My friend Pablo Medina and I have in common our split identity – half Cuban, half American – and our abiding love for the island country we left at an early age – Pablo at 12, me at 11.
We both pursued similar dreams that embraced a love for the humanities. Pablo became an important writer and a Professor of Writing and Literature. My path led me to the performing arts.
Curiously at age 14 I won a TV contest for know-it-all kids and one of the judges in the show was Pablo’s namesake: his grandfather. Don Pablo was a brilliant man whose encyclopedic knowledge he shared with me more than once over lunch at his home in the outskirts of Havana. He honored me back then with a copy of his book Medinadas, that sadly was left behind when my parents got me out of Cuba with little else but the clothes on my back.
The years passed, and quite by chance I happened on his grandson Pablo’s book Exiled Memories. That led to my reaching out to the Pablo Medina I had never known and reading several of his books, including his magisterial translation of The Weight of the Island: Selected Poems of Virgilio and his hilariously picaresque novel The Cuban Comedy (2019).
Recently I asked some of my friends in the arts and humanities to share some thoughts of theirs on the subject of life under Covid19 to post on my blog. The response was overwhelming so that I had to divide them into a series titled Tales from a time of Covid 19.
This poem is my friend Pablo’s response.
for Rafael de Acha
Getting used to solitude, not going
where I used to go, not visiting a restaurant
or a show, not kissing the children
or hugging a friend or walking to the corner
for coffee and bread, getting used to solitude,
its slow descent, not knowing
when a person smiles, not hearing a poet
read or a singer sing, getting used
to the river of stones and the cackle of birds
and the silent sun, down
to the essence where solitude ends
and a dream of spring begins,
not to flee but to stand, not to hide
but to hear the music of the trees,
the seed’s whisper on the grass,
the earth breathe deep and say, It’s safe again.