Piñera belongs to that school of writing called “Literature of the Absurd.” I find myself increasingly attracted to the kinds of writing and performance that almost require you to impose meaning on it yourself. These are the most immersive reading and theater experiences. You find yourself saying “what the fuck” a lot. Piñera’s characters eat mountains and immerse themselves in tar. I guess you could watch Empire, too.

Playing with the idea that no man is an island, Piñera’s poem “Isla” (“Island”) literally transforms the speaker into an island. Think Kafka in a tropical climate.

Isla

Aunque estoy a punto de renacer,
no lo proclamaré a los cuatro vientos
ni me sentiré un elegido:
sólo me tocó en suerte,
y lo acepto porque no está en mi mano
negarme, y sería por otra parte una descortesía
que un hombre distinguido jamás haría.
Se me ha anunciado que mañana,
a las siete y seis minutos de la tarde,
me convertiré en una isla,
isla como suelen ser las islas.
Mis piernas se irán haciendo tierra y mar,
y poco a poco, igual que un andante chopiniano,
empezarán a salirme árboles en los brazos,
rosas en los ojos y arena en el pecho.
En la boca las palabras morirán
para que el viento a su deseo pueda ulular.
Después, tendido como suelen hacer las islas,
miraré fijamente al horizonte,
veré salir el sol, la luna,
y lejos ya de la inquietud,
diré muy bajito:
¿así que era verdad?

Island

Although I am about to be reborn,
I won’t proclaim it to the four winds
nor feel myself among the elect:
it came to me by chance,
and I accept it because it’s not for me
to refuse, and besides, it would be bad manners
if a man of distinction were to do so.
It was announced to me that tomorrow
at six after seven in the evening
I would become an island,
an island like any other.
My legs will be turning to earth and sea,
and little by little, like a Chopin andante,
trees will begin to sprout from my arms,
from my eyes roses, and sand from my breast.
Words will die in my mouth
so that the wind may howl at will.
Afterwards, as islands do,
I will stare at the horizon,
see the sun and moon emerge,
and far now from anxiety
whisper softly:
“did that really happen?”

-Virgilio Piñera
(translation by Mark Weiss)

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