The Judges of Caiaphas vs. Ernesto Cardenal

The government has a grudge against Ernesto Cardenal for being so great and speaking his mind, for never being quiet.

By Sergio Ramírez   (Confidencial)

Poet Ernesto Cardenal. Illustration: Px MolinA

HAVANA TIMES — I only found out on Sunday that Ernesto Cardenal has been notified that he must pay $800,000 USD, via a legal document, as the result of a trial that was made up a long time ago. I crossed over the street to see him. We’ve been neighbors for quite some time now.

This house is the only property Ernesto has on this Earth, and he’s never wanted anything more. When the judges auction it off, it won’t do much to pay this debt of aversion and hate that they are making him pay. The fact that Gunther Grass, Graham Greene, Garcia Marquez, Julio Cortazar and Harold Pinter all entered through the front door won’t be of much worth.

This is the same house where he has lived for nearly four decades, ever since the Revolution triumphed, and it’s needed a paint job for ages. There are only shadows inside, the same wicker rocking chairs in the living room, and the worn photos of the kids in Solentiname, his spiritual children, who fell in combat or were killed in Somoza’s prisons. And quite a few sculptures, cactus, herons, fish, armadillos, which he continues to make now at 92 years old, and which are his main source of income.

I go inside his conventual bedroom. There’s a monk’s bed, another rocking chair, a bookcase. You can see the plants out in the patio from the window. I find him sitting on the edge of his bed, where he meditates; his first meditation begins at 4 AM. He has always been loyal to his faith and poverty has followed him.

When the judges of Caiaphas come with their government assessors to make an inventory of what there is in the house so they can seize it all, they won’t find very much. The same old furniture, his books in bookcases, there’s a lot of those, but I’m sure they won’t satisfy the greed of those who want to strip him of everything he has out of revenge. Because of a grudge, as we would say here in Nicaragua. The government has a grudge against Ernesto Cardenal for being so great and speaking his mind, for never being quiet.

I remember Caiaphas’ judges because I remember his poem from Gethsemani, Ky:

It is the hour when brothel and cafe lights shine.
Caiaphas’ house is full of people.
The lights in Somoza’s palace are switched on.
It is the hour when the Councils of War meet…

The damning sentence has been given to Nicaragua’s greatest poet, plotted at midnight, via a legal document like somebody who has no known address. The judge who has sentenced him will order that they kick him out of this house so as to give it to the plaintiff invented by the government that wants to humiliate him. We couldn’t expect anything else. They want to leave him out on the street.

You don’t even have to think about it, poet, I tell him, just take a few steps and come to my house with your four pieces of luggage, and your books, that is if they don’t take your books. Tulita, my wife, will be very happy to have you. Just imagine what a good time we’ll have, talking.

But, I added, be prepared for a great fight, because there will be thousands of people here in Nicaragua who want to take you home with them too. A great honor like this doesn’t go unnoticed very easily, just like the colossal injustice that the judges of Caiaphas are committing against you won’t go unnoticed neither.

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