en resalto | [javier ávila]




Caminos Convergentes inicia la sección «Resalto» con la poesía de Javier Ávila (1975). Poeta, novelista y profesor, ha recibido el Premio de Poesía del Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña por El papel del difunto. También recibió el Premio de Poesía Nacional del Pen Club de Puerto Rico por La simetría del tiempo, y el Premio Olga Nolla de Poesía por Vidrios ocultos en la alfombra. Su novela Different fue llevada al cine bajo el título de Miente. Recientemente, se encuentra presentando su espectáculo The Trouble With My Name en los Estados Unidos, donde trabaja y reside con su familia.




denied service

                                                  Upon being heard speaking Spanish
                                                  at the entrance of a restaurant in Hazleton, PA
.



Should I have told the waitress
that my father never had a good night’s sleep,
that he was haunted by recurrent nightmares
after that day when he, a young man
with stripes on his shoulders,
led Private Díaz and Private González
to the safety of the trenches,
and rescued Corporal Murphy, Private Williams,
and Private First Class De León
from the hovering claws of tanks and gunfire
before he tried and failed to save Private Rivera,
twenty-year-old Carlos Rivera, Carlitos,
beloved father of newborn María Rivera,
to whom he promised to return
safely from Korea? My father,
deafened by the shots, the shrieks of torture,
the agony of oscillating bullets,
dragged Carlitos’ body through smoke and ashes,
saw the blood run in rivulets over the mud;
the tourniquet was not enough to stop the flow,
and as Carlitos bled to death, my father said:
Hold on, my friend. Aguanta
que pronto salimos de esto,
but they would not get out in time for life,
and for Carlitos, who whispered
mi María as his last breath,
that would be it. This cross
my father carried with him every day.

Should I have told the waitress
that my uncle lost both legs in Vietnam,
and that the phantom pain
no morphine could erase
—the throbbing of the stumps,
the constant pounding, sharp like a tornado,
relentless like the memory of war—
would follow him throughout the bitter journey
from opium to Prozac?
And a decade after his return to the island,
he still assured my mother
that the American Military Academy
was the best choice for me to learn
the discipline of service.

Should I have told the waitress
that both my father and my uncle,
who worked for the federal government,
died in the same Veterans Hospital
in Guaynabo, the same year
my cousin enlisted
in the US Marine Corps?

Should I have told the waitress
that after years with the JROTC
insignia on my sleeve
and a bilingual education on the island
that Spain forgot,
I now teach English to native English speakers
in North America,
the English that I learned in the Caribbean,
specifically the US Commonwealth
(yes, a commonwealth,
like the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania)
Puerto Rico
where I was born and raised?

Should I have told the waitress
that having this skin
that white people pay good money for
at the tanning salon
is not a crime?
That saying salud instead of “Bless you”
when someone sneezes
is not a crime?
That greeting friends with a kiss
instead of a handshake
is not a crime?
That teaching Spanish to my son,
who calls the mainland home,
is not a crime?
That I cannot remove the plátano stain on his back
nor would I want to
because he is the grandson of Sergeant Avila,
who sacrificed his health for us,
who didn’t let Carlitos die in vain,
who taught me well the value
of silence
and of words,
who knew since he was the same age as this woman
who has already judged me
that there are things in this world
that cannot be denied.
Soy ciudadano de los Estados Unidos.
Y soy puertorriqueño.

Should I have told the waitress
anything
when she called me
a foreigner?



velorio

Tu muerte me da celos.
La eficacia del trago, la noticia,
tu rostro complacido en el sepelio,
el obituario parco, las palabras
de quien dejaste atrás:
cuánto abismo nos deja su partida,
todo fue breve, etcétera. Tu ausencia
nadie la presagió. Fue el momento ideal
para fijar la pausa,
para correr el velo de la noche
sobre tu biografía. En fin, tu muerte
me da celos por ser inoportuna,
por ser tan impetuosa, por haberme robado
el papel del difunto
el drama de las lágrimas,
las miradas perplejas, el dolor.
Te has llevado mi muerte y te detesto,
pero el luto concibe perspectivas distintas
y en el ángulo recto de mi cuerpo y el tuyo,
tu deceso es mi práctica,
tu ataúd mi modelo.
Nunca te quise tanto como muerto.


wake

I envy your death.
The effectiveness of the drink, the news,
your pleased demeanor at the wake,
the simple obituary, the words
of those you left behind:
how much emptier he leaves this world,
it was so brief, etcetera. No one
could have predicted your absence.
It was the ideal moment
to pause,
to strap the veil of night on your biography.

And here I am so envious of your death
and its untimeliness, your death
and its impetuousness
because you stole my role,
the dead man’s position,
the drama of the tears,
the stunned stares, the pain.

You stole my death
and for that I detest you,
but grief breeds new perspectives,
and in the right angle of my body and yours,
your end becomes my practice,
your coffin is my model.
I never loved you more than as a corpse.



catorce versos prestados*

Pienso en mi propia, en mi perfecta muerte
y van pasando solitarias horas,
la fe y la duda de volver a verte
entre la roja luz de las auroras.

Nada es verdad, aquí nada perdura.
Mi vida no sé en qué se ha sostenido.
Con el horror de la literatura,
de su vertida sangre renacido,

arrastro una cadena de cenizas.
Entre las ruinas de mi inteligencia
brotarán los amores, las sonrisas,

los bellos espejismos de la ausencia.
Tu hacienda soy; tu imagen, Padre, he sido
la imagen más exacta del olvido.


*Los rearmados versos de este soneto fueron extraídos, en orden de aparición, de poemas escritos por: 1) Jorge Luis Borges, “Elegía”; 2) Antonio Machado, “Los jardines del poeta”; 3) Dionisio Ridruejo, “España toda aquí, lejana y mía”; 4) José Juan Tablada, “Ónix”; 5) Nicanor Parra, “Es olvido”; 6) Garcilaso de la Vega, “Soneto 2”; 7) Rubén Darío, “Cantos de vida y esperanza”; 8) Luis de Góngora, “Al mismo”; 9) Pita Amor, “Adentro de mi vaga superficie”; 10) Jaime Gil de Biedma, “De vita beata”; 11) Pilar Sinués, “A mi lira”; 12) Olga Orozco, “El retoque final”; 13) Francisco de Quevedo, “Heráclito Cristiano-Salmo I”; 14) Felipe Benítez Reyes, “Los contrarios”.
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