Excerpts from The Visionary Circle


Reading facedown across the bed I saw my arm, my forearm, my hand that dangled.
Confirmed it was working.
I’m a mechanism, I thought, a human, an animal.
Then I slept and was not conscious
of existing.


The dinosaurs came face to face with disappearance too. They would split from the group and fall heavily to earth without understanding. In front of me the strangeness of my hands, an unlit cigarette. Above me, fan blades emitting groans. The blue of the planet vanishes into infinity, there are no great words for small things, nothing. A blue gap, not at all profound. Disappearance as the most beautiful degree of God’s poetics. The worst, an awareness of failure, the most perfect awareness, and time passes and the blue of the globe turns, turns, surrounded by black, in the middle of the void, in the middle of nothingness.
I went into the kitchen without meaning to do it. I am on the planet and immersed in failure. An unchanging presence is denied to me. I only have this minute. It’s not about the fleeting nature of existence, but that existence isn’t replete, isn’t memorable.

Like the wind over Mars, solitude.
I can’t allow myself to love the ceremonial circle.
Languor, I walk along,
the street is a violin cord.
A film by Wong Kar-Wai. Blue tones.
From what I’ve seen, life shrinks to this:
have the best time you can
as long as you can.

No love deserves death.
I look at a glass. I like the word undefined. To exist.

Used to see stretchers, green gowns. In my condition I’d think:

One moves through obscurity in order to give off light, just light.
Illness for the body, hospital hallways, fear.
One moves through deaths in order to see light, just light.

Each person an iceberg.

Power is arbitrary
mais le pouvoir c’est tout.


And it’s true that the thing was to be or not to be.
But also
to be capable or incapable.

I lit a candle. The wax fell on water, forming a continent, a lamb.
The lamb of God attached to its umbilical cord.
It’s Holy Week. That which is poetic, as medium for divination. Taking ownership of the mystery, the hidden meanings, the thing that lies beneath.
I saw it in Havana, it was the filth and the faces of the people, it was evil, misery, illness and death and it was hate and it was envy. In European alleys I saw it. It was the absence of love, the same absence. Heroin, the suppurating arms. Money. Separation. The poetic condition would cross into me and the world was what it was and nothing more.


I’ve always wanted to write this poem.
I loved her but was afraid to die.
Sitting on the balcony she told me: Butterflies live for one day.
One single day of radiance and then they die.


We die for things but we lose the meaning.

Before the beginning and after the end:
silence, only silence.


as when I get closer to an object
and feel the strangeness of having left
a point now behind me.


I would go out to the cold to think the cold.
J. Marimón

I go to the supermarket and open a freezer,
light from a bulb falls on my hand.
One part of me remains outside.

I need to reach solitary heights in life.

I close the freezer. Ice vapors leaking from the side, yellow plastic.
Heights of solitude in my life.
Being alive astonishes me, it astonishes me to
get the immediate significance of everything I perceive.


Today–someone had to tell me–Javiér crossed the border.
Inside I have a skeleton, a structure.
Alcoholic undercurrents.
Yesterday, at a party,
I went up to a girl who was juggling fire;
I felt a powerful desire to kiss something, someone.
Like a moth I sought artificial light.

Went out to the street and paused.
Sun reflected off the glass.
I can’t hold onto an idea, not even a little bit of reasoning.
I close my eyes in order to feel the sun.
Or as my brother said, I go out to the cold to imagine the cold.


At a café
we were making plans for the future.
A dog dragged its tail across the pavement.
Time’s function is to coat things (I thought), as though it were dust.
Say something,
she told me,
white sheets over the afternoon.
Liquor, then nothing.


We were sipping Chinese soup, no one talking about love.
Yesterday, in the window, I entered her.
Inside a vase on the table, a fly circled.
I think everything was part of that.
I was thinking about love,
………………………………….she was asking for the check.


Walls with peeling paint, the ocean colliding with its water,
a song,
through the radio all those people dead on the other side.
I pulled up the collar on my jacket and the cold of my hands halted at its lapel
I was alive
………………………the alcohol kicked in
blue walls colliding in my vision.
You were the world to me but you were not the world.


Marcelo Morales

Marcelo Morales Cintero, born in Cuba in 1977, is a member of a generation of writers who came of age in Havana during the island's "Special Period" of severe post-Soviet economic crisis. His influences range from international literature to readings in history and philosophy. Dedicated to the slow development of his book projects, Morales has earned many of his literary awards for segments of larger works in progress. For example, excerpts that would come together to form his 2006 poetry collection El mundo como objeto won the 2004 poetry prize presented by La Gaceta de Cuba, as well as an honorable mention in the national Julián del Casal prize competition and a coveted finalist position in the international Casa de las Américas competition. Morales is also the author of the poetry collections Cinema (1997, Pinos Nuevos prize) and Materia (winner of the 2008 Julián del Casal prize), among others. His novel La espiral appeared in 2006. Morales edited and introduced Como un huésped de la noche, an anthology of poetry by Roberto Branly, published in 2010.

Kristin Dykstra

Kristin Dykstra currently holds a translation fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts to translate a 2006 collection by Cuban writer Reina María Rodríguez, Catch and Release. Among other collections of contemporary Cuban poetry that Dykstra has translated are two books by Omar Pérez, as well as three collections by Juan Carlos Flores, Ángel Escobar, and Rodríguez that are all forthcoming with the University of Alabama Press in 2014. Previously she also worked with Rodríguez on Violet Island and Other Poems (co-translated with Nancy Gates Madsen), an anthology culled from earlier phases of Rodríguez's career when the poet first rose to international renown, as well as the bilingual edition Time's Arrest/La detención del tiempo. Dykstra is Professor of English at Illinois State University. She co-edits the magazine Mandorla: New Writing from the Americas/Nueva escritura de las Américas with Gabriel Bernal Granados and Roberto Tejada.

El círculo mágico. Copyright (c) Editorial Letras Cubanas, 2007. English translation copyright (c) Kristin Dykstra, 2013.