Near a cruising spot in Santa Clara

By Pedro de Jesús
Translated by Dick Cluster

Feldspar. Tiger. Meekness. Scaffold.

With words at his disposal, a poet

can play fast and loose, ape dementia,

offer the falsest face to the world.


Paint himself sterile, ill, torn, unshod,

declaim all manner of afflictions

adhere, in the grip of rhyme, to a deity:

“I render all praise unto God.”


But a poet can’t feign love, lest a lover

detect between lines the flash

of a harness on some ancient animal


that would, if let slip, spring out,

throw off its rein, and denounce

both pose and poet for their lash.


Born in 1970, Pedro de Jesús has published short stories, a novel, essays, and poetry in Cuba and abroad. His stories, which began to appear in the 1990s, were among the first published in Cuba to deal explicitly with gay, lesbian, shifting, and ambiguous sexual identities. He has twice won the country’s major literary award, the Premio Carpentier, once for fiction and once for criticism, as well as the annual award of La Gaceta de Cuba. His two story collections have been published in English translation as Vital Signs (Diálogos, 2014) and Frigid Tales (City Lights, 2002), both translated by Dick Cluster. De Jesús is unusual among leading Cuban writers for being based in the provincial town of Fomento, in the center of the island, rather than in Havana or abroad. “Fable with Monster” is from de Jesús’s next volume of stories, now in preparation.

Dick Cluster is the author of the novels Return to Sender, Repulse Monkey, and Obligations of the Bone (recently re-issued as e-books by booksbnimble.com) as well as History of Havana (with Rafael Hernandez), a social history of the Cuban capital, and other nonfiction. He has translated a wide range of contemporary Cuban fiction writers as well as other writing from Mexico, South America, and Spain. He is currently working on an anthology of Latin American baseball fiction in translation. A two-part written conversation on literary translation between Dick Cluster and Mylene Fernández Pintado can be found at http://tinyurl.com/ClusterPintado (Part I) and http://tinyurl.com/ClusterPintado2 (Part II). He was a finalist for the 2015 PEN Center USA prize for literary translation and the 2015 Northern California Book Award for fiction translation, both for Mylene Fernández Pintado’s A Corner of the World (City Lights, 2014).