I Have

Tengo, vamos a ver,

tengo lo que tenia que tener.


Nicolás Guillén


I have, let’s see:

I have an empire.

I call it pleasure, and it stretches

its massive back over the whole island

of my imagination, a blue morning

from which I may or

may not recover

a coterie of joys I lost

like dollars in a weak exchange,

effort having gone out of my several selves,

effort having gone out of my numerous faiths.

And having claimed the land I claim the sea,

the straits between us,

time I bend like skin to touch itself.


I have, let’s see:

I have my face

draped in paper-mâché, my features

galloping out of the paste-wet bands

like exotic animals. I have a heavy hand

made of garish pink flowers.

Buildings wilt when I caress them.

Time’s touch can’t hold a candle

to this hand I have, a candle pulled

from rubble, the last wick

left to light

here on my island.

I have that forged letter of a city

I was born in—

blacktop river, bougainvillea

scattered down the garden wall—

and hold that letter to the unlit wick

until it catches


in the wind

and my city blows away.

I have a small Havana in my brain.

I stand in a towel at the hotel window.

I walk to the bar at the top of the hill.

I buy a bottle of reggaeton to brush my

teeth with. I have

dinner on a staircase in a ruined mansion.

I have cubist paintings rolled in my suitcase

like dirty t-shirts.

I have first editions of all the holy books.

I bought them in the bookstalls by the wharf.

I tried to lick their pages clean

of wisdom. I have never

had a paradise to lose.


I have the rules of poetry memorized.

I can say sugar.

I can say tobacco.

I can enumerate all the deeds

undone in my name.

I am ready to go.

I have no choice

in the matter. I am matter

and have no choice.

I have everything I need.

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