Monday, May 7, 2012

Poem for a Monday: Normal

Two weeks ago our town held "Cuba Week," a wonderful exploration of Cuban culture and celebration of the sister city relationship we have with Trinidad, Cuba.  I'll confess that in the past most of my "Cuba Week" participation has been limited to eating black beans and rice at Henry and Marty's Restaurant, but this year I found myself salsa dancing with friends to the rhythms of a great band, and also spent a fine afternoon at The Little Dog Coffee Shop on Maine Street, where the oh-so-irreverent Gary Lawless read Cuban poetry.

This poem is from an out-of-print collection, which you probably couldn't sell in the United States even if it were still in print.  Gary's copy is profoundly dog-eared and yellow, and flaps open loosely to his favorite poems:  a well loved book.  A Velveteen Rabbit of a book.

This poem he read, translated from Spanish, received the loudest applause from the audience.  It made me wish I could dog-whistle.  You know, two fingers in the mouth, eardrum piercing whistle?  It was a good poem for me to hear on that particular day.

How Lucky They Are, The Normal Ones
by Roberto Fernandez Retamar (b. 1930)
(for Antonia Eiriz)
How lucky they are, the normal ones, those peculiar creatures:
The ones who didn't have a crazy mother, a drunk for a father, a delinquent son,
A house nowhere at all, an unknown disease - 
The ones who've worn all the seventeen smiling faces and more,
The ones stuffed with shoes, the cute ones,
The Rin-tin-tins & their secretaries, the ones who "Sure, why not?" this way,
The ones who make money & are loved up to the hilt,
The flautists accompanied by mice,
The hucksters & their clientele,
The gentlemen just a touch superhuman,
The men dressed in thunder & the women dressed in lightning,
The delicate ones, the prudent ones, the ones with taste.
The courteous ones, the sweet ones, the edibles & potables,
How lucky they are, birds & manure
& stones.

Just let them keep out of the way of the others, the ones who make
Worlds & dreams, illusions
& symphonies, words that tear us down
& rebuild us, crazier than their mothers, drunker
Than their fathers, worse delinquents than their sons,
More eaten at by loves more corrosive:
Let them leave these their stations in hell, & forget it.

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