Birthday: Reinaldo Arenas

Today (July 16) Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas would have celebrated his 67th birthday. I imagine that had he lived to see it, he would have described himself as an old queen. On December 7, 2010 it will be the 20th Anniversary of Arenas death. After reading much of his work – Before Night Falls, The Door Man and The Color of Summer – I was surprised to learn that he committed suicide. Faced with oppression and imprisonment by the Cuban government; Arenas fought his whole life to stay alive.

In the end the AIDS virus consumed his body, but never killed his spirit. 

With his irreverent literature, Reinaldo Arenas has left new readers with a body of work that continues to inspired and push social boundaries. Today artists, writers and journalists celebrate Arenas resilience to write under the most tyrannous circumstances. In his honor, here  is one of my favorite poems by Reinaldo Arenas.

Impossible Dreams

by Reinaldo Arenas

The Color of Summer

Translated by Andrew Hurley

I dreamed of an enormous castle that I lived in with my whole family, and

in every room loved ones did trivial, familiar things.

I dreamed of a pair of comfortable shoes.

I dreamed of a  cataclysm.

I dreamed of a big, sweet, manly black man, just for me.

I dreamed of a field of cape jasmines.

I dreamed of a bench alongside the ocean where I’d go in the evenings

and just sit.

I dreamed that the bus I was waiting for always came on time.

I dreamed of being a teacher.

I dreamed that I had a sculptural (or at least acceptable) body, not these shriveled, fallen breasts.

I dreamed of an enormous balloon pulled by all the grackles in Lenin

Park, and I would ride inside the balloon and travel far, far away, so far


I dreamed of having the same husband for a long time.

I dreamed of having a son who wasn’t gay, but a big strong carpenter or bricklayer.

I dreamed of a typewriter with an Ñ.

I dreamed I wasn’t bald.

I dreamed I had a nightmare- I lived in a janitor’s closet in the Hotel

Monserrate, and while people kept their eye on me and watched me, I kept them under surveillance too. And when I woke up I saw that the nightmare was true, so I tried to dream that I was dreaming.

I dreamed of reams and reams of white paper that I could write a novel on.

I dreamed of an almond tree growing in front of my house.

I dreamed that a naked angel came and carried me away.

I dreamed that you didn’t have to have a ration book to buy salt.

I dreamed that I was young and healthy and that there was an over grown lot across the street from my house where horny recruits hung out waiting for me.

I dreamed that I turned on the faucet and there was water.

I dreamed of a city like the one I lost, but free.

I dreamed of avenues and broad tree-shaded promenades.

I dreamed of a huge country sort of house with a palm-thatch roof and

a zinc-roofed breezeway that the rain made a loud noise on.

I dreamed of a Chinese-made electric fan.

I dreamed that Lezama and Maria Luisa were in a big room and they

called me and when I went over to them Lezama was saying to Maria

Luisa, Look how good he looks.

I dreamed of a pair of comfortable false teeth.

I dreamed that somebody was knocking on the door, I opened it, and

there stood a smiling young man, all hot and ready.

I dreamed of a pressure cooker.

I dreamed of a river with green water that said to me, Come, come, here lies the end of your desires.

I dreamed that I was going far, far away, and when I got far, far away I could still keep going far, far away…

I dreamed that a plague as terrible as AIDS could not be true, and that pleasure did not entail disaster.

I dreamed of the smell of the sea.

I dreamed that all the horror of the world was a dream.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Reyna Peña says:

    I dreamed of a typewriter with an Ñ.


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