Livio walks the streets weighed down with depression. He drags his feet as if he was hauling his own body, but he’s so thin you hardly notice. When he comes up to you, all you notice is his energy.
Livio is a poet who lives in my Havana suburb of Alamar, a fine poet. He spends his days recalling past times, like when his friends were still in Cuba, the poetry readings, and the Quijote Group (artists and poets that got together in the 80s to create art in different places, especially in Alamar), streets performances, and the long beard that hung down his chest.
Livio has been left all by himself. That’s what he says, despite hearing the many voices that speak to him from his interior. At the calling of that chorus, many years ago he walked barefoot on the reefs of what’s called Russian Beach; he would pull his finger and toe nails; and he painted and wrote.
There are people who cannot separate themselves from their work, and visa versa. To understand Livio’s poetry, you have to know him. To really know Livio, you have to read his poems.
His family supports him, of course, but he misses his friends, the bohemian life, and the rebelliousness that allowed him to unbridle his schizophrenia.
His family is religious. One time they decided that he should be initiated into the Afro-Cuban Santeria. Then we saw Livio dressed in white and being ever careful about his food as if he cared about material possessions. After a few years everyone said that he was better. It’s true that he doesn’t have crises so frequently, but he seems depressed to me. He walks the streets as if his body weighs him down…
The cultural environment in Alamar has also changed. The youngest impose their will. They see Livio as person half crazed, but nice. They don’t value the quality of his work, the validity of the absurdity and disaster of his poetic images as symbols of a reality. They don’t feel the tearing open of his soul when he writes. They don’t know him.
There are a few of his faithful friends here who are willing to follow him, though we know that his ship is slowly sinking. But then whose craft isn’t sinking? Who is able to be so sure of themselves for an entire lifetime not relinquishing the helm from time to time, leaving their vessel to be taken by the tide?
I’m helping him to type in his poems into a computer. I hope that one day he will win a prestigious prize and that all his works will be published.
Then I want to see if he walks less burdened through those same streets, which he has tread for almost 50 years, and which he has never stopped mentioning in his poetry.
The day that occurs I’ll be very happy. That will confirm that I didn’t lose my mind when I came to believe that madness was a part of life, and that it makes us more dynamic, more consistent, more real – and less boring.