A Farewell to Souls / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

The first time I saw Havana was when I walked it holding your hand.

The city smelled of coarse capitalism, of drinks and meals suddenly very expensive, of transparent dusk, of lateral light, of placards that no one will renovate now, of Fidel Castro the cadaver, of dirty grey, of a stampede of guayaberas and neckties, of restrained madness, of cool air from the secret police’s modern sedans, that smell exactly like the modern sedans of the Cuban exile.

The tyranny of the market is universal.

The first time I walked Havana holding your hand I understood that I was losing it forever.

You didn’t know anything.  You still don’t know anything.  But, yes, all of it was a trap.

Castrismo in Cuba is a question of genetics and it is carried into the future like a curse of phobia against Man, against those who are different, against the Other.  Fears and mediocrities that make us miserly, mean, very mean, precisely against that which we love most and least want to see laughing with the rabid laughter of freedom.

The soul of Cubans is a roofless jail, open to the sky.  That is already the most immortal legacy of the Cuban Revolution.  There is absolutely no totalitarianism, rather only sadness.

You and your skirt of fine white fabric looked like eternity.

And eternity is ephemeral, we know that already.  A vision.

Havana passed by slowly at our side and didn’t touch us, we wouldn’t have allowed it to touch us.  That cowardly, shitty, abusive, ignorant city, where it’s impossible to say “I love you.”

The city was only a set.  Cardboard streets.  Cane pulp façades.  Prop arches.  A dictatorship of backroom deals where only assassins survive.  Little men of cotton padding.

Because only death could go on being real.

Death like a gleam of wisdom in our eyes.

Death like a promise that Havana will soon be an uninhabited planet.

Death like that gentle breath that we needed.

Death like the very sense for loving.

Death like the dead waters of Havana Bay, where the smokestacks hoist their flags of stinking incense, little cocktails of churches and animals decapitated in the middle of the street in the anonymous name of a god.


I looked at my hands, with yours inside them, and told myself: it can’t be.

I wept under the rain of one cold front after another, we lost track of those tears among those belated little drops from the sky, and I talked and talked to you about attack ships on fire in my imagination, in a Cuban novel that would unfold among those stars that we watched burning out up there, on Orion’s pelvic sword; I talked and talked to you about infrared beams cracking on the edges of the main gate at Colón Cemetery; I talked and talked to you with a delirium right out of the end of times that wanted to be from the beginning of another time, another world, other souls, other bodies, another Cuba that, upon being possible, would no longer be possible, please; I talked and talked to you about things that you all, Cubans, will never create.

All those words, like the rain in the United States, that announces itself in two languages before falling on transmitters from coast to coast.

All those words, like digital maps that regenerate a strange reality, cognizable and unrecognizable.

All those words, said for the last time, and after them the silence facing the rest of you, Cubans, that you all would never believe.

You can’t.  You won’t.

The last time I saw Havana was when you let my hand go.

The city smelled of childhood, of abandoned mothers, of genocide.  I didn’t care.

I still don’t care.

As you get out of the trap, you also learn while getting out of the trap.

Remain, then, in the posthumous peace of the perplexed.

Translated by: Yoyi el Monaguillo

23 June 2013