales but he had no performance to offer them. Unwilling to admit his failure, he whipped the air and, from the stage, screamed at the girl that collected the reales with a slobbering grin: “Idiot! Idiot! It’s all your fault! Today’s going to be another failure all because of you!” I heard the screams and paid them little attention, knowing the performance would end before it started, when the audience grew bored with the screams and the lashes of the air and commenced to get up and recollect their real from the hands of the smiling idiot. I kept away, heading off to a kiosk and ordering, with an air of triumph, a cup of cocoa. They served me the chocolate in a kind of small, deep carton tray and I didn’t protest. It was already late—nine at night—and to receive service of this type in a town already totally asleep was a privilege. We lived on the second floor, in a blackish, dirty dovecot, dark for lack of electric light, or because my mother simply liked to live that way. She was waiting for me with a recriminatory attitude: “You know that here, in this house, we eat at seven on the dot.” Inexplicably, I felt free of familial ties, independent. It seemed to have been tossed out a nonexistent window, a bag full of blame. Knowing she was watching me, I flashed a cynical smile and, drinking from the chocolate tray, said, “I know.”

- Translated by David Iaconangelo and Mireya Robles. Photo by Tania Spencer.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"Quibbles" by Elena V. Molina (Spanish version)

Editor's Note: As per the author's request, we're including the untranslated version of "Quibbles".



1. (De) (en las) mañana(s), cuando aun esta oscuro, puedo oír por las persianas el ruido del radio(s), despertadores, gallos, claxons (de carros) y gritos. Si me asomo no veo a nadie y todas las ventanas están oscuras. Solo brilla el neón de la calle, y es imposible que todo eso venga de allí. si (a veces) me despierto (en medio de la noche), se que no es (de) mañana por (los ruidos/son otros) (que) (el) –silencio...- (sin embargo miro mi despertador.)

2. en las mañanas, cuando aun esta oscuro, puedo oír por las persianas el ruido de radios, despertadores, gallos, claxons de carro y gritos. Si me asomo no veo a nadie y las ventanas están oscuras. Solo el neón en la calle, y es imposible que todo venga de allí. a veces me despierto en medio de la noche, se que no es de mañana por los ruidos, el silencio. (sin embargo miro mi despertador.)

1. El reloj despertador tiene una pantalla lumínica en donde parpadean las horas, cuando suena. Cuando no esta la hora, el bombillito que indica AM o PM brilla mas, y se nubla cuando viene, brilla otra vez, la hora. Puedo estar tiempo mirando este juego e intentando discernir si se nubla solo o es la luz de la hora la que lo opaca.

2. El reloj tiene una pantalla lumínica, donde suena la hora, cuando parpadea. -Si-, -no-, esta el despertador, el bombillito que indica PM o AM brilla mas, y se nubla cuando viene, otra vez, brilla la hora. Puedo estar tiempo mirando este juego e intentando discernir si se nubla o es la luz de la hora que lo opaca.

1. Hoy llevo (mi) (ropa) tejida (blusa/pulóver) hace fresco. Llevar ropa tejida es (un sentimiento) suave, agradable, huele bien. Me gusta (mi ropa tejida).

2. Hoy llevo (mi) (ropa) tejida (blusa/pulóver) hace fresco. Llevar ropa tejida es (una sensación) suave, agradable, huele bien. Me gusta (mi ropa tejida).

1. La madre de jorge se para en la puerta y una cosa y otra le dice. Todo (solo) lo que puedo entender (entiendo) es “oye”, entre frase y frase. Si me duermo (adormezco) parece el clic de un disparador.

2. La madre de jorge se para en la puerta y le dice una cosa y otra. Todo lo que entiendo, es, “oye, oye”, entre las frases. Si me duermo (adormezco) parece el clic de un disparador.

1. (el problema son los libros) (aparecen) por todas partes en pilas de polvo. (están) y desaparecen, caen. A veces un libro parece otro o me lo recuerda, por eso cuando (resulta) se parecen a si mismos (ya) desconfío. Tengo una sombrilla abierta muchas (veces) van a parar a ahí, caen. El (lío) (problema) es el tiempo.

2. (el problema son los libros) (están) por todas partes, en pilas de polvo. (aparecen) y desaparecen, caen. A veces un libro me confunde, y resulta ser otro (o lo recuerda), por eso cuando se parecen a si mismos, desconfío. Tengo muchas sombrillas abiertas (a veces) van a parar a allí, caen. El (lío) (problema) es el tiempo.

"Quibbles" by Elena V. Molina

Elena V. Molina is a young filmmaker, writer and photographer from Havana. She is a member of the redaction team of the digital independent literary magazine 33 y 1/3 and has performed her literary stage acts in literary festivals and public readings. She is also the author of experimental short films, organizer of the independent film club DuMMY FuEra de cAMpo and a student at the Faculty of Audiovisual Media of the National Institute of Arts in Havana.

You can find her online at:

You Tube profile: elenavmolina, mielegua.

Blogspot: 33 y 1/3 Magazine <>

Photoblog: Havanascity <>



1. (In the) morning(s), when it’s still dark, I can hear through the blinds the noise from the radio(s), alarm clocks, roosters, (car) horns, and shouts. If I lean out I see no one and all the windows are dark. Only the neon street lights shine, and it’s impossible for it all to come from them. If (sometimes) I wake up (in the middle of the night), I know it’s not morning because (the noises/are different) (than) (the) -silence.... - (I look at my alarm clock anyway.)

2. In the mornings, when it’s still dark, I can hear through the blinds the noise from the radios, alarm clocks, roosters, car horns, and shouts. If I lean out I see nobody and all the windows are dark. Only the neon lights in the street, and it’s impossible for it all to come from them. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night. I know it’s not morning because of the noises, the silence. (I look at my alarm clock anyway).

1. The alarm clock has a lighted screen on which the hour flickers when the alarm sounds. When it’s not yet time, the AM or PM lights shine brighter, when it’s about to ring it dims and the hour lights up again. I can pass the time watching this game and trying to discern if it really dims or if it’s the brightness of the hour that darkens it.

2. The clock has a lighted screen where the hour sounds when it flickers. -On-, -Off- in the alarm clock, the AM and PM signs shine brighter, when it’s about to ring it dims and the hour lights up again. I can pass the time watching this game and trying to discern if it really dims or if it’s the brightness of the hour that darkens it.

1. Today I am wearing (my) woven (cloth) (blouse/sweater), it’s cold. Wearing woven clothing is a soft, pleasant (feeling), it smells good. I like (my woven cloth).

2. Today I am wearing (my) woven (cloth) (blouse/sweater) it’s cold. Wearing woven clothing is a soft, pleasant (sensation), it smells good. I like (my woven cloth).

1. Jorge’s mother stands at the door and says one thing after another. All (the only thing) I can understand (I understand) is "listen" between phrase after phrase. If I fall asleep (doze off) it’s like the click of a trigger.

2. Jorge’s mother stands at the door and says one thing after another. All I can understand is "listen, listen" between phrases. If I fall asleep (doze off) it’s like the click of a trigger.

1. (The problem is the books), (they appear) everywhere in piles of dust. (They’re there) and disappear, fall. Sometimes a book resembles another or reminds me of it, so when (it turns out) that they look like themselves (now) I distrust it. I have an open parasol many (times) they end up in there, fall in. The trouble (problem) is with time.

2. (The problem is the books), (they’re) everywhere in piles of dust. (They appear) and disappear, fall. Sometimes a book puzzles me, and turns out to be another (or reminds me of it), so when they look like themselves, I distrust it. I have many open parasols (sometimes) they end up in there, fall in. The trouble (problem) is with time.

- Translation by Anibal Gavini. Photos by author.

Friday, August 7, 2009

"Context for Understanding Desperation" by Lourdes González Herrero

Readers and authors are equally desperate. Today I went to a bookstore in which two book vendors were having a bitter argument that caught my interest, it was about a recently published book, but neither of the two mentioned its title.

I feigned distraction, walking from one shelf to the other. One of them contested: it’s not readable, it’s not even clear what it’s about, if you read it and liked it, you should check out a psychiatrist.

The other looked at him defiantly, seeming ready to take action.

I would have liked to watch the two readers come to blows over a book, but the attacker controlled himself, the other let down his physical guard, the apparent calm settled in when the female clerk set off the argument again by pointing out that the book is a real piece of shit, putting herself on the side of the first vendor that now, supported by another opinion, straightened up to make very clear that lowlifes and troublemakers aren’t signs of quality in a book. To this followed the noise of the door slamming as the second vendor went out to the sidewalk to get some air, clearly trying not to let himself be provoked by a woman.
I took from the stand the first book I encountered to complete the disguise. Out of the corner of my eye I followed the steps of the clerk who joined the first vendor to tell him easy to see why he got mad, apparently he has no culture. The vendor nodded, amazed, because he knows that the other has no culture.

At any rate, I came to feel in the bookstore that typical quiet of spaces filled with art. The same as one perceives in museums and theaters. But it was only a recess, back came the infuriated vendor, this time to say in a very loud voice that neither of you two know how to really read, because you’re a pair of mediocre people that don’t look beyond things. So the nucleus formed right at my side, and I had no choice but to look at them so as not to seem deaf. The clerk shook her limp long hair, defending her right to read whatever I feel like, who are you to categorize me if you’re not even a licensed bookseller. It seems that intellectual discourse had no place there, as the unlicensed vendor turned his rage against her, making faces and mocking her, saying that in her house there’s no kind of order and that her husband is going to leave her because she’s a know-it-all that doesn’t know shit. In that moment it seemed like an opportune time to leave the bookstore, but in my haste to leave that cultural battleground, I dropped the book that had served as my cover and it fell to the floor with a dull noise and lay there with its covers on the ground and its pages open. The clerk bent and picked it up, closing it to place it on the shelves. That was the weirdest moment of the morning, her looking at me with dubious cordiality and the vendors stopped dead on both sides of her. I observed for the first time the book with the red cover and twentieth-century-style abstractions, without even daring to ask them: What? Because I hated to think that I had chosen the exact same title over which they had been fighting, although my intuition told me over and over that it was indeed the one to blame.

The clerk coughed, straightening a bit. The first vendor that spoke was the same that went out for some air. He said something to me that I can’t remember in its totality, but I’m sure that it included the words my critic partner, who knows how to read, who doesn’t let herself be influenced by bad opinions. All of it in smooth and tender diction. The other vendor started to roar with big and noisy laughter that made him lose his balance and double over the promotional table. The clerk laughed, but with total control over her forced happiness. The minute came in which, seemingly, both realized that laughter wouldn’t be enough and they led me to the seats, they sat me down, they sat down, we initiated a dialogue that I count among the most absurd of my life and that in its supreme instant of hilarity reached these sentences:

Vendor 1: You are here, supporting me in silence, and that is something I greatly appreciate. Please tell these two folks that that book marks a new mode of storytelling, that when it is necessary to write, and forgive the word, pinga, you write it, because the important thing is to save the character from false directives. Tell them it to see if they’ll finally understand that literature is life.
Vendor 2: Don’t waste your time with us, as we value books according to our tastes, not like other people (harsh tone) that just want to be fashionable. If you like the book, buy it; if it seems that you might like it, buy it, if they’ve told you that it’s good, buy it; we’re here to sell them. On the other hand, if you want to listen to us, don’t waste fifteen pesos on a few poorly arranged and expressly vulgar words that only say how you can stop thinking beautifully. You decide.

Clerk: Look, I know that all this seems unnecessary to you, and it is if at the end you take the book, but if to the contrary you leave it on the shelf, we can say that we have avoided the divulgation of a title that never should have been published, because listen! You’ve got to know what to say and what to leave unsaid, those two things are important.

To me, of course, they never allowed a single word. But, little by little, I had become interested in the book, and I watched them trying to see the possible sincerity in those moved faces. The three of them seemed like spectators. The three of them seemed exaggerated. I thought then of the terrible search of writers and readers and of that bearing of uncertainty that so often I’ve had to experience. That was when I decided to pose to them three basic questions: What bothered them about the book? Why did they complete it if they didn’t like it? How can they sell it if they had such an aversion to it?

The responses were emphatic, at first my supposed adversaries answered that what bothered them was that new wave of writing any kind of filth and calling it a book. The second response was very professional: To know what we were complaining about. The third annulled the question: We don’t sell it, we leave it to him. Indicating, of course, to vendor 1.

There was nothing to do. Nothing to add. Their mission in the bookstore was pretty clear, and although I considered their reactions not as natural but as those of a salesperson’s mindset, they had learned it all from writers. Reading them, they arrived at the conclusion that they had to have a public catharsis for the issues that might produce unease. Cause and effect were clear as day. It’s a shame that I succumbed to the face of the vendor that believed in the book with the red covers. Illusions always form from compassion and attachment to the weakest. So I left the bookstore with my acquisition between my arms, eager to be able to vote definitively for one of the two judgments, and here I am, prisoner of the most absolute boredom and fury for having detached myself from a good portion of my revenue.

At my side, with its pages closed, rests the book that starred in one clear August morning, waiting its turn to reintroduce itself in another bookstore that accepts used, and abused, books. It is the desperate situation that readers offer as resistance to the words with which authors keep their desperation amused.

- Translated by David Iaconangelo. Photo by Bagheia (flickr).

"The Sane" by Lourdes González Herrero

Lourdes González Herrero is a poet, critic and novelist from the city of Holguín. She has published numerous volumes of poetry (including "Tenaces como el fuego", "La semejante costumbre que nos une", "Una libertad real" and "La desmemoria") and novels ("Las edades transparentes"), for which she won numerous awards. Her work has been translated into French and included in many Cuban and foreign publications. She is the managing editor of the art and literary magazine Diéresis, a member of the Cuban writer's union UNEAC, and in the year 1997 was included in the Encyclopedia of Latin American Literature.


He’s stopped in the middle of the street. Without shoes or a shirt. With a pipe poised above the young man that says to him: “Put it away, walk away and keep it, but don’t do it.”
This scene is the center of attention. The surrounding area is full of people with longing faces and hands like visors so they can see better, to know how this will all end.

A woman of about fifty, eager, pushes her daughter because: “I can’t see well, run over there.”
The girl touches the synthetic poppy that she wears in her hair and makes a face at her mother, who is already approaching the circle where He stammers: “This one here knows people like you, this one knows.”

The young man pushes him by the arm that raises the pipe, corners him against a garbage can, while a medium-sized man, with illegitimate blond hair, brown buck teeth, warns him not to mess around anymore with anybody, because: “It’s gonna cost you, it’s gonna cost you.”
Right then a bicycle driven by two adolescents comes down the street, the one in back pedaling and the one in front at the helm. As they pass by the group, they whistle, with their fingers jammed in their mouths. The sound is intolerable, and knowing it, they laugh and throw an empty beer can that lands square on His head, falls away from the garbage can, rolling to the feet of a young woman dressed in phosphorescent blue spandex, who upon seeing him runs to pick it up, orders him: “Get off my sidewalk, you bastard! Get a job, something you don’t have!”

The number of people increases and each time the distance between each of them is less. He’s visibly frightened, doesn’t put up much resistance when the young man takes him forcefully and sits him on the edge of the sidewalk. His bare feet cake with mud from the gutter, forming an image that disgusts the old lady that passes, and she crosses herself and coughs, horrified, that: “This man has no morals, look how he lays there in the street, calling attention.”

Two children struggle with a third over the ripe mango he carries carefully. They run, push, wrestle, bend down, talk into his ear, and finally throw the coveted mango that explodes on His naked back, like a stone. Immediately, several voices are heard shouting at them, not for having hit Him, but for playing around at a time when things have to be put in order. The mango-thrower’s mother signals to him, threateningly, with her index finger a shade of scarlet, and says to her son: “Look at what you’ll become if you keep throwing things.”

Likewise, the mother of the mango’s owner catches her own by the ear and announces to him: “That’s the boogeyman that came to take you away, now back home! Quick!”

e passes his hands over his back and puts his fingers in his mouth, covered in mango juice. Something intolerable to the girl with the synthetic poppy, who bends and, without straightening, yells: “A bum, you’re a filthy bum!”

The young man returns to try to lay down the law: “I’ll gonna call the police so they can toss you in jail, I’m gonna do it, you can’t be passing through here like this.”

e starts to cry, contrite before the ever-better-nourished group that observes him with disdain.
“I’m gonna take myself in to the police, stop!”

The young man stops. He takes a newspaper from his bag, rolls it up, and gives him a couple whaps: “Walk, walk, you already made me lose two hours.”

They start walking down the sunny sidewalk. A man, advanced in years, intercepts them with a warning: “I don’t know why you, who seems to be a decent boy, burdens himself with taking someone like this anywhere; look at him, look at him, he doesn’t disgust you? If I were you, I’d leave him lying there with his feet in the mud, that’s what he deserves; listen, you can’t wear yourself out your whole life trying to control some nut, believe me, I’m telling you for your own good.”
“He’s right! He’s right!” say several of those present. “Let him go! You’ll get covered with filth taking him to the station!”

The driver of a car that has had to stop because the group doesn’t let him pass, lays his finger on the horn and sounds it without interruption. It’s a noise even more intolerable than the bicyclists’ whistle, and they order him to knock it off with the horn: “Keep that shit quiet, what do you think? That we’re deaf? You can’t get through here right now, period, or do we have to spell it out for you?”

The driver loses his temper, gets out and opens the trunk, pulling out a massive gun with which he threatens them all: “Alright, who says I can’t pass? C’mon, c’mon, show yourself and say it again to my face.”

The fat man riding with the driver gets out of the car and tries to placate him, but he realizes that he’s in the right when he hears the Samaritan old man and the mother of the boy that leans forward, shouting: “This guy’s got it mixed up! All you gotta do is look at him to know he’s a pretty boy! Some kind of freeloader!”

The driver and the woman draw closer and start to wave their hands in each other’s faces until she shoves him. The girl, getting the hint, commences pushing the driver until she realizes that she has lost her plastic flower and bends down to look for it.

The blonde man with the buck teeth thinks he’s seen enough and tries to calm them down by sucking up to them, making clear that they’re all there because of Him.

Their attention centralizes again on who, standing on the sidewalk with his guide, could only manage to stick his fingers in his nose and smile. The young man leading him, disapproving of his sticking his finger in his nose, takes his arm forcefully and twists it back. His face shows pain and his mouth curves into an expression that exposes the stubs of his molars.

Now, a seven-year-old girl approaches and smiles happily, ready to touch his hand. A simultaneous cry travels through the area where numerous people are standing about in groups, expectantly—Noooo, honey, don’t touch that! Don’t even THINK about touching it! My God, she’s going to toooouch it!

But the young man explains to the girl, in a gentle tone: “No, honey, you don’t touch that, you can catch bacteria and then it’ll give you a high fever and your hands will get really red and puffy; go and find a decent person to shake hands with, go on, honey, go on. And you, walk, the police station’s a number of blocks away.”
The girl looks at the young man with frightened eyes and goes running, at the verge of tears.

The two figures continue on down the sidewalk. Him with a certain clumsiness and sorrow; the young man with a determined march and impassive expression.

As they walk, some of the spectators let out jubilant cries: “Take him in! Let them lock him up! Better yet, put him in the dungeon! Three electroshocks is what they ought to give him! And a nice bath in hydrochloric acid!”

Others still argue over the best place to watch them walk, to see them up close, so that no such comment would be lost—that lunatic makes life impossible for us. That horrible man that came to drive us mad, that human disaster, they’ll stick him with a nice little jail sentence.

e bows his head. He seems embarrassed, but still he has the spirit to look at them and dedicate a drooling smile to them all.

- Translated by David Iaconangelo

Saturday, August 1, 2009

"One About Winter" by Alex Fleites

Alex Fleites was born in Caracas, Venezuela in 1954. A Cuban citizen, he is a poet, film scriptwriter, dramatist, narrator and journalist. To date, Fleites has published eight books in Cuba and two in Italy for which he received many awards, among these the Julian del Casal National Poetry Prize and the “26 de Julio” National Prize for Journalism. He has been editor in chief of important cultural reviews in Cuba like El Caimán Barbudo, Cine Cubano, Unión y Arte Cubano. He also directed the cultural section of the periodical Juventud Rebelde. Among others, he authored poetry collections like Un perro en la casa del Amor (A Dog in the House of Love, 2004), Omnibus de noche (Omnibus of Night, 1995), De vital importancia (Of Vital Importance, 1989), and A dos espacios (In Two Spaces, 1981), all published in Havana. His anthology of selected works, La violenta ternura (The violent tenderness, 2007) gathers the most important poems written in his thirty years of practice of the art of poetry.


As I walked along the corner of 10 de Octubre and Tamarindo streets, I saw a man in front of me signaling. He was in the middle of the street, confused. I dodged a guagua and a bus that were going up the hill with asthmatic difficulty. The cold afternoon wind played with the leaves that fell from the few surviving trees on the avenue. He was about seventy and wasn’t very well wrapped up in spite of the dampness. I helped him get his wheel chair onto the sidewalk. Then he asked me to help him up to the doorway, up to the doors of La Diana, a place with little light and dark walls, packed with unpleasant and ill-tempered people. He got into his chair and smiled at me as if to apologize. "I’m going to drink a bit of sun," he said. And he went into the bar.

Translated by George Henson.