Monday, January 25, 2010

"Not Without Seeing Snow" by Mabel Cuesta

Mabel Cuesta (Cuba, 1976) received her BA from the University of Havana in 1999. She has published two collections of short stories, Confesiones on line (2003) and Cuaderno de la fiancée (2005). Currently, she is a Ph.D student in Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Languages and Literatures at the City University of New York, and teaches at Baruch and Barnard College. She also blogs at


Now I won’t die without seeing snow; I’ll no longer sing along to Marta Valdés certain the song was written just for me. Neither will I die seeing your face in the rain. You and I both know that there are palaces and castles to discover. But not snow, not Casal’s snow. Paris, New York, snow… and it is the rain that cautions, that warns… the rain says, I can be all things, the precise leaf that heralds spring, the nostalgia of the poet who never went to China or Japan, who never arrived at any Oriental latitude outside Havana or Madrid, places with intent.

Snow is here, on the sidewalk here, the sidewalk that holds welfare, medicare, foodstamps, fastfood, moneyorders and law enforcement. The sidewalk full of snow that is not in the dining room on Mujica St. (a mayor without real importance) when I was young enough to hurt and sing with closed eyes: voy a morir sin ver la nieve; pero te miro cuando llueve* and you are somewhere I can’t yet imagine; tasting something that could be the pleasure of my lips and I persist in the feeling.

I could have told you from that moment: I saw snow in Guadarrama; but you were not in the world. Everything is the same, love has these similarities of action, vocabulary. Nothing would have been if I hadn’t returned to Madrid. History could have changed so many times, so many turns. There wouldn’t be this sorrow, this anguish of the flake, light on my cheek.

Now it’s another time. The snow on the sidewalk holds me to myself. To not giving this gift to Casal, who never asks. I cross the bridges of New York illuminated by your hand and snow reminds me of the privilege of always knowing each other. For you, you know enough of the winter that numbs you, exhausts you, your scarf beside mine; you don’t watch me pass because you come from far away, without questions of water. Jealously you keep me from blocking the view, from making noise in the night. And you stay awake so as to not disturb the passing, not abort the dream, not escape the blow.

I want to read Calvert Casey again, I say all of a sudden. I’d shed my skin just to read him. Read Casey as though separate from Casal. To understand their homesickness, their immense longing. Understand each individual drama without seeming to show too much. All that I lost might exist in that moment, after which I won’t die without having seen white flakes cover my hat. Wearing a hat annoys me. Snow has those unexpected prices. Those strange ways of assuming its shape.

I am the young Gianni, tormented in the town’s summer, when my family won’t let me travel to Rome, following you, loving you until the end of days… I am the old Casey searching for the cheapest apartment in Barcelona; traveling to Ibiza to hide myself from something that has no name.

I have struck a blow. I have left those who loved me. I do it because of Casal and because of Casey, I tell myself. I need to track you through the city’s bus station. To arrive as soon as possible in the west, to cross the river there where it returns to the ground and lose all trace of myself in the sidewalks.

You say that the ground knows that I am here, that I am a ray of light from on high; I believe you with the tenderness that intoxicates me when we are on the bank of the river, supposedly called the Hudson; where we ask Oshún to frighten the demons in your belly, where we make offerings, our hands and heads wet with pestilent water. The same offering I made before, over the metal bridge, asking for us to be allowed to realize that delirium of love in its new body, new city with or without light.

I am the young Gianni when I torment myself: I cannot reach your height, I obscure myself, pure shadow to which I am addicted. I am the passion of McCullers, once again, when I discover you and say that I will love you always, and I die in the middle of that water that could well be made clear at any moment.

Everything in me is a reference. Everything you love without an exact reason is that word you torment yourself with, the coming and going of my conscience, fear of the solitude you could leave me in at any time. Or I could leave you, who knows. We know nothing of ourselves. Nothing that might not be contemplation of the tree we’re looking at. That which will survive us. The wood house that picks up the code of those lights that you see insistently from space or the mirror. Those lights that hold the face of a woman from Versailles and a poor little shepherdess who doesn’t remember the century in which she lives, while the sidewalk is forgotten beneath the frozen white that covers it.

Now I won’t die without seeing snow, so many times I’ve seen it that my young neighbor wouldn’t believe me, Mujica St… he dreams clothes designed by Versace, dreams cars and walks with his girlfriend. I might take pictures for him and soothe him. I might tell him about Casal and see his delirious face while he asks about the exact texture of how it froze. Join myself to Casey in a voyage within your body and heal any tear. To soothe myself, soothing them.

Nothing would be like changing history, returning to my first shape above the ground and not having to search for it in the mirror by candlelight with your voice following. To return there and have the power to change the beginning. To concede the trips necessary for the dead. To not feel this bitter pity for the self that will no longer die desiring the whiteness that covers me; to stretch myself beneath your arm every night, your insistent will to become food or a pure ray of light that jumps spaces and promises unfathomable trips. To know that in the end, all the palaces are there, in the iris of your eye, and kiss it and sleep swept by the rain of the island where you are, vanishing in this useless fear, of the eternal dawn of a death that has already happened many times and that is the exact quantity of that which we don’t know; the exact quantity of those we didn’t know how to forget.

* I will die without seeing snow, but when it rains I see you.

- Translated by Erica Mena.

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