Saturday, June 26, 2010

Three Short Stories by Zulema de la Rúa Fernández

Zulema de la Rúa Fernández (Havana, 1979) BA in Nursing. Masters in pediatrics. Her prizes include the Premio Unión Latina de cuento 2003, Premio Abdala de cuento 2003, Premio Farraluque de Poesía Erótica 2004, Tercer Premio de cuento La Pluma de la Punta Brava 2005, Tercer premio de minicuento La Media Cuartilla 2006, Premio Juventud Rebelde en concurso de décima escrita Ala Décima 2007, Premio de cuento Luis Rogelio Nogueras 2008, and the Premio de cuento Ernest Hemingway 2009. Two books of her short stories are available: Habana Underground (2009) and No reveles tu instinto, which can be found on the webpages Createspace and Atompress.


Harold Pinter (2005 Nobel Laureate in Literature) once wrote about a story that I had written for a hypothetical professor of sex, in which I said: Us girls like having our asses smacked. I don’t know how he got his hands on that story, nor how he arrived at the conclusion that I could be talking about girls that I don’t even know, millions of girls who I haven’t even heard speak, millions and billions of girls from the other side of the world which, from my point of few, simply, without being manhandled, want to be smacked. In other words, the affirmation (us girls like having our asses smacked) was somehow, to him, the climax of a long and deep meditation on which I had embarked and had now honorably concluded.

I love him (Harold Pinter, of course, although perhaps my hypothetical sex professor, too. Either way. The point is that I love him.) With all my heart. I think he’s a marvelous man. I only saw him once. He turned and smiled. He looked at me and smiled. Afterward, he boarded a packed bus. He said two or three things to the conductor, positioned himself at the door, and gave me one last look through the window. Then the bus pulled away and I never saw him again.


If religion is the opium of the people, then is sex their cocaine?, I’d joke with Dad, facing off against Lenin’s high-level ideology along the way. The true revolutionary is guided by feelings of love, he’d answer, stealing a quote from Che. Does that mean that every revolutionary likes to fuck? More or less. So love, sex, and socialism are the same thing. Not the way you see it. But Mella and Tina fucked a lot, they made pornos. Actually they took artistic photos. No, they were soft porn, dummy. You’re a smart-aleck. No, I’m a revolutionary. Then he’d get serious, look at his Lieutenant Colonel insignia, and put aside the euphemisms: one day you’ll understand the historic responsibility of the revolution, the greatness of socialism. But isn’t socialism utopian? That’s exactly why it’s so special, why it purifies itself from its contradictions onward, and it places itself beyond sex, appearances, the impossible; can’t you tell? The revolution exists only to find the impossible and we’ve already taken the first step, we only have to perfect it. With sex or without sex? I’d ask to make him explode and start all over again.


When you are old and gray and full of sleep,
and nodding by the fire, take down this book
William Butler Yeats

Nothing I own but wet grass under my naked feet, nothing but night’s sweet breath upon my cheeks, nothing but this bonfire on which I warm my hands, nothing but the cycads song, nothing but the rustling of dry sticks in the fire, nothing but the friendly and distant wink of yonder star perhaps snuffed out by now whose last flash has travelled millions of years so that tonight it reaches me at last.
Who wrote it? we asked her.
The neighbor put the poem down on her thighs, looked towards the bonfire.
An American writer born in Amedford (1922), she said as she took hold of a nearby branch.
She had the look she’d put on during nights of revelation. But you could also suppose that she was being pensive.
It’s a poem, she said, that talks about everything.
About us?, we inquired.
She smiled and slid the branch toward the fire until its dry leaves disappeared beneath it.
It talks about everyone, I mean.
We were attentive. Somehow we believed she’d undress for us. That night was the chance to gaze at her body. But she stayed seated in front of the bonfire, looking at us every so often.
What’s the name of the poem?, I inquired.
NOTHING, she said in a very sweet tone.
And…,someone implored, what’s it about?
Of a boy genius that discovers something.
Why a genius? someone inquired.
She threw the branch into the bonfire. She waited patiently for it to finish burning. Very beautifully. That is, the neighbor was beautiful, although the branch was beautiful too, what was left of it.
Why was Yves Moor less than a year old when he wrote this poem. And why did he write so many novels and books of poems…
We asked questions. We asked how was it possible, how did he do it. Later we’d continue to be amazed, but without making exclamations or comments. We’d limit ourselves to observing her with lust, with boldness.
In reality we had known about Yves Moor for awhile, including the unbeatable translation of his poem by Eliseo Diego. Actually, we hadn’t taken her to that spot on the patio in vain: we had a well-organized plan.
Wouldn’t you like to read a translation of the poem? I asked.
Of course, she assented emotionally, happily, finally someone had come out with a translation of her favorite poem. Finally, our poetry nights were becoming interesting.
But love comes at great cost, said someone, and she suddenly understood that her friends, or rather, we, really weren’t so friendly.
In, I think embarrassed, whispers, we explained to her the requirement: she had to read the poem naked, if she wanted to have it forever. She smiled anyway, pleased by our insignificant proposal.
Anything for Yves, she said assuredly and began to undress.
When she was totally naked, without the least bit of shame, she moved her hips, squeezed her breasts with a disconcerting smile, positioned her thighs at a disturbing angle, and stretched her hand towards us, in search of the poem. Then, hardly even looking at it, she let it fall in the bonfire. Our amazement aroused, she began to recite:
"No tengo nada
nada sino la hierba húmeda bajo mis pies
nada sino el aliento fresco de la noche
sobre mis mejillas
nada sino esta fogata
en la que caliento mis manos
nada sino el crepitar de las ramas secas
en el fuego
nada sino el guiño cómplice y distante
de aquella estrella
acaso ya apagada
cuyo último destello ha viajado millones
de años
para llegar esta noche
hasta mí."

Translations by Isabel Perera.