The Afro-Cuban poetry of Nicolás Guillén

Guitar

In the middle of the night the firm guitar waits, and then its profound voice wails desperation and wood.

Its enticing feminine waist, upon which a whole nation sighs, pregnant with music, the guitar stretches its hard flesh.                                                                           

Does the guitar burn alone? As the moon vanishes up in the sky, the guitar is set on fire, freed of the ball gown with its cumbersome long train.

The guitar leaves behind the drunkard in his car, the shadowy night club, freezing to death night after night.

The guitar lifts up its fine, universal, Cuban gaze, with no need of opium or pot or cocaine.

Let that old guitar return once more to punish with its music the friend who expects it because he refuses to abandon it!

Standing tall, never stooping, let it bring both laughter and tears and let her dig her dark purple nails into life itself.

Hey, guitar player, pick it up man, wipe the alcohol from its mouth and play your music upon that guitar, the entire song!

Play that song about mature love, play the entire song, the one about an open future, the entire song, with one foot up and the other on the ground, the entire song!

Hey, guitar player, pick it up man, wipe the alcohol from its mouth and play your music upon that guitar, the complete, entire song!

translated by Rafael de Acha

The Cuban author Nicolás Guillén (1902-1989) was one of the most famous writers in Latin America. His poetry made him one of the greatest innovators in Latin American verse. Guillén introduced the world to Afro-Cuban folklore.