All posts tagged: Cuba

The Other Side of the Moon


The day of the moon landing, George and I planned to hunt for rocks. Jorge was his actual name, but he preferred to go by George, like The Beatles guitar man. We were going to look for samples just like the astronauts would.

I sprang out of bed and cranked the window open. Looking out between the twisting glass slats, I noticed the leaves of our lemon tree were still. I hoped it meant the rains would stay away, even though July afternoon downpours in Cuba were as regular as the blood orange sunsets.

After dressing to the sound of Mima’s clanging in the kitchen and the scent of coffee brewing, I sat at the dining table. I dipped a piece of stale Cuban bread into the café-con-leche she’d set there. “It needs sugar,” I said.

“You don’t need more sugar,” she said.

But I didn’t understand why. Sugar was the one thing on the island that wasn’t rationed. 

I asked if she was going to my friend Raul’s house to watch the moon landing. His family had the only working television in the neighborhood.

“Maybe,” she said.

I’d dreamt about the moon landing even before I learned that the Americans were going to do it. Ever since I read Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon, a book George had given me, I’d been imagining a spaceship just like the one in the book: a long, narrow, bullet-like rocket, slicing through the heavens.

Mima wasn’t much of a reader. Not much of a dreamer either. I think that was why she’d never thought of leaving Cuba, even though everyone else seemed to be doing so.

“What are they looking for up there, anyway?” she said. “We have enough to worry about right here.”

The Other Side of the Moon

Excerpt from Radio Big Mouth


An excerpt from Radio Big Mouth. 


Juanelo, Cuba, November 1967

In our barrio, any kid worth her café con leche knew what the rumble of a motorcycle meant. Another family was about to disappear.

Until that night, I ran fast and free over Juanelo’s crumbling streets, hunting crinkly brown lizards in the dusty yards, gossiping with the omnipresent abuelas. The old women took care of us while our parents worked at places like the school on the corner or the canning factory down by the river. Four generations of my family lived all around me. No one shut her windows or doors. Everybody knew everything about everyone.

Excerpt from Radio Big Mouth

Reina María Rodríguez: Poems in Translation



Translator’s Note

At first, it seems simple to outline the role of place in poems by Reina María Rodríguez. She began writing poetry in Havana, Cuba, a city that permeates much of her work. She grew up in a building on Ánimas Street, not far from the ocean, in a neighborhood of modest means. Eventually she and her partner built a tiny apartment on that same building’s roof out of largely recycled materials, and there they ran a historic, open-air cultural salon in the 1990s. Today Rodríguez remains interested in everyday life, in the realities accessible to inhabitants moving through the city streets. Alongside her explorations of the present, she incorporates memories from her neighborhood into many poems.

Reina María Rodríguez: Poems in Translation