Poems for staying at home (Day 19)


thumb_RG with Wendy and Andres_1024


Wendy Guerra‘s poem, ‘Reverse Journey’, appropriately reflects our current state of travel: it takes place without actually going anywhere. The poem is one of my favourites from The Other Tiger. Guerra, pictured above in matching colours with Andrés Neuman and myself in Guadalajara, nine years ago, first made her name with the autofiction Todos se van translated as Everyone leaves, but still lives in Cuba, as far as I know.


Reverse Journey

I pack and unpack my bag
I do and undo everything with the intention of leaving
I call my friends tell them I’m escaping
and later secretly board the raft
to absorb the sorcery of the sun in peace
A wedding ring lost in the stomach of a fish
And again the luggage for the non-deferrable journey
I keep seeing that unmoving piece of marble
that are the boots of my personal memorial
Look how my tears course down the suitcase
you track them with your index finger
and you will arrive at the centre of my doubts
I fish in the same sea that overflows in the water from my eyes
I see my half-packed suitcase come on board
my tormented compass
and the child’s drawing of a map of Cuba
I trace the thousand forms of an exploratory circumnavigation
Dip a foot in to test the exact temperature of the waters
withdraw a little and then leave
for the interminable and conclusive regatta
Someone pushes me for a laugh and I almost fall and drown
but I sustain an amazing state of equilibrium
I make the journey to the interior
realizing in an epiphany
that I dictate my ideas’ last line.

(Translated by Richard Gwyn)


El viaje inverso

Hago y deshago la maleta
hago y rehago todo con intención de partir
Llamo a los amigos les cuento que me escapo
y luego subo disimuladamente a la balsa
a recibir en paz los sortilegios del sol
Un anillo de bodas perdido en el estómago de un pez
Y otra vez las valijas para el viaje impostergable
Veo y veo ese inmóvil trozo de mármol
que son las botas de mi monumento personal
Mira cómo viajan mis lágrimas sobre la valija
los sigues con el dedo índice
y llegarás hasta al centro de mis dudas
Pesco en el mismo mar que desborda el agua de mis ojos
Veo cómo sube mi valija incompleta
mi brújula atormentada
y el dibujo de un niño con el mapa de Cuba
Trazo las mil formas de un bojeo exploratorio
Sacar el pie para probar la temperatura exacta de las aguas
retroceder un poco y partir luego
a la regata interminable y conclusiva
Alguien me empuja en broma y casi caigo ahogada
pero conservo un asombroso estado de equilibrio
Hago el viaje al interior
divisando iluminada que yo dicto
el último renglón de mis ideas.


Wendy Guerra was born in 1970 in Cienfuegos, Cuba. She is part of a generation of Cuban writers and artists who express themselves in a mix of genres and across media. She came to fame with the publication of an autobiographical novel based on her diaries, Todo se van in 2006, which won the Premio Bruguera de Novela and gained critical acclaim across Spain and Latin America, and was published in English as Everyone leaves (2012). A Cage Within is a collection of translations of Guerra’s poetry published by Harbor Mountain Press (2013). In 2016 Guerra published Domingo de Revolución (Revolution Sunday) in Spain, the story of a Cuban author who publishes a book of poems in Europe and is the object of suspicion by both the Cuban government and Cuban dissidents.

3 Comments on “Poems for staying at home (Day 19)

  1. Love this. Hard to believe she is not actually on the raft.
    That ‘s not Richard Blanco in the photo, right?


    • Ah, comprendo! We’re you in Nicaragua with Richard at a poetry festival? I believe I read that. I live in Brookline, MA, and we have a Sister City there. We hosted Richard in Brookline in Feb for our Sister City. People loved him, of course. Be well!


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