Being Saint Louis / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo


The first thing about Saint Louis that hits you in the face are the gusanos* — the worms. Earthworms, twisted and charred. In the gardens, on the sidewalks, segregated on the public right-of-way or in the throes of gentrification. Worm cadavers, fossil worms that minutes ago ate and shat earth to better fertilize the planet.

A Cuban cannot help but notice what happens around the fate of worms. They are becoming extinct. They no longer have any private life. The sun lacking any American midwestern sensibility is cooking them. In a few months there won’t be a single worm left in Saint Louis. In a few months all the worms will have returned to the earth, they will have become earth. And the city will be a graveyard of annelids. An anonymous burial ground of crawling beings. Still crawling in death.

A police car passes by. Two female albino university students jog by. A formidable black man with with a sign goes by. Lacking teeth and not hiding it. A sea of owls passes at the hour when at the end of the night the gardens finally cool down, the public streets where, then, I am the one who goes by. I avoid stepping on the worms. I avoid tripping over them and falling among their twisted and charred flesh.

It is called holocaust.

It is called history.

It is called today.

Translator’s note: “Gusanos” — worms — is a favorite epithet of the Castro regime against its “enemies” and, in particular, against those who emigrate.

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, 28 August 2016