Two Poems by Heberto Padilla


I have here the garments of opulence,
though more informal, more beautifully scandalous.
University diplomas, enormous books
written especially
for the Sociology Departments
of prestigious universities which
have underwritten all the costs.
They manage to get visas quickly.
They get accurate reports on pacifist campaigns.
Protests against the war in Nam. In short,
they are people who have chosen the sane,
correct direction for History.
They have taken the plane illegally, i.e., no passport,
but are the most comfortable travelers of the future.
They feel delightfully subversive
and at peace with their consciences.
Their Nikons, Leicas, Rolliflexes (a
matter of individual taste) gleam
perfectly competent to handle
the tropical light, to handle the
underdevelopment. Notebooks flip
open for objective interviews, although of course,
they do not deny that they feel just slightly illicit,
partial toward corazón,
because they love guerrilla warfare, the rough outdoor life, the
struggle, and the strange Spanish the natives speak, a
language which would dazzle Noam Chomsky, no doubt.

In two or three weeks they’ve already sufficient experience
to write a book on the guerrillas,
   on the struggle within the cities,
   on the Cuban character
   (or on all of these subjects)
and as well, one would imagine,
on the specificity of the slightly insolent, but
exciting sort of Spanish Cubans speak.

These people are very educated, very serious,
   provided with systems and methods, so that
it is by no means a rarity that they go back
frustrated by the lack of sexual freedom among the Cubans,
by the inevitable puritanism of revolutions, and by that
which, finally, with a certain melancholy, they end up calling
the gap between theory and practice.
Privately, they confess (not
in their books or at conferences) that
they cut more cane in that field than the best machete-man,
“a character firmly beset by siesta.”
In the field camps, they do not deny, the people preferred to dance,
that the intellectuals “not politically minded at all”
were capable of preoccupation even with poetry.

The night they get back and go to bed with their wives, they
imagine they have developed super muscles (those canefields),
and act like negros, despicable simply.
Their mistresses (taken generally three years apart)
applaud these unused, now insatiable husbands.
For several days they project slides in darkened livingrooms
in which the traveler appears, the hero surrounded by Cubans:
the ICAP guides, skinny and badly dressed, smile
into the camera.
A mountain of natives
hug the hero fraternally.

There are a lot of photos of that ilk throughout the world
of me: I
look like a mountebank. One eye
stares resentfully at the camera,
the other looks anywhere…

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