Monday, February 6, 2012

Aimless Reading: The R's, Part 14 (Soleida Ríos)

el libro de sueños
Ríos, Soleida
el libro de los sueños

Given to me by the author. Inscribed:


Toda la suerte, el amor

Soleida *

Junio 2001

(Encontrada, reencontrada)

I met Soleida in Havana in 2000 at a poetry festival I attended with several of my grad school classmates. We became fast friends. I remember visiting her small apartment in the old town of Havana, not far from where we were staying. She had a bedroom and living room and a kitchen and a bath. I think it was on the second floor of the building. She made me supper the first time I visited. She was into santería, fortune-telling, and dreams.  I remember she filled a small shot of rum for the gods and poured it onto the floor for them to drink before we at out meal.

She had already written and published this book at that time, but was working on something of a sequel. The title means "The Book of Dreams." In the 80's, someone gave her a cassette recorder and she began using it to record people's dreams. They would come visit her or she would go to them and she would ask them to recount a dream on the tape recorder. Later, she'd transcribe the dream and turn it into a prose poem. She finished this book in the late 80's, but it took ten years to see it into print.

On one of my visits, she asked me to recount a dream. I had recently had a dream about Cuba. In it I was walking with poet Roberto Tejada, who did not come on the trip with us. Suddenly a limo pulled up and Fidel Castro got out. Roberto became enraged and began shouting obscenities at Castro. I was begging him to stop, but he would not. Suddenly another black limo pulled up in front of us. Two men in black got out, grabbed Roberto, shoved him in the back of the car and drove off.

She recorded the whole thing, I recall. I couldn't get a read on how she responded to the content. Anyhow, I love this book. I've been slowly trying to translate it, but I haven't worked on it in a while. Here's the first poem in the original and my translation.


Cuando era niño algo se acercaba a mi cama. Era una cosa metafísica. Se iba acercando poco a poco, acercando acercando acercando y me daba mucho miedo aquello que se acercaba y se acercaba. Y dormía siempre con mosquitero porque con el mosquitero aquello quedaba ahí, en el límite mismo y como mirándome. Quizás yo pensaba que ese mosquitero era como una muralla que me separaba de eso y siempre le decía a la vieja que me lo pusiera. Era por temor, no por los mosquitos, pero cuando no me ponían el mosquitero yo no soñaba eso. Nunca. Yo veía, veía y no veía algo a través de la niebla. El mosquitero era la niebla. Sabía que detrás de esa niebla había algo, mirándome. Se acerca, siento que algo se va acercando y que se agranda. Y es una niebla.


When I was a child it approached my bed. It was a metaphysical thing. It was getting closer, little by little, closer closer closer and this thing getting closer and closer made me afraid. And I always slept behind mosquito netting because with mosquito netting that thing stayed where it was, outside the netting, watching me. Perhaps I thought the mosquito netting was like a wall that separated me from it and I always told the old woman to drape it around me. I did it out of fear, not because of the mosquitos, but because when they left the netting off I didn't dream about the metaphysical thing. Ever. I looked and looked and saw nothing through the fog. The mosquito netting was the fog. I knew that behind the fog there was something, watching me. It's getting closer, I feel it getting closer, it's growing. It is the fog.

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