Archive for the ‘Habana Diaries’ Category

El Templete, Habana Vieja (with water from the Malecon).
Ink on hand.book paper. Habana, Cuba. April 2012.

Example of Moorish (Mudéjar) Architecture in Habana Vieja.
Ink on hand.book paper. Habana, Cuba. April 2012.



Music is a total constant. That’s why we have such a strong visceral connection to it, you know? Because a song can take you back instantly to a moment, or a place, or even a person. No matter what else has changed in you or the world, that one song stays the same, just like that moment.”

Sarah Dessen, Just Listen

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The Arms That Wouldn’t Let Me Go


On this sweet, rainy evening

My thoughts run to you

Like water towards the ocean

In the city’s gutters and roofs

Towards countless drainstorms

Powerless in the face

Of a calculated incline.


It is a sweet rain that is falling tonight

It wears your scent of promises

It is music, it sings of gentle breezes through wooden wind charms,

Of a veranda in the Caribbeans.

A scattering of drops

Like miniscule sand pebbles on my books

As I wait.


O Night, your silence descends upon me like a mantle

It calms me

I could write lines like an ode to your burning eyes

Your long, long lashes that caught my tears

Brushed away listless years

And changed me.


Tonight I don’t see the bus stop in front of me

Or the muted lights of cars

I see you waiting for me on that street

The staircase that separated me from bliss

[I met my two loves on the steps of Italian cathedrals,

they gave me their blessings]

I know you are there

And when you see me, your eyes smile stars,

twinkling benign in the skies between us.


If the world ended in two days,

As predicted,

I would have felt safe

Your broad shoulders would have protected me

From all the walls and crumbling houses of the City.


Sleep, days, a thin membrane

Before and after us

A tender gauze between dusk and your sunset skin.


We stole nights

Like compassionate thieves

Time measured in kisses

A perfect, impossible life

Soft like the sound of a far-away gramophone

Or a clavichord in Vienna

(Will you come with me to cobbled alley-ed Vienna?)


I am home now

The lanes are deserted and streetlights have relinquished

their daytime tyranny

The night is wide with the tabac scent

Of water falling on hot concrete and asphalt

It is a summer night somewhen, somewhere else.


I am home now

The house is still

And bathed in red solitude

I need to stop writing

And conjure up what I’ll be wearing tomorrow

I need to stop thinking

That I could die happy tonight.



San Diego, April 25, 2012



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Moon Over Cuba

La luna sobre Habana
Tiene una sonrisa
De la Calle San Francisco a Espalda,
En el Vedado.

El Malecon vio’ todo, sus serenadas,
La trova y el son.

Las olas en la noche
Regresan y regresan
amantes para la izquierda
Como tu pensiero
Que no me dejas dormir.

Todo es posible en La Habana
Dijo’ Graham Greene.
En la ciudad de las columnas
Tome’ las espinas ayer
Y ora
Tomo la Rosa.

Habana, 5 Abril 2012

Moon Over Cuba

The moon above Habana
Has a smile
From San Francisco Street to Espalda,
In the Vedado.

The Malecon saw everything, his serenades,
The trova and the son.

The waves in the night
Return and return
unofficial lovers
As your thought
Which keeps me awake

Everything is possible in Habana
said Graham Greene.
In the city of colums
I picked some thorns yesterday
And today
I catch the Rose.

Ya lo se
Que voy a quierer de sentir
El sonido de tu voz
Tu acento

Par la calle la brisa es suave en mi piel
Aqui nunca hace frio
La noche te cubre
Con sus caricias
Su bufanda hecha de estrellas

Estoy olvidando
Todos mis dolores
Las olas se la traigan con ellas

Los muros conservan
Los abrazos de los enamorados
Todo me habla aqui
y tengo que regresarme
Tu me dices

Como escribir en la rena
Y esperar l’agua
Que borra
Un otro amor.

Habana, 8 Abril 2012

I already know
I will want to hear
The sound of your voice
Your accent

In the street the breeze is smooth on my skin
Here it’s never cold
The night covers you
With her caresses
Her scarf made of stars

I am forgetting
All my sorrows
The waves carry them away

The walls conserve
The embraces of lovers
Everything speaks to me here
and I need to come back
You say

It’s like writing on the sand
And waiting for the water
To erase
Another love.

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‘Habana is very much like a rose,’ said Fico Fellove in the movie The Lost City,

‘it has petals and it has thorns…so it depends on how you grab it.

But in the end it always grabs you.’

“One of the most beautiful cities in the world. You see it with your heart.”

Enrique Nunez Del Valle, Paladar Owner

Habana’s real essence is so difficult to pin down. Plenty of writers have had a try, though; Cuban intellectual Alejo Carpentier nicknamed Habana the ‘city of columns,’ Federico Llorca declared that he had spent the best days of his life there and Graham Greene concluded that Habana was a city where ‘anything was possible.’


Habana is, without doubt, one of the most attractive and architecturally diverse cities in the world. Shaped by a colorful colonial history  and embellished by myriad foreign influences from as far afield as Italy and Morocco, the Cuban capital gracefully combines Mudéjar, baroque, neoclassical, art nouveau, art deco and modernist architectural styles into a visually striking whole.

But it’s not all sweeping vistas and tree-lined boulevards. Habana doesn’t have the architectural uniformity of Paris or the instant knock-out appeal of Rome. Indeed, two decades of economic austerity has meant many of the city’s finest buildings have been left to festering an advanced state of dilapidation. Furthermore, attempting to classify Habana’s houses,palaces, churches and forts as a single architectural entity is extremely difficult.

Cuban building – rather like its music – is unusually diverse. Blending Spanish colonial with French belle epoque, and Italian Renaissance with Gaudi-esque art nouveau, the over-riding picture is often one of eclecticism run wild.

Brendan Sainsbury

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