The Cuban Writers' Union

I.Some writers working for the state have clandestine dreams of smuggling out a manuscript to the presses of the capitalist world.

Others just rearrange the same adjectives around the words revolución and Fidel because Customs has long forbidden the importation of new words into Cuba,

so the remaining writers are like everyone else in this country, making do, shuffling the same broken puzzle pieces, searching for new endings.

The writers here are just like the men who sit on the sidewalks behind dirty wooden stands, injecting new aerosol breath into old disposable lighters and the womens’ fine hands in the relojería, fixing old watches with skill, then searching for the hour to set the watches by, the hour that this country lost long ago.

II. On the edges of this living city there are piles upon piles of all the abandoned thoughts, dirty and wet, buzzing with flies, putrid in the tropical sun.

And there are coasts where the government allows no one to swim because there too they have dumped all the aborted ideas of the island, coasts where the waves mumble unintelligible promise and people stop on the seawalk to gaze at the hollow horizon. Sometimes the weight of their unintended sighs is enough to push the cool breeze back out to sea.

Here for every kilo of true creativity the streets are polluted with a hundred liters of tears. Maybe it’s no wonder that the bookshops read like the dictator’s personal library and all the true writers sit in buildings about to collapse, trying to inject new breath onto thin sheets of cheap paper, while others have stopped writing altogether, and spend their days folding their quota of paper into airplanes which they bring down to the shore and toss into the sea, hoping they’ll catch the warm propulsion of an entire nation sighing.

The world has gotten so small that now there’s no more room in the oceans for so many bottles containing the words of so many trapped peoples. The few boats that do manage to leave set sail to the deafening sound of shattering glass and sinking letters. No more messages, no bottles. Here in Cuba all the writers know better than to trust the sea, they study the sky, trying to guess the hour and the best flight plans for paper airplanes.