Thursday, July 16, 2009

Today in Gay History

Happy 66th Birthday
Reinaldo Arenas
(July 16, 1943 ~ 1990)


Credit VillageVoice
If ever there were a writer less destined to become one, it would be Reinaldo Arenas. The son of illiterate peasants, he had little formal education, and carved with a knife his first poems on tree trunks in the Cuban countryside. It was good training for what was to come. Arenas's life was about the act of writing—writing as salvation and, most important, writing as revenge. As a fugitive from the law, he wrote high up in the canopy of trees in Havana's parks, where he hid from the Cuban police. He continued to write in El Morro prison, a fortress built by the Spaniards during colonial times that early in the revolution became a dungeon where homosexuals, political dissidents, and other undesirables were locked up. By his own account, Arenas rewrote three times his voluminous novel Farewell to the Sea, a work that kept being confiscated and disappearing from his and his friends' homes. His epic poem, El Central, is dedicated to "my dear friend R., who made me a present of 87 sheets of blank paper." He penned the monumental The Color of Summer and his expansive autobiography, Before Night Falls, while dying of AIDS in Hell's Kitchen, New York where he'd lived in virtual obscurity since the 1980 Mariel boat lift.

Self -Epitaph
(the last poem Arenas wrote)

A bad poet in love with the moon,
he counted terror as his only fortune :
and it was enough because, being no saint,
he knew that life is risk or abstinence,
that every great ambition is great insanity
and the most sordid horror has its charm.

He lived for life’s sake, which means seeing death
as a daily occurrence on which we wager
a splendid body or our entire lot.
He knew the best things are those we abandon
-- precisely because we are leaving.
The everyday becomes’ hateful,
there’ s just one place to live, the impossible.
He knew imprisonment offenses
typical of human baseness ;
but was always escorted by a certain stoicism
that helped him walk the tightrope
or enjoy the morning’s glory,
And when he tottered, a window would appear
for him to jump toward infinity.

He wanted no ceremony, speech, mourning or cry,
no sandy mound where his skeleton be laid to rest
(not even after death he wished to live in peace).
He ordered that his ashes be scattered at sea
where they would be in constant flow.
He hasn’t lost the habit of dreaming :
he hopes some adolescent. Will plunge into his waters.


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