why havana upon tyne? well, i live north of the tyne, and though i'm a rootless cosmopolitan, havana is the place i sometimes call home. my spanish accent, usually generic, turns strongly habanero when i speak to a friend from havana, and if i close my eyes i can walk all the way from parraga to la vibora, esquina de tejas, and so on till i reach malecon... mind you, havana is not even my favourite cuban city (matanzas is) or the place in that island i love the most (placetas) but i take havana with me anywhere i go
which brings me to two poems i'd like to share. one is by constantine cavafy, the other, by lourdes casal
The City (by Constantine Kavafy)You said: “I’ll go to another country, go to another shore,
find another city better than this one.
Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong
and my heart lies buried as though it were something dead.
How long can I let my mind moulder in this place?
Wherever I turn, wherever I happen to look,
I see the black ruins of my life, here,
where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.”
You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.
This city will always pursue you. You will walk
the same streets, grow old in the same neighborhoods,
will turn gray in these same houses.
You will always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:
there is no ship for you, there is no road.
As you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,
you’ve destroyed it everywhere else in the world.
To Anna Veltfort (by Lourdes Casal)
Never a summertime in Provincetown
and even on this limpid afternoon
(so out of the ordinary for New York)
it is from the window of a bus that I contemplate
the serenity of he grass up and down Riverside Park
and the easy freedom of vacationers resting on rumpled blankets
fooling around on bicycles along the paths.
I remain as foreign behind this protective glass
as I was that winter
—that unexpected weekend—
when I first confronted Vermont’s snow.
And still New York is my home.
I am ferociously loyal to this acquired patria chica.
Because of New York I am a foreigner anywhere else,
fierce pride in the scents that assault us along any West Side street,
marijuana and the smell of beer
and the odor of dog urine
and the savage vitality of Santana
descending upon us
from a speaker that thunders, improbably balanced on a fire escape,
the raucous flory of New York in the summer,
Central Park and us,
who have inherited the lake of the north side,
and Harlem sails through the slackness of this sluggish afternoon.
The bus slips lazily, down, along Fifth Avenue;
and facing me, the young bearded man
carrying a heap of books from the Public Library,
and it seems as if you could touch summer in the sweaty brow of the cyclist
who rides holding onto my window.
But New York wasn’t the city of my childhood,
it was not here that I acquired my first convictions,
not here the spot where I took my first fall,
nor the piercing whistle that marked the night.
This is why I will always remain on the margins,
a stranger among the stones,
even beneath the friendly sun of this summer’s day,
just as I will remain forever a foreigner,
even when I return to the city of my childhood,
I carry this marginality, immune to all turning back,
too habanera to be newyorkina,
too newyorkina to be
—even to become again—
welcome to havana upon tyne 3.0, let's fly together