Rattlesnake Warning: A Translation Of 'Pregón De Cascabel' By Gerardo Hernández - Poem by Tony Walton
The rattlesnake cry of the keys drives you
without mercy from the kingdom of dreams.
It doesn't matter that you have chosen
better company, where you walk with her
beside the greenest sea, between the spray
and the softest caressing of her hands,
laughing or crying without knowing why,
loving each other so passionately,
wanting to hold the moment for ever.
It doesn't matter that you ride a wave
in the shadow of her feet on the sand,
or try so hard to keep her in your arms -
all of a sudden, the sea disappears,
taking away her scent and the brightness
of her eyes, the brightness of her laughter -
and you are drowning in the memory
of the moments when you were free again.
And now you find yourself alone again,
left with no choice but to retrace the road
painstakingly to the kingdom of dreams -
through dark omens and cruel misfortunes,
through growing fears and mounting resentments,
deep anxieties and harsh injustice.
And you will challenge the sharp harassment
carried in the bitter song of the keys
that remind you where you are in all this
with their rattlesnake warning. And you will,
because you know that the end is with her,
waiting for you always beside the sea,
and that you have to live the dream today
so that it will, yes, come true tomorrow.
Poet's Notes about The Poem
These five men - Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, René González, Ramón Labanino and Fernando González - were sent by their government to gather information on the murderous activities of a section of the self-exiled Cuban community in Miami, Florida dedicated to the overthrow of the Cuban government, not of course without US approval and indeed material support. What they uncovered was made known to the US government, in the rather fond hope that legal proceedings would ensue - instead of which they were themselves arrested, by the FBI in 1998, and - after a far from fair trial - sentenced to terms ranging from 15 years (for René) to double-life plus 15 years (for Gerardo) . Following the tenth anniversary of their incarceration, I wrote to all of them, and received generous and friendly replies from Gerardo, René and Antonio, who is himself a published poet ('From My Altitude') .
I subsequently wrote a number of poems for The Five, and for Gerardo in particular - but none of them as good as this one, which he wrote in April 1999, while awaiting trial (like all of them) in solitary confinement. Following the recent reduction of the life sentences for Antonio and Ramón, Gerardo remains in very much the worst position - which is compounded by the persistent refusal of the US authorities ever since his arrest to allow his wife Adriana to visit him. (The same cruelty was imposed on René and Olga, but he has now been released from prison and, after completing his term on probation in Florida, will finally be able to return home.) My correspondence with Gerardo continues, and the courage of his determination and good cheer is awe-inspiring. I am fortunate to have his approval of this translation.
Please Google The Cuban Five (confusingly also known, in the UK and Germany, as The Miami Five) and learn the full story for yourself.
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