The World as Presence/El mundo como ser

The World as Presence/El mundo como ser

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Marcelo Morales’s The World as Presence/El mundo como ser showcases, for the first time in English, a challenging, bold, and vivid new voice in Cuban literature.
Marcelo Morales was born in Cuba in 1977. He is an established, prize-winning writer, yet he is younger in comparison to most of the Cuban poets known internationally, many of whom were born prior to the 1959 revolution. While older generations of Cuban poets have wrestled in their work with social and political critique, those critiques have often been articulated through formal experimentation and abstraction, unsurprising given the censorship and the real threats of punishment that dissident writers have faced. Morales, however, directly interrogates both the Cuban past and present. References to many significant moments, people, and issues in Cuban history and culture can be found throughout his work.
Along with references to the activist group “The White Ladies,” the 1976 bombing of Cuban Airlines Flight 455, and the military aid that Cubans provided to Angola during its fight for independence, Morales’s poetry follows a timeline ranging from Martí to Guevara to the day of the 2014 announcement by Obama and Castro that diplomatic relations between the two nations would finally be restored. As Cuba experiences a series of historically remarkable transitions, Morales emerges from this context to offer an incisive poetic account of this critical moment in Cuban, as well as world, history.
The World as Presence/El mundo como ser is both the debut of this work in any language and the first English translation of a complete Morales collection. Given the bilingual format, this book will be of interest both to English and Spanish readers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780817358846
Publisher: University of Alabama Press
Publication date: 11/29/2016
Edition description: 1st Edition
Pages: 162
Product dimensions: 8.90(w) x 5.90(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Marcelo Morales is the author of the poetry collections Cinema (winner of the 1997 Pinos Nuevos Prize), El círculo mágico, and Materia (winner of the 2008 Julián del Casal Prize), among others. His novel La espiral appeared in 2006.
Kristin Dykstra, recipient of the 2012 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Translation Fellowship, translated Reina María Rodríguez’s Other Letters to Milena/Otras cartas a Milena and Juan Carlos Flores’s The Counterpunch (and Other Horizontal Poems)/El contragolpe (y otros poemas horizontales), as well as various other books of Cuban poetry.

Read an Excerpt

The World as Presence / El mundo como ser

By Marcelo Morales, Kristin Dykstra

The University of Alabama Press

Copyright © 2016 University of Alabama Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8173-9085-3


Leía un poema de Gottfried Benn, hablaba de un cadáver sobre una mesa de disección, describía la manera en que tocaba el cerebro, la manera en que extraía su lengua y la ponía en un recipiente con agua "like flowers".

Oí a una multitud gritando atrás por la ventana, una multitud gritando libertad.

Detrás iba una turba gritando cosas violentas.

Libertad, libertad.

Dejé los órganos en el búcaro, agarré mi cámara, me puse las botas sin medias y fui al edificio de prisiones.

Cuando llegué no vi ya a nadie, un guardia joven me dijo que por favor tomara la calle, sólo por hoy, me dijo.

Yo pensaba en los órganos de Gottfried.

Sentí emoción por la palabra libertad, creo que eran Las Damas, regresé a la casa, mientras subía las escaleras pensé, tu problema no es la cobardía, tu problema es la indiferencia

I was reading a poem by Gottfried Benn, it talked about a cadaver on a dissection table, describing the way he touched its cerebellum, the way he extracted the tongue and placed it, "como flores," into a receptacle with water.

Through the back window I heard a crowd shouting, a crowd shouting freedom.

Behind it a mob shouting violent things.

Freedom, freedom.

I left the organs in the jar, grabbed my camera, threw on my boots without socks and went out toward the prison bureau.

When I arrived I didn't see anyone, a young guard told me to please walk in the street, just for today, he said.

I thought about Gottfried's organs.

I was struck by hearing the word freedom, I think it was a protest by the Ladies, I returned to my house, as I was climbing the stairs I thought, your problem isn't cowardice, your problem is indifference.


Estaba en ese bar de lesbianas, una cerveza en mis manos. Lo supe, no tengo alma, no existe el alma. Las lesbianas no me querían ahí. Caminé por la línea de la barra. La cerveza no era amarilla any more. El mundo no es objeto, es un ser, y está vivo.

I was in that lesbian bar, a beer in my hands. I realized I have no soul, the soul doesn't exist. The lesbians didn't want me there. I walked along the line of the bar. The beer wasn't yellow any more. The world is not an object, it's a presence, and it's alive.


Frente a mi cerveza, yo pude ver sus cerebros, el verdadero ser. No tengo alma, me dije, tengo cerebro. Frente a la computadora chateamos, los amigos por el mundo. Deberíamos fundar el partido apolítico. Éramos los hijos de La Revolución, pero también de la dictadura. Habíamos perdido de vista el socialismo, pensando que el socialismo era Fidel. Habíamos perdido de vista la igualdad, pensando que igualdad era él.

Face to my beer I could see its cerebellum, the real presence. I don't have a soul, I said to myself, I have a cerebellum. Face to the computer we chat, friends around the world. We should found the apolitical party. We were the children of the Revolution but also of the dictatorship. We had lost sight of socialism, thinking that socialism was Fidel. We had lost sight of equality, thinking that equality was him.


Ayer mientras leía un poema político me tembló la mano. Sentí la presión del poder, mi miedo al poder. Ayer, mientras leía, temblé, como la primera vez. Cuando salí, me encontré en un bar con mis amigos, hablé de todo sin decirles nada. Oscar gritaba borracho, la otra pedía tequila. Aunque nos quedamos, hace tiempo que nos fuimos.

Yesterday while I was reading a political poem my hand shook. I felt the weight of power, my fear of power. Yesterday as I was reading I shook, just like the first time. When I left I met friends in a bar, talked about everything while telling them nothing. Oscar was drunk and shouting, someone else ordered tequila. Even though we stay here, we left a long time ago.


Yo supe a cada instante de la fugacidad de la vida, por eso a cada instante sufrí lo que no debía, por eso también a cada instante disfruté.

Ayer, mientras regaba las matas pensé: La vida se trata de perder, de ganar, pero de perder, uno pierde al menos, un día cada día. La vida está hecha de los seres, el ancla con el mundo es el ser, el mundo como un ser, como los seres.

At one time I could feel the fugacity of life in every instant, which is why I suffered every instant as I should not have, which is why I enjoyed every one of them.

Yesterday while watering plants I thought: life is about loss, about gain, but about loss; we lose at least one day every day. Life is made of presences, the anchor to the world is presence, the world as presence, as presences.


Fuimos a ver la casa de mi bisabuelo, una casa de columnas fuertes, a las que les caía a tiros mentando a Machado.

Recordaba a uno de los hermanos de mi abuelo recostado en una silla echándose aire con una penca. No quedaba nada ahí, de la casa, de los negocios, nada.

Los mundos desaparecen, me dijo mi padre en casa de mi abuela, es un mundo que desapareció, como desaparecerá este.

Esquinas que solo existen en la mente. Objetos. Hay cosas que guardan lo más bello de nosotros, amar, es encontrarse, dicen.

We went to see my great-grandfather's house, a house with strong columns. He shot at them, calling Machado's name.

I remembered one of my grandfather's brothers who rested in a chair, fanning himself. Nothing was left there, nothing of the house, the businesses, nothing.

Worlds disappear, my father told me at my grandmother's house, that world disappeared, like this one will disappear.

Street corners existing only in the mind. Objects. There are things that protect the most beautiful part of us, to love is to find yourself, they say.


El mundo no había cambiado pero yo sí. Un día después de tu muerte, mientras hablábamos de ti, cayó un lucero, un meteorito, creo. Algo bajó echando chispas del cielo. Luego fuimos a comprar cerveza, yo ponía las monedas sobre el cristal del mostrador. La muerte, cuando es literatura, es profunda, pensé, cuando es real, increíble.

The world had not changed but I did. One day after your death, while we were talking about you, a star streaked past, a meteorite I guess. Something fell, shooting sparks from the sky. Then we went out to buy beer, I put coins on the glass top of the display case. When death is literature it's profound, I thought, when death is real it's incredible.


Es poco lo que no cae en el vacío del pasado, la habilidad de pensar es idéntica, como habilidad, a cualquiera. Constante relación del ser con la nada. La relación del vacío. Abrí un osario y vi los huesos, una cajita donde las tibias estaban al lado del cráneo. Un saco gris. Aunque la muerte se confunda con la nada no son lo mismo. Aunque la vida se confunda con el ser, tampoco.

There is little that does not disappear into the past. The ability to think, as abilities go, is just like any other. Constant relation between being and nothingness. The relation to the void. I opened an ossuary and saw the bones, a little box where tibias rested next to the skull. A gray blazer. Though death may get confused with nothingness they're not the same. Though life may get confused with presence, they're not the same either.


Los místicos hablan del Vacío como una abstracción. Yo hablo del vacío como un hecho. Atravieso la miseria. Habana, Carlos Tercero, piedra sucia. El sonido del hambre no está en el estómago. El sonido del hambre está en la mente. Algunos seres se definen por los órganos que los rigen. Aparatos intestinales. En mi casa, paredes sin pintar. En la televisión el gran líder. Camino hacia la sala. Todo el que prohíbe, prohíbe por poder, pienso. Las imposiciones no tienen ideología que las sustenten. Es importante que lo sepan, esto que soy, soy yo, no ustedes. Es importante que sepan. El asno camina siempre en la montaña. El asno, está siempre a un paso del abismo.

The mystics talk about the Void as an abstraction. I talk about the void as a fact. I move through decay. Havana, Carlos Tercero Street, grimy stone. Hunger makes a sound that doesn't come from the stomach. The sound of hunger is in the mind. Some beings are defined by organs that govern them. Intestinal systems. Inside my house: walls with no paint. On televisions the great leader. I walk toward the living room. Everything prohibited is prohibited through power, I think. The impositions have no ideology supporting them. It's important for you all to know: this thing that I am is me, not you. It's important for you all to know. The donkey always walks along the mountainside. The donkey, it's always one step from the abyss.


El arte como pensamiento, la conciencia interna de las cosas. Dos monedas en el suelo, me levanto, pongo mis pies en la loza. In the name of revolution, Habana, Carlos Tercero, lluvia, in the name of. Un travesti con zapatos amarillos, cincuenta años de gobierno in the name. Paredes blancas entrando en mis sentidos, Brigadas de Respuesta in the name, el amor in the name. Habana- Vedado, Malecón buscando Línea. Cuando dicen revolución dicen en verdad conservación. La libertad es algo de lo que los poderes hablan, la libertad es algo que el poder consiente, la libertad es cosa de poder. Toda esta gente tiene una vida, una sola vida, el arte, la política, es, como el excremento, tiene la calidad de lo que se come.

Art as thought, the internal awareness of things. Two coins on the floor, I get up, put my feet down on cold tile. In the name of the revolution, Havana, Carlos Tercero, rain, in the name of. A transvestite with yellow shoes, fifty years of government in the name. White walls pervading my senses, Response Brigades in the name, love in the name. Havana: Vedado, the Malecón running along the sea in search of Línea Street. When they say revolution they really mean conservation. Freedom is something of which the powers speak, freedom is something to which power consents, freedom is a thing of power. All these people have a life, just one life, art, politics, being of, like excrement, having, the same quality as what you eat.


Hace años que no escribo, me digo. En la calle, a mi lado, un taxi amarillo.

En el horizonte el sol se mueve como un huevo. El fin de la historia, paso el túnel, rayas de separación, el sol, una yema violácea. Nada por lo cual morir. El fin de la historia, digo. Cansancio. Bandada de yanquis, zapatos blancos, medias blancas, tenis, todo blanco, the cuban marrracas, the cuban artist. The Cubans. El centro de la fruta es el hueso, leí. El centro de mí. Entro a un bar, ahora todo es privado, gente cool, gente rica, ahora todo es privado, diseño, ahora todo es diseño. Hay muchas maneras de suicidarse, me dicen. Cerrar los ojos es una. Salgo del bar, el sol me abre la frente, me abre la frente lo real. Después de mirarlo por un rato, la compañía violácea. Necesidad terrible de un poema, necesidad de arte.

Escuchar tu voz en soledad, la voz de tu espíritu, hay maneras de no estar, de anularse, me dicen, cerrar los ojos es una, creo, cierro los ojos, la masa violácea flotando en mi retina. Una o, un cero violeta, un círculo trazado por una realidad violenta. No podrán decir que yo acepté el abuso. No podrán decir: La raíz de su amor dejó de luchar en la frontera. No podrán decir, que yo acepté esta nada.

I haven't written for years, I say to myself. In the street next to me, a yellow taxi.

On the horizon the sun wobbles like an egg. The end of history, I pass the tunnel, dividing lines, the sun, a violet-colored yolk. Nothing for which to die. End of story, I say. Exhaustion. A gang of Yankees, white shoes, white socks, sneakers, everything white, the Cuban mahh-racas, the Cuban artist. The Cubans. The center of the fruit is the pit. I read that. The center of me. I go into a bar, now everything is private, cool people, rich people, now everything is private, designed, now design is everything. There are a lot of ways to kill yourself, they tell me. Closing your eyes is one of them. I leave the bar, the sun strikes my forehead, reality strikes my forehead. After looking at it for a while, violet accompaniment. Terrible need for a poem, need for art.

Listening to your voice in solitude, your spirit's voice, there are ways to not be there, to void yourself, they say, closing your eyes is one way, I think, I close my eyes, the violet mass floating in my retina. A letter "o," a violet zero, a circle drawn by a violent reality. They won't be able to say that I consented to the abuse. Won't be able to say: The source of his love gave out at the end of an era. Won't be able to say I consented to this nothingness.


    Tres canas en el mentón.
    Yo creí que el mundo hablaría todo el tiempo de mi amor,
    que el futuro estaba lleno de mi amor.

    Da Vinci decía que el ser no podía caer en la nada.
    Si un amor como el que yo sentí pudo caer en la nada,
    entonces mi vida podría también.
    Si un amor puede caer en la nada, cualquier cosa puede.

    Three gray hairs on my chin.
    I believed that the world would always be talking about my love,
    that the future was filled with my love.

    Da Vinci used to say that being couldn't collapse into nothingness.
    If a love like the one I felt could collapse into nothingness,
    then so could my life.
    If love can collapse into nothingness, anything can.


    En el mojado cuenco de la boca,
    me plantaste la voz
    que te llamaba a gritos.
    — Joseph Brodsky

    Yo sé que te pusiste linda para mí, la sombra azul en tus ojos.

    Tú creaste en mí este amor, para que este amor de ti necesitara.

    Ya ves, encendiste mi vida para dejarla girando,

    como un planeta loco, la sombra de tus ojos, la sombra azul.

    Yo sé que te pusiste linda para mí, así se enciende algo,

    así, luego de encendido, se abandona.

    It was you [...]
    who laid in my raw cavern
    a voice calling you back.
    — Joseph Brodsky

    I know you made yourself lovely for me, the blue shadow in your eyes.

    You created this love inside me, so this love would have need of you.

    You see you ignited my life to set it spinning,

    like a crazed planet, the shadow from your eyes, blue shadow.

    I know you made yourself lovely for me, that's how something ignites,

    how once ignited it abandons itself.


Y te buscaba como una serpiente en el fango como una rata en la basura te buscaba, como un hambriento, los poetas me decían no hables de eso, de eso no se habla, te buscaba en esas caras, en los años te buscaba, entre las calles te buscaba, a veces, frente a frente, el corazón, se iba hacia ella como la masa en el espacio, y daba un golpe y daba otro, como si el imán lo llamara, como una rata en la basura, como una serpiente en el fango, te buscaba.

And I sought you out like a snake in mud, like a rat in trash sought you, like one starving, the poets told me don't talk about that, people don't talk about that, I sought you out in those faces, in those years sought you out, among streets sought you out, sometimes, face to face, my heart, it would move toward her like mass in space, and it gave one thump and gave another, as if the attraction were calling it, like a rat in trash, like a snake in mud, sought you out. CH14


    Puedo percibir sucesos de otros mundos
    en lo más profundo y oculto de mi mente
    y en la mente de los demás
    — Jim Morrison

    Berlín, The Mauer. Lo que el sonido de un vaso al caer te comunica.
    Crustáceos muertos en el congelador.
    Puedo percibir mi muerte en mi mente y en la muerte de los otros.
    Lo que el sonido de un vaso al caer te comunica.
    Puedo sentir el muro en mi mente y en la mente de los otros.

    I can perceive events on other worlds,
    in my deepest inner mind,
    & in the minds of others
    — Jim Morrison

    Berlin, The Mauer. What the sound of a falling glass communicates to you.
    Dead crustaceans in the freezer.
    I can perceive my death in my mind and in the deaths of the others.
    What the sound of a falling glass communicates to you.
    I can feel the wall in my mind and in the minds of the others.


Excerpted from The World as Presence / El mundo como ser by Marcelo Morales, Kristin Dykstra. Copyright © 2016 University of Alabama Press. Excerpted by permission of The University of Alabama Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments, Appreciations,
Unwinding the Present,
Nota del autor / Author's Note,
1. Leía un poema / I was reading a poem,
2. Estaba en ese bar de lesbianas / I was in that lesbian bar,
3. Frente a mi cerveza / Face to my beer,
4. Ayer mientras leía / Yesterday while I was reading,
5. Yo supe / At one time,
6. Fuimos a ver la casa de mi bisabuelo / We went to see my great-grandfather's house,
7. El mundo no había cambiado / The world had not changed,
8. Es poco / There is little,
9. Los místicos hablan / The mystics talk,
10. El arte como pensamiento / Art as thought,
11. Hace años que no escribo / I haven't written for years,
12. Tres canas / Three gray hairs,
13. Yo sé / I know,
14. Y te buscaba / And I sought you out,
15. Berlín, The Mauer / Berlin, The Mauer,
16. Habana, huevones sentados en los muros / Havana, assholes sitting on the walls,
17. Tenías que enfermar / You had to get sick,
18. En la oscuridad vi / In the darkness I saw,
19. El punto crítico / At its critical point,
20. En la meseta de la cocina / On the kitchen countertop,
22. Malecón, Habana, olas blancas / Malecón, Havana, white waves,
23. En la cola del banco / In the line at the bank,
24. Comprendo la historia de un país en el expressway / I comprehend a nation's history on the expressway,
25. En el café, el hierro / In the café, the iron,
26. Mi abuela usaba el Larousse para estudiar / My grandmother used the Larousse to study,
27. Cuando toco mi cráneo / When I touch my skull,
28. Uno tiene que vivir / To live, you have to,
30. La cárcel, la enfermedad, la muerte / Jail, infirmity, death,
31. Cambia el mundo si / Does the world change if,
32. Un tipo que se llamaba Henjo escribió / A guy called Henjo wrote,
33. Te besé solamente / I kissed you only,
34. Un tanque de basura con humo / A garbage bin spilling smoke,
35. No tienen ojos las fieras para lo bello / Brutes don't have eyes for beauty,
36. Siempre volvía / I'd always return,
38. A media que avanza el día, en el balcón / As day moves across the balcony,
39. Puedo sentir el sol / I can sense sun,
40. Flotaba el astro rojo / The red comet floated,
41. Las gotas en el parabrisas / Drops on the windshield,
42. Al borde de los sueños / At the edge of dream,
43. Despertar y ver / Waking up to see,
45. Choco de frente con el sentido / Suddenly I collide with meaning,
46. Una vez en el poder / Once in power,
47. Centro Habana / Central Havana,
49. Riego las matas / I water the plants,
50. En el cine / In the cinema,
51. Fin de año / Year's end,
52. En la televisión del bar / On television at the bar,
53. Yo me acuerdo de Adalberto / I remember Adalberto,
54. En Neptuno / On Neptuno St.,
55. Me desperté pensando / I woke up thinking,
56. El día después del discurso / The day after the speech,
57. Puse un pomo de agua en el congelador / I put a bottle of water in the freezer,
Language Notes,
Notes on the Poems,

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