Lourdes Gil

Poems from

Vencido el fuego de la especie.

Translated by the Author.

The Manatee

The mobility of the image stirs up hope
and lovingly intercedes.
The shoulder-bone of the grizzled manatee glides
among the sea-shells,
its awkward and victorious body emerging,
mocking those who proclaimed its extinction.
It will not happen: its eyes, like golden beads
enlighten all that is brittle and evasive
keeping alive its prehistoric burden,
its constant, immutable fin in the Cuban ocean.
The antediluvian creature alarms our 20th century
in its timid voyage through the brain's canals
(the muddy Floridian everglades
known in former times as mare nostrum).
It wades surmounting all obstacles
and in the abundance of the North redeems
our frozen seed.
It swims and brings us closer.
It takes us near remote origins
and abandons us by the tallest croton shrubs
where we proliferate happily with the sea weed.

Its calling does not cease nor is this the end of
the mythical animal.
It looms in the amphibian unconsciousness of sleep,
a spiral pulling on the power of Life,
the progeny of desire recreating our form ad infinitum.
To ancient sailors, the aquatic mammal
appeared to be a mermaid.
In his Journal
Columbus beholds the archetypal memory of Cuba:
the mobile image of the small sea-cow,
house indivisible and miracle,
a rare vision sprouting by the enthralling shores.

Have no fear, the manatee will not be captured.
The laws of evolution yield, the disparities
present in our blood.
The expulsion from Eden yields
before the roasted almond color of its eyes
the sparse hair under the sun,
the crevice of love open wide
in the breath of air which scatters the Word
made fruitful.
Like the children of opposite and centripetal forces
we are mutations:
the cleansed image is once again exhaled.

Upon such Sacrifices, My Cordelia

Bach tread upon fire
reverently sailing the Sargasso Sea.
The winds howled behind the oak-trees,
while incense crowned with obols
every finger.
And, like King Lear,
he glimpsed
a delicate stratagem.

The Scriveners (Their Craft)

First they lie still.
They later rise, the groin unfolding,
to trip on burning chains.
They touch, yet their feet avoid the embers.
They do not yield.
As they compose the somber, millenary ritual
from their plum-like eyes,
they cast their panting in a mold.
They are another.
For that other self within them
and for all,
they puncture cuneiform alphabets in Braille.
Who cares to read them?
Night creeps upon them
and finds them always pressed against the ground,
tying a knot upon the knot over their hearts.
Their words are scorching seeds
they impregnate, like roasted partridges,
in aromatic wine of cinnamon and clove.
And finally, they pose
by the heretic panoply of their verse,
in a renouncement of their purse
and the long locks of their hair
as vows of tonsure do demand.
Then they expose the salty vessel of their tears
before a hostile army
brandishing cornhusks at them.
Yet all is devoured by a hidden pylorus:
the Parousia enveloping the stage,
the metaphors, the early fruit;
diffusing all
in the rotating vortex of the Earth.

Lourdes Gil

(Havana, Cuba, 1951) Her published works are: Neumas (1977), Manuscrito de la niña ausente (1980); Vencido el fuego de la especie (1983), Blanca aldaba preludia (1989) and Empieza la ciudad (1993). She received the Cintas Fellowship in 1979. In 1991 was a finalist for the "Letras de Oro" Poetry Award.