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Pedro Pérez Sarduy

I am in the city

Estoy en la ciudad


Searching for an Unemployed Lover

Hasta la Victoria Siempre (English translation: Che) This poem is included in "Che in Verse" available at 

Liturgy

Cumbite

Exodus

Pedro Pérez-Sarduy ~ Poems

 

Written in 1964, "I am in the city" has a prescient last stanza talking about the black president, "made in USA."

I AM IN THE CITY

 
I am in the city
where the word revolution functions in Havana slang
like strawberry ice cream
and where foreigners impart their long pages
of lectures of peace and arms
here we will remain as of always I am a citizen
as Orson Welles might say
without hat or short cotton shirt
with my curly hair of over one hundred and fifty years
when I take the brown hand of my woman
my young woman
     
I kiss her lips on 23rd Street
so nobody blushes
we go into the theater
to see the stageplay of Mariantonia
and sweat filters where summer has its way
      
and spreads over the buildings of El Vedado
where everything happens and everything is
we eat sardines given to us by fishermen on the seafront
with their history on the wall and the shore of the monsters
some times it happens in the parks
because the city's gardens are delightful children.
 
We meet a passing friend
who tells of the outlook for the new old war
of the Middle East
then the conflict in Vietnam forgotten for a time while
without conclusion or preface
with the guerrilla at the International (Russell) Tribunal
in Stockholm
but we drink the juice of local oranges
or a beer off the barrel
we go for the juice
he tells me of a romance his new romance
that started during voluntary work
on the Isle of Youth.
 
The waiter who speaks no French says oui
and brings to mind frustrated trips...
of him to the University of Oxford..
the other to the Sorbonne
our adventures on the beaches of West Africa
under Monica's gaze and my woman is quiet
is almost always quiet not knowing we dabble
there is so much summer her chocolate ice cream melts...
he asks where I live now
and my woman hastens to lie
tries to reply but I get in first
because we do not live for the time being we do not live anywhere
he tells me to go with him to the castle he has found
opposite the old Maine
we go there walking amidst the afternoon of girls
with their timid skirts not approaching the climax
tropical La Rampa manes
there are foreigners and we turn at the end of the crime
facing the National Hotel
we reach The Castle which has nothing to do with K
naked with the night as its only element
there are roach stains starched remains of absurd foods
on the walls like fresh semen
always the last message driving away parting lovers
we at last go up the stairs and Portocarrero
the friend
says I can clean one of the rooms
where the crap flows at will
then we talk of how there is no electricity or water
of bad poetry
we also comment on the strange tenants
who prowl the Castle rooms by night
with their postwar sabers
we open one of the big windows onto the balcony
and my woman was not frightened by starving beetles
invalid tarantulas acclimatized to those damp fingernails
extending out the balcony _big windows_
and there was the sea
with its roving fishermen
hooks caught in their war with international waters
anchored on the curve of the horizon
I try hard to watch the caravan of insects
in perennial migration
it is not easy to walk the corridors of the city
where there are no birds
only buzzards lamentably flying planes
that practice breaking soundless barriers and
already familiar explosions
“If war comes I'll go to meet it on the seafront pants down”
says Portocarrero and I know it is true
his heart is too big for these years
I put my hand in my pocket
and give him an Austrian coin Lili gave me
upon returning to her country via Vienna
and I tell my stories my repentant stories
that interest nobody
we take down cauldrons stained
by the hand of my woman
who plays with strange unknown values
to say “Farewell  friend”
I continue with my flimsy paper fortress
       as if of newspaper militating on Cerro street corners
when in an afternoon's El Vedado café
taking by the ear ce petit monde meurtrier
with its underhand tricks
I shake his hand and he says “poor crazy devil”
but NO because a crazy and devil is...
“See you later”
I slowly come back to my shadow my surprised shadow
or the cinema running the British film
Three Trapped Tigers.
 
But it's still early and I have time to buy
the five o'clock daily with its front page photo
of the next president made in USA
C'est un Noir
No it's a Black man
No, es un Negro
or Barbarella
He's Black and called...
I turn the page and
it begins to rain the taste of pineapple.
It is time enough
to take my young woman by the hand
and sink into the velvet  maroon seats
to see what the ICAIC newsreel  has in store
I greet !!!!!!!!??????????
who warns me with urgency
I get up from the voice taking my woman by the breast
outside it is night
and the water is no longer pineapple tasting.
 
The light of the cinema is obscene. 
 
 (1964)
 

1)    23rd Street is in a busy downtown section of Havana.
2)    El Vedado is the downtown section around 23rd Street,a street-lined
residential area with art déco architecture.
3)    La Rampa is the last few blocks of 23rd Street approaching the sea.
4)    El Cerro is one of Havana's working class districts.
5)    Instituto Cubano del Arte y la Industria Cinematograficos or Cuban Film
Institute.


ESTOY EN LA CIUDAD
 
Estoy en la ciudad
donde la palabra revolución
funciona en el argot habanero como los helados de fresa
y donde los visitantes ofrecen sus conferencias de paz y de armas
aquí permaneceremos desde siempre
soy un ciudadano
como bien dijera Orson Welles
sin sombrero ni cortas camisas de algodón chino
y llevo el pelo rizado
desde hace más de ciento cincuenta tiempos
cuando salgo de la mano morena de mi mujer
de mi joven mujer
le beso los labios en la Calle Veintitrés
para que nadie se ruborice entramos al teatro
para ver la puesta en escena de Mariantonia
y el sudor se filtra
donde el verano hace de las suyas
y se despliega por todos los edificios del Vedado
que es un enorme barrio moderno vedado
donde todo ocurre y donde todo está
comemos sardinas
que nos regalan los pescadores del malecón
con su historia en el muro o a orillas de los monstruos
a veces sucede en los parques
porque los jardines de la ciudad son preciosos niños.
 
Nos encotramos con un amigo de ocasión
que nos cuenta la perspectiva que toma
la nueva guerra vieja en el Medio Oriente
luego el conflicto Vietnam
olvidado por un momento mientras tanto
sin página final ni prólogos
con la guerrilla en el Tribunal (Russell)
Internacional en Estocolmo
pero bebemos jugo de naranjas criollas
o una cerveza cruda
nos decidimos por el jugo de naranjas
me habla además de su romance su nuevo romance
que conoció durante los días de trabajo voluntrio
en la Isla (de la Juventud).
 
El camarero que no habla francés nos dice
oui y vienen a la mente los viajes frustrados...
él a la Universidad de Oxford . . . el otro a la Sorbona
de nuestras aventuras por las playas del Africa Occidental
cuando iba de la mirada de Mónica
y mi mujer que calla o casi siempre calla
no sabe que diletamos
hay demasiado verano que derrite su helado de chocolate...
él me pregunta que dónde vivo ahora
y mi mujer se apresura a mentir
trata de responderle pero me adelantoåporque no vivimos
por el momento no vivimos en ninguna parte
me dice que le acompañe al castillo que ha encontrado
frente al viejo Maine
allá vamos caminando entre la tarde de muchachas
con sus faldas temerosas o no
aproximadas al clímax de las melenas subtropicales
por La Rampa hay gente extranjera
y doblamos al final del crimen
frente al Hotel Nacional
llegamos a El Castillo
que no tiene nada que ver con K
todo desnudo con la noche como único elemento
hay manchas cucarachas
restos almidonados de absurdas comidas
en las paredes como de semen fresco
(siempre es el último recado que ahuyentan los amantes
al partir)
subimos por fin las escaleras
mi pequeño amigo de rubio me dice
que puedo limpiar una de las habitaciones
donde la mierda fluye a su antojo
luego hablamos de que no hay luz ni agua
de la mala poesía
también comentamos sobre los extraños inquilinos
que rondan la noche de los cuartos por El Castillo
con sus sables armados de postguerra
abrimos una de las grandes ventanas que dan al balcón
y mi mujer no se espanta de los escarabajos
muriendo de hambre
inválidas tarántulas aclimatadas en las uñas húmedas
que dan al balcón --las grandes ventanas--
y es cierto
el mar está ahí con sus pescadores ambulantes
sus anzuelos encajados en la guerra
con aguas internacionales
anclados en la curva horizontal
trato por todos los medios de presenciar
la caravana de insectos en perenne emigración
no es fácil caminar por los pasillos de la ciudad
donde no hay aves
sólo auras que lamentablemente vuelan aviones
que rompen sus prácticas barreras
sin sonido y explosiones ya familiares
"si viene la guerra iré a recibirla al malecón
sin pantalones"
me dice Portocarrero y séque es verdad
tiene el corazón demasiado grande para estos años
penetro la mano en mi bolsillo
y le doy unamoneda austríaca que me regaló Lili
cuando regresaba a su país a travé s de Viena
cuento mis historias mis arrepentidas historias 
que a nadie interesanåbajamos por última vez las calderas manchadas
de la mano de mi mujer
que juega con valores extraños
desconocidos
para decirle "adiós amigo"
sigo con mi pretendida fortaleza de papel cromado
como si fuera de periódicos
militando por las esquinas del Cerro
de cuando en tarde por algún café
y tomo de las orejas
a este pequeño mundo asesino
con sus tramoyas sucias
y le doy la mano y me dice "pobre diablo loco"
pero no porque loco y diablo es..."hasta pronto".
 
Vuelvo despacio a mi sombra a mi pretendida sombra
o al cine donde exhiben el filme inglés
Tres Tristes Tigres
pero es temprano aún y me da tiempo
para comprar el diario de las cinco horas
que trae en primera plana la foto del proximo
presidente made in USA
                        c'est un Noir
                        no, it's a Blackman
                        no, es un Negro
                        o Barbarella
                        es un Negro y se llama.. 
 
vuelvo la página y comienza a llover
con sabor a piña.
 
Son las horas necesarias para tomar de la mano
a mi joven mujer
y hundirnos en las butacas de terciopelo marrón
para ver las sorpresas del noticiero icaic.
 
Saludo a ??????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!
que me avisa con urgencia
me levanto de la voz
tomando a mi mujer por los senos
afuera es de noche
y el agua ya no tiene el sabor a piña.
 
La luz del cine es obscena.
 
(1964) 


from Malecon Sigloveinte (Editorial Letras Cubanas, Havana 2005

 

 

Searching for an Unemployed Lover

Havana lives on the edge of darkness
with its air contaminated by tourists
and uncommon dissidents
where the young offer of a dress tightly fitting
the circumstances of the latest fashion trots ironically
along the sea front
among seemingly exotic cocktails
and the perennial indifference of a commissar
also confused when it comes to persuasion.

Whatever form it took
Havana was there mine and more sensual than usual
leaning out as always from her balconies
gazing tirelessly towards the sea of girls and boys of the past
dressed in lycra and the reflection of a forbidden disco
with that dizzy silhouette
facing a pale face unexpected and unknown
wearing foreign clothes, of course.

However
there is no time to lose for the poor beggar
searching for the right moment for a quick feel
and the game between tongues.
After all
we are in the presence of an age tormented by so many ailments.

There is no time to lose either
because tomorrow afternoon would already be tonight
and also another peaceful dawn
rewarded with a sumptuous supper of simply a supper
with no imported frills
for as long as the reign of austerity lasts
or just a daring invitation.

In these times only okana
the solitary African conch who predicts ill omens
restlessly roams the earth thirsting for so many kind acts
wasted
incoherent offerings and sullied pleas
something is wanting in the look
like that aimed at assisting the needy
so much that today Monday seems to exude a certain arrogance
which was never before entirely rational.

If only you were here with me now
Oh my Queen of the Sea
You who dares to ride the waves mounted on Taurus
among precious torquoise gems which adorn gentle crown
You who are always ignore the secretly agreed cry of the initiate
before dusk and you keep going in my arms
accompanied only by the sound of dry coconuts
which have always been dry.
You did not return from the grand feast
and were speaking with yourself
endeavouring to satisfy the freshness of honey
on the tips of yours breasts
your body writhing fresh with clean waters
penetrating the most intimate point of your night
there where shame halts frightened.

And before parting all the shadows
were innocent and silently similar.


Sahnet

You are the face of the initiated
D.Diop

Your s the censured profile of beauty
unreality
rupture
golden oils
you rest my weariness of fabulous revolutions
like violent forests
mountains of wild beasts
wisdom
inebriated sands of night.

Thus you dare to console my pain
survival of empires
goddess of scepters through tears
night-saturated monster
silhouette
exact confidence
concave monastery of milk.

You are
the memory resonant in the girdle of the ages
suffering
trafficked jewel.
I cry love
living blood
wounds
angels like centaurs
and conjure.

I surge from your womb
savage caresses
present testimony
caprices
orishas
fertility
rhythm
semen
you are the forbidden fruit
the word of life
seed.

The intersection of your thighs is forged
demon
snail
cedar.

Here I am you feed me with stars
for you are
the flesh of suffering night
tumultuous sexual luminaries
I proclaim your tremulous being.
Animals like frontiers
sweet sea breezes
skeleton adrift
howl at the most exalted moment
silent gardens without crosses.

My guitar
my emptied body
my vision
childish images
covered with virgin blackness.

I return to the texture of skin
towards the lips
and heavy closed eyes.
Thus I name you
pendulum of the rebel hours.

The new hour advances shadows
on the hand of the confessions
and fatal enterprises.
Masks revealing mistaken desires.

Invasion of sun-tanned marionettes.
Prow pointing towards the tropics discovered yesterday.

What if I refused to leave your womb
and return to a fury of leaves and flamboyant
bowed before your altar or mercy.

You are the scar
for I never proclaim you aloud.
And there I sustain this temporal fall
south of all regions.

Island pregnant with saltpeter
in your breasts of peninsular waters.
Inexorable weapon of sunflowers and incense.
Messengers from Caesar hammered into my forehead.

I salute you foreign woman
while the war reconstructs your next
alienation
I sing to piety
to the coitus of cosmic shipwrecks.

Metamorphosis
ingenious insects of reason
colts
crushed butterflies
because you are fecundity
sacrifice
my universal dream without future dress.

Algae
snatched from the id
like sabres sheathed in blood
ebony.

In the swamp sleep the trees
which one sustained.

But I am your creation
your prophecy
your people Sahnet
who continue unknown
in the small islands imported to the Caribbean.

(1966)

HASTA LA VICTORIA SIEMPRE

Como si caminaras por entre la selva americana hinchada de pólvora
como si de repente un gemido por tu partida
interrumpiera en la calle viva de la noche seis lágrimas rebeldes
como si madre nuestra madre soberbia te palmeara el hombro
sobre tu guerrera olivo y te indicara de nuevo tu próximo camino
inexplorado.

Hay en los continentes exactos un viento reventado como de guerras
como si un profundo tumor se amamantara impotente
débil lazarillo que muere.

Hay detonaciones de bravas palabras que fusilan la curva del foete
que pega que vuelve y golpea nuestra espalda de batallas
y de cicatrices corpulentas se incorpora y tú vas.

Hay un grito increíble como un mar como un pedazo de montaña
o una agitada multitud o un poco de amor
inmensos como la madrugada que te aguardan en un lugar presentido
y tú vas
con la ebriedad sobria de mil combates
y tú vas
a vivir por los techos del mundo por su grito.

Nunca hubo temor por el aire que sudaras en todas aquellas
mis calles de Santa Clara y en todas las barbas crecidas
de diciembre.

Tu presencia se sintió bajita acariciando el filo
el calor de los perdigones
y tu trigueña mirada de invierno penetró como niño travieso
en todas las casernas tumultuosas de difuntos héroes robados
y así surgieron los días nuevos y enero cruzó dejando
sobre una esquina del cielo pedazos cuajados de la sangre.

Pero nadie se detuvo en la aurora reconquistada y menos tú
que con un suicidio de fiebres supiste herir el corazón más templado
por tu partida.

Sin embargo --y como ayer-- hoy comenzamos de nuevo
la nueva guerrilla
y un regocijo como de gaviotas revoloteando en la leyenda del alma
nos palpa en lo más sencillo
y tú vas así
como si madre nuestra madre soberbia te palmeara el hombro
sobre tu guerrera olivo
y te indicara de nuevo tu próximo camino
inexplorado
así te presentimos entre todos los hombres y mujeres.

Octubre 1965

=====================================================
Escribi ese poema justo la noche en que se anuncio que el Che andaba por
otras tierras... Y ahora lo entierran en mi ciudad natal, Santa Clara,
donde lo vi llegar a finales de Dic. de 1958...

=================================================================

Che

just as if you were walking in the American jungle
and swollen with powder
just as if an urgent longing for the fatherland had interrupted
six rebel tears in the open street one night
just as if Mother-proud-woman had touched your shoulder
your guerrilla olive fatigues and told you
again about your next unknown journey
there is in the exactness of continents a whirlwind
as with wars
just as if a deep tumor were sucking a dying blind buffer
there are detonations of heroic words which shoot
the curve of the whip
which hits back and returns to strike again
our shoulder of battles of bulky wounds is joined
and you are gone
there is an incredible myth like a sea like a chunk
of the Sierra around you
an agitated multitude a millennium of lore
immense like the morning which is waiting for you
in some place a presentiment
and you are gone with the sober drunkenness 
and you are gone to live under the roof of the world
there was never any fear in the air that you sweated
in any of the circumstances
in my narrow streets of Santa Clara or among the thick beards
in December
your presence was low-keyed as it caressed the rough edge
the warmth of smallshot
and your brown steely glance penetrated like a mischievous child
the thunderous barracks of dead heroes who were robbed
and so the crisp new days came and January crossed leaving
in a corner of the sky clots of blood
and nobody stayed behind in the morning
and least of all you who in your suicidal fever knew how to wound
the most prepared heart by your departure
nevertheless and like yesterday today we begin again
the new guerrillas
and rejoice like the flapping seabirds in the legend
of the soul
all this touches us in our most simple essence
and you are gone
just like that
just as if Mother-proud-woman had touched your shoulder
your guerrilla olive fatigue and told you
again
about your next unknown journey
so we fix you firmly as our presage in the core of humanity


Pedro Perez Sarduy (1965)
(Translated by John La Rose)

 

=================================================================

In 1963 four black Sunday School girls were killed on a bombing attack
in Birmingham, Alabama. This poem was written soon after I heard the news

LITURGY

Folded prayers dreams of stopped candles
Where the earth wakes up and kneels
Before the power of involuntary stares
Rains triggered by a word
A look
A distant tear covered with sores
And coiled rings
Adventures proposed for the coming years.


Beyond compare
A Sunday in September is as warm
As the little feet of a black girl of ten.

One hundred thirteen were the crosses found
In a night of horrible laments
In a night of inconsolable howls
In a night of huddled fires
Over the tile roofs where the sweat gropes
In the groin of a new-born
As in the sowing of captive seeds
Still bearing the clean imprint of corpses
Made for creaking dreams by a ballad
Before the impotent signal of the coffin hauled
Through narrow streets with livid names
Liturgical avenues badly laid out
Boulevards crossing in a hurry the barren fields
Or stagnant torrents in the city of unrest
Awaited
But one day
The swelling of the gospel will rouse a march of shadows
Magnetised to the continent
Looking for a place to shelter the taste of a tree
Where to leave the links of a piece of skin
Where to bleed in peace.


LITURGIA

Oraciones doblegadas ilusión de velas encorvadas
Donde la tierra amanece y se arrodilla
Ante la fuerza de involuntarias miradas
Lluvias provocadas por una palabra
Un gesto un llanto lejano cubierto de llagas
Y ensortijados anillos
Aventuras propuestas para los próximos años.

Sin comparación
Un domingo en septiembre es tan tibio
Como los piesesitos de una niña negra de diez años.

Ciento Trece fueron las cruces procuradas
En una noche de horribles lamentos
En una noche de aullidos irremediables
En una noche de incendios acantonados
Sobre los tejares donde el sudor se palpa
En la ingle de un recién nacido
Como en la siembra de las cautivas semillas
Todavía con la huella limpia de los cuerpos
Hechos para sueños crujidos por una balada
Ante la impotente señal del féretro arrastrado
Por los callejones de nombres lívidos
Litúrgicas avenidas bulevares mal trazados
Cruzando de prisa
Por estériles campos o raudales estancados
En la ciudad del desorden
Presentido

Pero un día
El crecer del canto provocará una procesión
De sombras
Imantadas al continente
Buscando donde guarecer el sabor de un árbol
Donde dejar los eslabones de un pedazo de piel
Donde sangrar en paz.



Pedro Pérez Sarduy (1963) from "Surrealidad" (Havana, 1967)

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