Poetry or Something More Concrete?

Osmel Almaguer

Laundry. Photo: Gregory Israelstam

At the House of Poetry, I was listening to verses being recited by a Cuban author of some standing when suddenly I noticed a young woman sitting next to me.  She wasn’t the most attractive person, though she had a certain charm.  A “who-knows-what” diverted my attention from the reading long enough for us to exchange looks.

At first she drew back, but then she smiled.  It seemed like she wasn’t enjoying the poems that were being read there, while I nodded my head convinced at having understood her.

She appeared to be about 20, dressed simply but smart.  I figured that if she was attending a poetry reading, there could only be two reasons: either she was there with somebody or she was a poetry lover.  At least so I thought.

“Did you come with someone?”  I decided to ask.

“No,” she said.

So then I thought, “This one’s mine.”  Sensitive, a quiet beauty, and lucid enough to realize that what was being read wasn’t great poetry.

We exchanged glances again, and then I thought I saw in her eyes the consent to what I was trying to express with mine.  Everything was fine…until some guy plopped down beside her.

From the familiarity with which they spoke, it seemed as if they had known each other for a long time.  I was somewhat annoyed that they had distracted me. Maybe that’s why I was interested in finding out what they were talking about.

Then, before I had a chance to make any sense of what they were saying, two more people came up to them.  They greeted her with the same confidence that the other guy had shown – as if she were the favorite daughter of what was starting to look like some kind of secret society.

Notwithstanding, my confusion lasted only until the moment a waiter arrived with a tray of pastry.  Behind him came a mob with this woman was leading the pack, almost throwing herself at the tray trying to snatch some sweets.

Of course I hadn’t picked up on it before.  Many people in Havana devote themselves to “hunting down” snacks and refreshments provided by cultural institutions.  They have their list of places and you can see them barging in about fifteen minutes before the place starts giving out whatever’s going to be made available.


Osmel Almaguer:Until recently I would to identify myself as a poet, a cultural promoter and a university student. Now that my notions on poetry have changed slightly, that I got a new job, and that I have finished my studies, I’m forced to ask myself: Am I a different person? In our introductions, we usually mention our social status instead of looking within ourselves for those characteristics that define us as unique and special. The fact that I’m scared of spiders, that I’ve never learned to dance, that I get upset over the simplest things, that culminating moments excite me, that I’m a perfectionist, composed but impulsive, childish but antiquated: these are clues that lead to who I truly am.

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