I overcome because I am overwhelmed.
I whip my life into shape,
one tension, one bit of calm at a time,
if I must I give back the distance I run,
if I must I rise and cut something from myself.
I’ve arrived at this hour dragging my body from moment to moment. Surreptitiously I serve up wounded blood.
The story I bear, how will you receive it?
The water I’ve gathered makes itself heard.
Here is the mother who keeps her child
forever in her womb.
And decides she will live, even as she drowns.
Translated by Margaret Randall
Originally published in World Literature Today 89, no. 5 (September 2015).
Caridad Atencio (b. 1963, Havana) is a poet, essayist, and critic. Among her poetry collections are Los poemas desnudos (1995), Los viles aislamientos (1996), Umbrías (1999), Los cursos imantados (2000), and El libro de los sentidos (2010).
Margaret Randall (b. 1936, New York) lived in Cuba from 1969 to 1980. In 1970 and 2011 she was a judge of the Casa de las Américas literary contest. Her books include To Change the World: My Years in Cuba (2009) and Haydée Santamaría, Cuban Revolutionary: She Led by Transgression, just out from Duke University Press.