Choosing, Taking Your Life

Irina Pino

Juan Carlos Flores reading a poem.  Photo:
Juan Carlos Flores reading a poem. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — On September 15th, I heard about Cuban poet Juan Carlos Flores’ suicide. He’d suffered from schizophrenia and in the last period of his life, he’d decided to be by himself, his wife had gone out of the country. His friends used to help him, but in many of these situations, people who suffer from this disease, brusquely end all of their relationships, close themselves off and participate in their own deaths.

This disease has very rough edges, and those who suffer living in complete solitude, don’t escape them. Those afflicted by this evil, can hear their own voice and converse with, or hear, other voices.

Word has it that he went out and bought bread that morning, announcing that he was going to hang himself. Later, they found his body hanging from his balcony. It was difficult to enter the apartment as he had secured the door shut with planks of wood and other objects.

I can imagine how devastating it must have been for all of his family and friends, to have to deal with this event. I didn’t know him personally; I’d only seen him once, at a book reading he gave at Torre de Letras – the literary project created by Reina Maria Rodriguez at the Cuban Book Institute. On that occasion, Juan Carlos Flores had read some of his poems; I remember that they were short but powerfully concise.

Taking your own life, is normally very unfair to others, those who love you; or maybe it can be an act of bravery, or rebelliousness, an option that allows you to stop suffering, something which reveals to us that it’s impossible to accept the disease’s imbalances, the darkness which you want to escape forever.

As Angel Escobar once wrote in his poems: “If I wasn’t a knife/ I could talk to somebody who walks past. / I would tell them that their fears are my fears, / but from the other side/ atrocities never have just one face.”

Poets’ deaths move us, because they’ve been chosen, to say and see things in a very unique way, to have blessed eyes, eyes and a sense of smell, because they don’t have to be held accountable when they leave. Juan Carlos Flores joins the list of poets who have committed suicide in Cuba: Raul Hernandez Novas, Angel Escobar, and many others, who left their mark with their poems, having their lives and their deaths at their disposal.

A strange goodbye for real lives.