My Life with Jeff Stryker

Translator: 
Norge Espinosa Mendoza
Norge Espinosa Mendoza. Photo by Carolina Vilches

In the wee hours of the sinister National Night,
when winter is nothing, and nostalgia can barely endure,
I return to you, I shield myself in you, I seek shelter between your legs,
trying to find your other face that speaks to me.
While hospitals celebrate the occasion
of other predisposed deaths, alone, your body accompanies me
in deserted houses that love abandoned,
forgetting the glory of former patriotic holidays.
How strange it is to speak
with the last ghost that never visited us
as it destroys the world, in a watery war;
and see in the mornings in children’s faces
the anxiety of a desire that you stirred in me;
the most ambiguous gift, which is Fatherhood.
Seeing you, serving you, healing your wounds:
the stigmata that love can scarcely consecrate,
I listen to the neighbors through the walls
as they enter their houses with the solemnness of a dog.
I am the dog who barks for you,
steals for you, and has no tears left to shed.
And if I go to the sea, and if I bring the sea
to your door, it is because I know that its murmur consoles you.
My life with you, with the body from the photos
that someone passed around, is perhaps less bitter
because we drink tea as the others say goodbye,
and as long as I speak your name you’ll not grow old.
And because only in me does your immense disease possess
the purple and gold of the highest rituals.
You burn, and it is wonderful
to know that on this afternoon
you exist in a way that annuls my loneliness
and makes me somehow as beautiful
as you must have been, against the quicklime of black walls.
Against the prisons that now remember our expressions
and the photos of a wedding that never happened, but is possible.
I say it for myself, even if there’s no light,
and you no longer see me, hear me, or bear
false witness against my worship
of the perfect thighs that you showed me when I was a boy of ten.
The wee hours are long, the National Night.
And I still love you. And I know my triumph.
I am alive, and you are dead.

 

Translation from the Spanish
By George Henson

Poet, playwright, and cultural critic Norge Espinosa Mendoza (b. 1971, Santa Clara) holds the distinction of being the first Cuban to participate in the University of Iowa’s prestigious International Writing Program. Founder of the Jornadas de Arte Homoerótico and co-organizer of Cuba’s annual Jornada contra la Homofobia, he is widely considered one of Cuba’s most important LGBT activists. His poem “Vestido de novia” was the first poem on a homoerotic theme to win the Premio de Poesía from Cuba’s state cultural magazine El Caimán Barbudo and has since become one of the most anthologized poems by poets of his generation. His most recent book, Cuerpos de un deseo diferente (Ediciones Matanzas, 2013), is a collection of poems, reviews, and essays on topics related to LGBT life in Cuba.

 

George Henson is a senior lecturer of Spanish at the University of Texas at Dallas, where he is completing a PhD in literary and translation studies. His translations, including works by Andrés Neuman, Miguel Barnet, and Leonardo Padura, have appeared previously in World Literature Today. His translations of Elena Poniatowska’s The Heart of the Artichoke and Luis Jorge Boone’s The Cannibal Night were published in 2012 by Alligator Press.


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