May 13, 2020

Carlos Estévez, Self-Fishing, 2006, collage on paper, 39½ x 27½ inches / Courtesy of the artist

Now the beat
(there is always a beat).
Now the drums
and the darkness within.
Now the dance.
The standoff.

Now the story about the jailer
who frees the future dictator out of pity.
Now his lover (the invisible ink).
Now the reports from the front.
Now the betrayal which becomes myth,
the homemade bomb that doesn’t go off,
the priest that intervenes (to his regret).

Now the carnival
that yields the (unexpected) victory.
And the sick.
And the wounded.
The triumphant speech before the multitude.

Now the same horizon
as yesterday,
orange instead of blue.

The damned circumstance.

Now the fleets.
Bactris cubensis, pinus cubensis, the strangler fig.

Repeat, repeat, ad infinitum.

Now the old man on the precipice.
Now the holy burden of being the last one standing.
Now the chess game in the afternoon.
And the milk rice pudding.
And the walk in the garden.
And the toenails that need to be clipped.

This is not History.

Pages marked with highlights.
The story reenacted for posterity.
Photos retouched for accuracy.
Events (an ordering).

This is how it was and it wasn’t
and how it really was.

Repeat, repeat, ad infinitum.

Now the clearing.
Now the bones along the ocean floor



Ahora la clave
(siempre hay una clave).
Ahora los tambores
y la íntima oscuridad.
Ahora el baile.
La pausa.

Ahora la historia sobre el carcelero
que por piedad libera al futuro dictador.
Ahora su amante y la tinta invisible.
Ahora los informes desde el frente.
Ahora la traición que se convierte en mito,
la bomba casera que no explota,
el sacerdote que interviene (a su pesar).

Ahora el carnaval,
grito de victoria (inesperada).
Y los enfermos.
Y los heridos.
El discurso triunfal ante la multitud.

Ahora el horizonte (el mismo)
como ayer,
naranja en vez de azul.

La maldita circunstancia.

Ahora las flotas.
Bactris cubensis, pinus cubensis, higo estrangulador.

Repetir, repetir, ad infinitum.

Ahora el anciano en el precipicio.
Ahora el bendito compromiso de ser último en pie.
Ahora el juego de ajedrez por la tarde.
Arroz con leche.
Paseo por el jardín.
Las uñas de los pies que necesitan ser recortadas.

Esto no es historia.

Página marcada y subrayada.
La historia re-presentada para la posteridad.
Foto retocada con precisión.
Eventos (ordenados).

Así es como fue y no fue
y fue de verdad.

Ahora el claro.
Ahora los huesos a lo largo del piso del mar.


Achy Obejas ( is the author of the critically acclaimed Tower of the Antilles, which was a PEN/Faulkner finalist, an Aspen Words nominee, a PEN Open Book finalist, and shortlisted for the Story Prize. She writes fiction, poetry, and was part of a Chicago Tribune Pulitzer Prize–winning team. As a translator, she has worked with Rita Indiana, Junot Díaz, Wendy Guerra, Megan Maxwell, and many others. A native of Havana, she’s currently based in the San Francisco Bay area.

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