“Would you like to live in Alaska?”,
my father used to say.
“If you never go to Alaska, son,
death will surprise you incomplete”.
pronounced in the late 70´s of an island
under the shrieking socialist sun of
Words not in English
nor in Spanish, of course,
but in a Cuban jargon with no references:
a dead tongue that in my childhood
as a curse.
I was 9 or 10
or maybe no age at all
and I looked as frightened as today.
But I had my father
which was also my grandpa
although he talked of death
He was 52
when I was born
in the early 70´s of an island
under the socialist sunny shrieks of
Besides the transparency
of his Sicilian eyes,
I inherited two private homelands
two labyrinths hard to distinguish
in the magic of his bookshelf.
We lived in Lawton
a delicate neighborhood
in the outskirts of La
now turned into a suburban wasteland
in the outskirts of La
My father so humble
so tamed under the spell
of the official speech,
swallowing permitted pills
to overcome his nightmares of
My father so much my
He retired when I was still a kid.
Here and there he insisted
with his northern case
(technically, an escape)
calling me sometimes
He hated life under Fidel
but this was something nobody around him
My father so shrewd.
He thought he would survive the
Commander in Chief.
But August is the cruelest month.
And on the 74th birthday of the
my father was generous enough
as to pass away
thus losing forever his bet
with his former Jesuit classmate:
It was a sudden Sunday and grandpa
had just turned 81.
An amateur autopsy
told us later he had cancer,
a merciful metastasis
that put him to sleep with no nightmares
Never been to a doctor.
Never suspected a thing.
Just a couple of coffee-like throw-ups
and the transparency of his Sicilian eyes
became so opaque.
Maybe he did win his bet
with the decaying corpse of
“Forget about life in Alaska, son”,
were almost his last words:
“there´s not such a place on Earth”.
His name was Dionisio Manuel Pardo Fernández
(almost a 19th century name).
I has taken me 13 years to understand
I wouldn´t need to pronounce more
his long and musical name.
No need to take him out of his sacred chamber
where decades and decades of American magazines
were frozen after the splendor of the 50´s
in his bookself.
His reading resistance resembled
the dearest delusions of a Don Quixote in La Habana of
I´m sorry, grandpa.
A deal is a deal, dad.
Not only there was indeed such a place on Earth called
but I am here now
to challenge you to display
over those archaic English dictionaries
bought in the 80´s for a couple of Cuban pesos in
1. Pawn King-Four.
I know how you will defend.
Once Sicilian, always Sicilian.
The terminal transparency of your eyes
makes obvious that black square
now emptied for the ages.
1. (…) Pawn Queen-Bishop-Four.
Note: Original poem is in English
30 November 2013