SONG OF THE WORMS. November 9, 2010

I usually try to avoid Downtown Miami at night. There’s something creepy about it. I always think werewolves, vampires and zombies come out in Downtown Miami when darkness falls, whether there’s a full moon or not. Last night, though, I screwed up my courage and decided to go see Margaret Atwood’s presentation as part of the Miami International Book Fair at the Downtown Campus of Miami Dade College. I’m glad I did.

Margaret Atwood was funny. The crowd was great. About a thousand people turned out. Many of them were Latinos, but I don’t think I’ve seen as many “anglos” gathered together in Miami in years. I love Miami’s Latin atmosphere. The people, the food, the music. But I also miss a lot about life in the English-speaking USA, especially the people,  the gringos, white, black, asian, etc. I wish we had more of a mix of people in Miami. At best, it would prevent me from forgetting the English language, which I don’t get to practice much anymore.

I enjoyed Margaret Atwood’s talk and I bought  her new novel, The Year of the Flood,  which I’ve already started reading. But the main reason I went to see her is that  I love her poetry, which had nothing to do with her presentation last night. I  just felt I had to be there and thank Margaret in silence for being a great poet.  I ’m always moved every time I read one of her poems, Song of the Worms. I’m so fond of that poem that I did three paintings, inspired by it. The paintings are not much, but the  poem is sublime.

I know Song of the Worms has nothing to do with politics and much less with Cuba. But, being a Cuban who’s lived most of his life outside of his country of birth, I can’t help having become obsessed with a poem that talks of the dignity and inevitable victory of worms, the tyranny of boots, fences that will topple and brick walls that will ripple and fall. If you’re Cuban, you may understand what I mean. If you don’t undertand, it’s not that important. It’s my very personal interpretation of a work of art. It’s just me being childish,  like my paintings. Here’s the poem by Margaret Atwood:


We have been underground too long,

we have done our work,

we are many and one,

we remember when we were human

We have lived among roots and stones,

we have sung but no one has listened,

we come into the open air

at night only to love

which disgusts the soles of boots,

their leather strict religion.

We know what a boot looks like

when seen from underneath,

we know the philosophy of boots,

their metaphysic of kicks and ladders.

We are afraid of boots

But contemptuoous of the foot that needs them.

Soon we will invade like weeds,

everywhere but slowly;

the captive plants will rebel

with us, fences will topple,

brick walls ripple and fall,

there will be no more boots.

Meanwhile we eat dirt

and sleep; we are waiting

under your feet.

When we say Attack

You will hear nothing

at first.



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