When I am worse
worse than yesterday
or worse than the day before
When it all starts turning black
and the stink of shit grows
in the passages
and the stairways
I always have some small reserve
to keep open all night.
Tiny little antvirus microbes
which I casually release
while that poet
tells me dead leaves scare her
in her poems.
She doesn’t know how to get rid of the dead leaves.
“Oh Johnny, too many dead leaves,
it’s a vice to go on writing and writing,”
she tells me sadly
with her downtrodden melancholy eyes,
a little drunk.
I listen to her
and believe that at these heights
my eyes are also faded
at least exhausted
I take a sip of wine
and think about the shit
that is invading the whole building
where I live
One day I will have to leave
One day the successful, sad poet
will stop complaining
of everything that is unnecessary in her poems
and will empty my glass
and the waiters won’t bring any more bottles
and will smile professionally
with empty hands
like someone saying farewell, goodbye, so long.
And I will have to go back home
where the shit stinks
and advances disgustingly.
I will try to walk
in the neatest possible way
without stepping in the shit, I mean.
Without smelling the shit.
Without looking at the shit.
It’ll be hard.
I doubt I’ll be able to achieve
that is so asceptic.
To walk next to the shit
and not be contaminated.
That is to say,
the triumph of political correctness.
the sons of bitches will say:
“At last we’ve got him by the neck
don’t release him!
Don’t let him go!
Tighten the bonds!
At last we can give him medals and laurels.
John Snake domesticated.
At last we will be able to applaud him and cajole him.
We will make him enter our lodge
the Order of the Great Opportunist Knights
so that Johnny
can be a happy man,
as well as being blind
Pedro Juan Gutiérrez was born in Matanzas, Cuba. I found this poem in Leyendas Urbanas (ed. José Cezón and Ángel García) a collection of texts by writers from Siero. The collection is impressive. I try to put it into a context I am familiar with: what if someone were to put together an anthology of writing from Leiston in Suffolk or Taunton? Would you come up with the same quantity of good writing?
José Cezón says in his Prologue that the editors realized that Pedro Juan Gutiérrez wrote most of his stories about Havana, which is twinned with Siero, and decided to write to him to ask him to take part. Gutiérrez is a well-known writer whose Dirty Havana Trilogy achieved a moderate success about ten years ago in England.
I came across him by reading backwards through the book and, even when I read his brief bio, did not recognise the name immediately. I was, however, taken by his description of himself:
Resident in Havana, he has worked many different trades: ice-cream and newspaper seller, sapper, swimming and kayak instructor, sugar-cane cutter, agricultural labourer, construction worker, technical draughtsman, painter, sculptor, radio announcer and journalist.
This is so far different from the usual tiresome lists of prizes, gongs, publishing triumphs and prestigious medallions that it is instantly charming. It also reflects on the meaning of the poem, which burns like a gob of acid reflux in the anthology as a whole, because some of the other writers are rather urgently interested in their own importance!