Two Poems by Reinaldo Arenas

BOMB 82 Winter 2003
BOMB 082

Viejo Niño

I am that child with the round dirty face
who on every corner is bothering you with
his “can you spare one quarter?”1
I am that child with the dirty face
—no doubt unlucky—
that from far away contemplates coaches
where the other children emit laughter
and jump up and down considerably
I am that unlikable child
—definitely unlucky—

with the round dirty face who under giant
streetlights or under the grand dames
also illuminated or before the little
girls that seem to levitate
project the insult of my dirty face.
I am that sullen child, even more gray,
that wrapped up in lamentable
combinations puts a dark note on the snow
or on the carefully trimmed lawn
that nobody but me would walk on,
because I don’t pay fines.

I am that angry and lonely child of
always, that throws you the insult of
that angry child of always
and warns you: if hypocritically you pat
me on the head I would take that
opportunity to steal your wallet.
I am that child of always,
before the panorama of eminent terror,
of eminent leprosy, of eminent fleas, of
offenses or of the eminent crime.
I am that repulsive child that improvises
a bed out of an old cardboard box and
waits, certain, that you will accompany

New York (October 1983)
Originally published in Voluntad de vivir manifestandose.
© 1989 by Reinaldo Arenas.
English translation © 1988, 2002 by Lázaro Gómez Carriles.

1. The question appears in English in the Spanish version.

As Long as the Sky Whirls

For Lázaro Gómez

      As long as the sky whirls
You will be my redemption and my doom,
magnetic vision,
                     lily in underwear,
salvation and madness
                     every night waiting.
As long as the sky whirls
no infernal could be a stranger
because I have to take care that that would not harm you,
No joy would go by inadvertent
Because in some way I have to reveal it to you,
                     As long as
                     the sky
               you will be the truth of myself,
               the song and the venom,
               the danger and the ecstasies,
               the vigil and the sleep,
               the dread and the miracle.
As long as the sky whirls … but perhaps the sky whirls?
Well: as long as the sky exists.

                     As long as
                     the sky
               you will be my pain most noticeable,
               my loneliness most tragic
               my bewilderment unanimous
               my perpetuous silence
               and my absolute consolation.
As long as the sky exists … but perhaps the sky exists?
Well: as long as you yourself exist.
                     As long as
                     you yourself
               you will be the mirror and the time,
               the infinity and the imminent,
               the memory and the unusual
               the defeat and the verse,
               my enemy and my image.
Because there would be no more suns than the ones you yourself radiate
like there would be no other penance than to know that you exist.
                             But perhaps you do exist?

New York (May 1985)
Originally published as “Mientras El Cielo Gire” in Voluntad de vivir manifestandose.
Copyright © Reinaldo Arenas, 1989.
English translation © 2002 by Lázaro Gómez Carriles.

Lázaro Gómez Carriles, a Cuban-born artist and writer, graduated from the University of Havana with a degree in philosophy and letters. In 1980 he fled Cuba along with his mentor, Reinaldo Arenas. In 2000, Arenas’s memoirs became the subject of a film, Before Night Falls, cowritten by Carriles and artist Julian Schnabel, the film’s director. Carriles is the founder of the Membranofonismo movement, which explores the synthesis of sound and vision. 

Reinaldo Arenas, one of the best known and most admired Cuban writers in the Spanish-speaking world, was born in the rural Oriente province of Cuba between Holguin and Gibara, on July 16, 1943. In 1961 he moved to Havana, where he studied philosophy and literature at the University of Havana and fought with Castro’s rebels before gradually becoming disillusioned with the revolution.

In 1970, he was sentenced to spend a year at a forced-labor camp under the Castro regime. While there, a friend smuggled in 87 “clean white pages,” on which he wrote his renowned furious prose poem of denunciation, A Cuban Sugar Mill. He was persecuted by Castro’s regime because of his homosexuality and his resistance to social realism and was imprisoned several times, including two years at the El Morro prison from 1974-76. His work suppressed, Arenas nonetheless continued to write. As he said, “I now have an eager, even voracious audience—State Security.” His work was eventually smuggled to the outside world and began to circulate in French and Spanish in the late ’70s.

In August 1980, Arenas left Cuba for New York. The recipient of a Cintas and a Guggenheim Fellowship, he is the author of ten novels, including Farewell to the Sea, Hallucinations, and The Graveyard of the Angels. He also published numerous books of short stories and poetry, and a memoir, Before Night Falls. His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages.

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Originally published in

BOMB 82, Winter 2003

Featuring interviews with Christopher Cozier, Carlos Garaicoa, Maria Elena Gonzalez, Antonio Benitez-Rojo, Zee Edgell, Wilson Harris, Eddie Bobe, Marc Ribot, and Orlando “Maraca” Valle

Read the issue
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