by Jesús Díaz
This city was born of the harbor’s salt
and there it grew hot, irreverent,
its sex open to the sea
its clitoris guiding sailors
like a lighthouse on the bay.
And inside Chinatown, Tropicana,
Floridita, Alí Bar, Los Aires Libres,
orchestras of women jamming
a chachachá danced by aliens.
She talked, muzzled,
in a muddy mix of Yoruba and Castille,
of gypsy and Catalan, of Babel and Congo,
and all this patois, this creole,
the sweet streaky Esperanto
of Moore hullabaloos, Cantonese chitchat,
Jewish Jerusalemite jargon,
barbaric Spanglish of bars and bayous.
Stupefied, she confused Lebanese with Turks,
Asturians and Basque with Galicians,
Ukrainian Israelites with Polish,
all together and in sync screaming
on tables of tasteless linens
covered with yellow tamales,
gray crab, red shrimp,
the whitest rices dovetailed
publicly with black beans,
plantains like dicks and for dessert
a papaya open like a dare,
a great cigar and a gulp of coffee,
Satan’s preferred infusion, black and smoking.
An expert in contraband she dressed
with brandies, Chinese silks,
or well she wandered in rums or rags
and prayed Sunday at dawn
in churches of Gothic deceit,
false romantic, Baroque colonnades
sustaining the tricky art nouveau of the mansions.
Full of complexes, shameless, ridiculous,
she enjoyed a dark pleasure
impressing the more famous whores:
in her bay a gray Christ,
contaminated by the slow vapors of the party.
There, in the womb, a toy Prado,
a vacuous Capitol and skyscrapers
that never touched a clouds’ ass.
Euphoric tropical peacock
in the stained glass and ocelli of its sea-reflected tail,
her profound pain grazed above all
listening to soap operas on the radio,
snakes of the hopelessness invented by her
that traveled the world proclaiming
the insatiable evil of men.
Then, at night,
she showed her vampire fangs
elevating a hymn for the slaughters
to the music and lyric of La Guantanamera.
And in the break of day
she even gambled her butt cheeks
which she usually lost with cheer.
She gave herself to joy and strange rituals
and awoke dancing, the fucker,
boleros, mambos, rumbas,
in shindigs, cocktail parties and balls,
the devil’s revelry, her most revered angel.
Nothing moved her, not even
the blood her children offered
by burglarizing the Tyrant’s Palace.
She kept carousing, it was said
that nobody could romance her,
shut her music off and leave her
like a faithful wife, so tempered.
A little later the warriors came
reciting what verses
what songs, compositions, madrigals,
to make her forget centuries of partying?
With what wile did they manage to put a spell on her?
She fell in love with virtue like a whore.
Asked for forgiveness on her knees
to expiate her multiple sins.
Sacrificed her congas, her lies,
her scented soaps, her trifles,
her luxuries, passions, outbursts.
She ate a pair of eggs on a frugal table.
Screamed pure and happy until becoming hoarse.
She waited in a long line, interminable,
and to her great dismay, sometimes,
while with a saint or a man
she suffered the delirious nostalgia of the frolic.
Her pronouncement was not enough.
The sons of bitches, us, her bastards,
denied her three times. She never again had
nailpolish, not even
a sip of reflecting alcohol
to take to her lips in her frenzies.
And if she screamed with thirst, we did not hear her.
We were clamoring for the world
Translator: Joanne Gomez
August 10, 2010