This last Sunday, as I was coming back home from visiting a friend, I crossed the bridge over the Almendares River. And looking at this river, I remembered that beautiful poem the famous poet, Dulce María Loynáz (1902-1997) wrote, inspired by it.
I met this great lady late in her life, when she was already retired and in her voluntary incile* at home, where she had let time and memories peacefully flow. It was her birthday that day, and a good friend of mine had asked me to accompany her in her visit to greet her. I was excited by the idea, because I would have the opportunity to be face to face with one of the most important figures of Hispanic literature. As I did not have anything to give her as a present—it was a last-minute invitation—I decided to give her a beautiful conch shell with a maidenhair fern planted in it. She was a great lover of nature and simple things.
I was very impressed by her beautiful house at El Vedado, even when it was run-down by her evident lack of resources. You could still see some fine furniture and porcelains around, mute witnesses of her former social status. The ceilings had patches of missing plaster, the rugs were worn-out by time, and the lack of paintings on the wall surrounded the house’s owner in an aura of mystery. She received us with a wide smile and a steaming cup of coffee, served by a niece who took care of her. This wonderful lady, already forgotten, became news once again in our planet when she received, a few years later, the important and well-deserved Cervantes Award.
This is how her poem to the river starts:
This river with a musical name
Reaches my heart through a road
Of warm arteries and a tremor of diastoles
This is its last stanza:
I will not say what hand tears it away from me,
Nor inside of what stone of my breast does it find its source:
I will not say it is the most beautiful
But it is my river, my country, my blood!
*The opposite of exile
Translated by T
February 7 2011