Varadero en Alba

According to my parents, Miami Beach was a filthy, ugly beach. There was no beach in the world that could even compare to their beautiful Varadero in Cuba. I never believed their nostalgic chatter, until I saw Varadero for the first time during my first visit to Cuba. This poem is about my encounter with that landscape at sunrise and memories of my father. The stanzas in Spanish were written first, then the English stanzas, which are a kind of response echoing similar images, but are not direct translations. They are reflections of each other, responses of how my two “halves”–the Spanish and English–experienced Varadero.

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tus olas roncas murmuran entre ellas
las luciérnagas se han cansado
las gaviotas esperan como ansiosas reinas
We gypsy through the island’s north ridge
ripe with villages cradled in cane and palms,
the raw harmony of fireflies circling about
amber faces like dewed fruit in the dawn;
the sun belongs here, it returns like a soldier
loyal to the land, the leaves turn to its victory,
a palomino rustles its mane in blooming light.
I have no other vision of this tapestry.
tus palmas viudas quieren su danzón
y las nubes se mueven inquietas como gitanas,
adivina la magia encerrada del caracol
The morning pallor blurs these lines:
horizon with shore, mountain with road;
the shells conceal their chalky magic,
the dunes’ shadows lengthen and grow;
I too belong here, sun, and my father
who always spoke paradise of the same sand
I now impress barefoot on a shore I’ve known
only as a voice held like water in my hands.
las estrellas pestañosas tienen sueño
en la arena, he grabado tu nombre,
en la orilla, he clavado mi remo
There are names chiseled in the ivory sand,
striped fish that slip through my fingers
like wet and cool ghosts among the coral,
a warm rising light, a vertigo that lingers;
I wade in the salt and timed waves,
facing the losses I must understand,
staked oars crucifixed on the shore.
Why are we nothing without this land?