Poem by Susannah Rodríguez Drissi

• June 2015

LUPE'S TRILOGY (CUBA, 1990-1992)

Lupe’s Dream Catcher

“I ain’t afraid,” Lupe said
and rolled her eyes like
beads of lead
back into her pretty head
thinking of mosquito nets
that catch her steamy eucalyptus
breath and flying dreams like
paper planes on
giant spider webs.

“I drink the world straight up,” she said,
“I ain’t afraid of nothing that might
make me dead ’cause
I already went away and
nothing throws my pretty head into a
fit more than to talk about death or
lead my dreams astray more than to
think about it.
’Cause I gotta live and
make my way and
even if I have to pay
I ain’t afraid,” she said,
“I press my breasts against his
foreign chest and
dream the dreams of fairy queens that
wear brand new Levi jeans and
winged Nike shoes ’cause
I deserve to have to lose
even if the
bargain price is steep and
stings my beaten pride
I know the bee that
stung me
consequently died and
I will
be contented not to cry when
I get caught across the
fence
between myself and my
own consequence a
bigger lie will
rip my powdered blue Levis and
then I’ll be like all the
rest of them that
stick to their infested nest like
polyester to a
hairy chest.
“I burst like popcorn at the
seams—I ain’t got pride but I got
dreams.

“I ain’t afraid,” she said,
“ ’cause he
promised I’d get paid in
dollars
So I practice in my
head Damiana’s cha-cha step and
when he pants and hollers,” she said,
“take his frothy tongue into your
pretty head and
let it mold inside like
bread
grab him by his cotton collar and
feed him granulated sugar of your
brown thigh, Girl
you gotta get him high till
he spits out every dollar.

“I aint’ ashamed ’cause
the beauty in my head is
mine and
one day will come the time I
won’t have to
make the line just to
buy a piece of bread I
won’t have to look away from the
mirror and
avoid my pretty head
I ain’t afraid ’cause one
day he’ll come for me and
he’ll fly me to Milan London or
Paree in his
private jet How much
do you
wanna bet that my
dreaming becomes true, Girl
I’m gonna buy e-ve-ry shoe from
Santiago to La Habana le
regalo hasta a tu hermana
seven—eight pairs for you
O, Girl, if my
dream came true
I’d buy a house in Vedado, two—
one for me and one for you
y le voy a dar de lado a
cuanto comemierda encuentre.

“I aint’ afraid ’cause I’m
gonna keep on trying and
even if I am lying I’m
lying only to me ’cause
I wear the stars around my neck and
curl your eyes around my
thighs and
let your lips beyond my
hips Heck
I ain’t got nothing to fear
even if the end is
near like
Miami to the bay like
real butter on a
loaf of bread I
spread the contents of my
pretty head and
squeeze myself into a
plastic cup
wait for the sun to
come up and
drink me bitter for
breakfast.”

 

Lupe Dreams in English

Lupe dreams in
English all these
crazy things like
Miami Sound Machine and “The
Rhythm’s Gonna Get Ya”
Something got her
alright
I heard she
got in a
fight with a
cuca la caliente
lo que comenta la
gente es que le
robó el clí-
ente from
underneath her own
nose
Came out el
comité with a
hose
and hosed them down like
two angels on fire
fallen from grace You
should have seen Lupe’s face
when she came out from her
Dream
wet wings an’ all
like a chicken
swimming downstream.

Lupe dreams in
English all these
crazy things
She dreams of
California covered with snow of
diamond-covered limousines two
pools in
every house
ten jeans for every
blow
She dreams of
Las Vegas and its
girly show
maybe she could
try She knows she could go
high
if someone would just
let her go
free to fly and die and
all the things they
say you do when you
live your own life
and not a lie
She dreams of airports that
never close and
planes that
disappear in the
distance
“I wanna disappear,” she says,
“I want to lose my
self between the
folds of foreign dreams
I wanna hide between the
seams of their
A-ME-RI-CAN jeans.”

Lupe dreams in English
all these
crazy dreams
She sings with
Elton John and
sleeps to
Billy Jean
She wants to
say what she feels
and
feel what she says
She wants to
do a little more
talk a little less.

Lupe dreams in English
all these
crazy things
She dreams that
she’s got hope
She dreams that she’s got
wings.

 

Bin Chen Ban Gó

¡Coñó! 
What a pretty dress
How he will want to caress
me
O, he’s gonna cling
to me like
chewing gum to the
pavement
melt on me under the sun
If he sees me wearing this
how he’s gonna wanna kiss
every brown inch of me
Blessed the powers that be
I got something new to wear
O, he’s gonna wanna tear
this little thing off o’me
how he’s gonna wanna
run his hands and
let his fingers do the
walking up and down my
curving streets
I can hear the neighbors talking
whispering behind the walls
making a record of it all
I wish I could just
roll myself into a
human ball
bounce out this
wretched hole
break out of this fear
These people live to
feed their ears
like beetles caught in
their own droppings
laughing on their back
Damn them all
Damn pack of rats the
day I leave like a
bat out of this
fire trap I
won’t come back ’cause I
know I can be
something bigger all that I can
be
Damn them all I won’t look back
Scared I’ll turn into a
pillar of salt or
get traded for coffee or a
cup of malt
I hear them now from a
block away running
and cackling like
wild chickens on a
heap of hay
fighting for the
last piece of corn Damn
the day I was born
Lupe, m’hija, has the papaya come today?
Ya llegaron los frijoles?
No one knows how deep this hole is or
if there’s light at the end I
ain’t got but
one friend I
ain’t got no one but
me
I wish somebody would just
light me up and
set me free
’cause Damiana’s been
co-rrup-ted
The power’s been inte-
rrupted
Why does this happen to me?
Se me ha perdido el quinqué
I got a knife with no
handle oil but
no bisté
I had to borrow a candle
(I know how much I can handle)
from my neighbor Josefina la
pobre ahí, tirá en la cocina
I found her in a
trance a’rocking like a
wooden horse
back and forth
back and forth
back and forth
la pobre O,
it gets worse
a’rocking in a
flood of her own tears
She said, “Girl,
it hasn’t hit you yet Just
wait a couple of years.”

I didn’t understand what she
said I left her there a’rocking
in a trance
pulling out her hair
tearing off her pants I
went to bed but
left the mosquitero opened just in
case a little frog came a’hopping
turned into a
prince
I ain’t heard from
Josefina since I
met a painter named Bin
Chen
Ban Gó ese sí que me picó
yo creo qu’es chino
The dress has
done me some good
He said he wanted to
paint me—se ve fino and so
and so I told him he could.

 

Susannah Rodríguez Drissi is a Cuban poet, writer, translator, and scholar. She is lecturer and visiting fellow in comparative literature at UCLA and is a UC-Cuba Affiliate Scholar. She is currently at work on her book manuscript “Let Us Be Moors:  The Arab and Islamic Presence in Cuban Literature and Culture from the 1830s to the Present.” She is contributing and review editor of Cuba Counterpoints. Lupe’s Trilogy (Cuba, 1990–1992) was shortlisted for the 2014 Small Axe Literary Competition.