My Life with Jeff Stryker

translated by George Henson
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) is widely considered one of Cuba’s most important LGBTQ activists. His plays have premiered in Cuba, Puerto Rico, France, and the United States.

George Henson is the author of ten book-length translations, including works by Cervantes laureates Sergio Pitol and Elena Poniatowska. His translation of Abel Posse’s A Long Day in Venice was longlisted for the 2023 Queen Sofía Spanish Institute Translation Prize. He is a Tulsa Artist Fellow.