entrance (fragments)

By Víctor Rodríguez Núñez
Translated by Katherine M. Hedeen

1 [158 Campanario Street]

first and foremost to scrape

everything you see

the homeland’s in the claves

the city rooster waking up traffic

and later to pickaxe

on wet parts bratty digits

the homeland is solid ground

held up by mangrove roots

in its thirst for color reality

soaks up what the blind man

gets for it with equine bristles

it can be an atoll a woman

and if you push a dream

you always need a second coat

14 [Paseo del Prado]

this country’s gotten out of foot

and took another way

with its dense routine

not even a rumba could upset

legendary mulatas

fanning their wait ripe with heat

and chinos in line smile

at the doors of nothing

country of reggaetón dual currency

ideological stridency

where the only thing decent is the sun

country resolute in triangular ruins

breathless on the stairs

no longer here or returning with you

15 [Zenaida’s House]

resolved to repair what’s irreparable

in the city blocked up by dust

table changed

to idea of table

turtle to vegetal shell

and fleshy leaves with borders

to fossil panting

you search for a meaning

to the packed solar

to every spider in the loft

yet this space holds your rhythm

not even death hurries it up gets here late

for a decent place

to dust off being with a tiny rag

Víctor Rodríguez Núñez (Havana 1955) is a poet, journalist, literary critic, translator, and scholar. He has published thirty books of poetry throughout Latin America and Europe, and his work has long been the recipient of major awards throughout the Spanish-speaking world, most recently, Spain’s coveted Loewe Poetry Prize. He has compiled three anthologies that define his poetic generation, as well as another of 20th century Cuban poetry, La poesía del siglo XX en Cuba (2011). He has brought out various critical editions, introductions, and essays on Spanish American poets. One of Cuba’s most outstanding contemporary writers, he divides his time between Gambier, Ohio, where he is Professor of Spanish at Kenyon College, and Havana.

Katherine M. Hedeen is a specialist in Latin American poetry and has both extensively written on and translated contemporary authors from the region. Her book-length translations include published collections by Rodolfo Alonso, Juan Bañuelos, Juan Calzadilla, Marco Antonio Campos, Luis García Montero, Juan Gelman, Fayad Jamís, Hugo Mujica, José Emilio Pacheco, Víctor Rodríguez Núñez, and Ida Vitale. She is an associate editor of Earthwork’s Latin American Poetry in Translation Series for Salt Publishing and an acquisitions editor for Arc Publications. She is the recipient of a 2009 and a 2015 National Endowment for the Arts Translation Project Grant. She resides in Ohio where she is Professor of Spanish at Kenyon College.