Monthly Archives: March 2013

Langston Hughes sails from Haiti to Cuba, 1932

Down in the sweltering town again, I took off my coat and tie. I stopped at the market and bought a couple of loaves of French bread, a long greasy sausage, some cheese and some tinned sardines because, since Zell and I had only deck passage, we could not even purchase bread from the ship’s dining salon. We had to have enough to eat all the way to Cuba, and there was no telling how many ports a cargo ship might stop at en route, perhaps anchoring miles out in the water with no way of going ashore to buy food. I bought fruit, too, and a bottle of wine. Thus laden, back I started toward the wharf. The sun, heading west, was still blazing. Sweat poured from me. For cinq cob a street urchin offered to help me, so gratefully I let him put the bread and sausage under his sweaty arms, and the cheese on his head, and he trotted behind me toward the pier.

As I went up the rickety gangplank, the winches were rattling and the cranes lifting the swinging crates of cargo through the air. I found Zell on deck aft, where I dumped my packages on a closed hatch and proceeded to undress, putting my clothes in my suitcase in exchange for the oldest and dirtiest pair of trousers I had — in preparation for a night on the bare deck. It was so hot that I removed both shirt and undershirt. If the iron deck had not seemed like a griddle, I would have taken off my shoes. As it was, I removed my socks and rolled up my pants legs.

We were both hungry, so while I had stripped down to my ragged trousers, Zell spread on a newspaper our supper of cheese, sausage, bread and wine, with a bunch of bananas for dessert. He filled a couple of tin cups with tepid water from the tap, and we sat down on a shady corner of the deck to eat while cargo winches clanked and bales of sisal swung overhead. The sausage was good but greasy. We had neither forks nor napkins. Our hands were greasy and our bodies sweaty as we dined.

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César Chávez

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Les activités

→ Scrub deck, work out, grade three classes
→ Sand deck
→ Seal deck
→ Buy new deadbolt and install
→ Prepare classes
→ Chase down roofer
→ Details on last of study abroad proposals (Tuesday)
→ Drop off car (Monday 8 April)
→ Spanish version of abstract
→ Finish writing letters, including to Mihai
→ Sewing
→ Gardening
→ At least plan painting
→ Take dress to tailor
→ Visit prison
→ Visit Creole plantation Laura
→ Hooks for boat
→ Wells Fargo

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Not far from Zhongdian

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My virtual university, again

My fall class is overenrolled and has a waiting list. Word on the street is that it is going to “kick ass.” The Spanish Professor helped me design it.

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Nicolás Guillén

A planned, but not executed paper I have is on Nicolás Guillén. I wanted to write a paper on him that would not be about the themes of race and Blackness and mixture and Cuba and identity and society but that would, rather, focus on images and sound.

People forget how complicated the rhythms and phonemes are in his poetry. I am less impressed with its “content” than I am with this aspect of the work and I discovered this in class one day when the students did not understand the writing.

I tried to demonstrate by flying around the room reciting and clapping, one rhythm with my hands, another with my teeth and a third with my feet. It worked quite well and it is an impressive text that can choreograph the unskilled me as easily as that. It was not about dance moves, though — it was the phonemes. I was trying to catch the phonemes, in the rhythms in which they fell.

I will excavate the bones of this barely conceived of paper and write it.

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Front lines

So, when I start to dissociate slightly, lose my ability to concentrate and tener muy presentes past manipulative situations, it means I am actually in one now and do not see it. Now I see what it is.

Should I quit this university level committee? It is important to stay on because ideally one could blunt the blow of some of the worst forces of corporatization.

But even the hope of forestalling such may be 20th century — if not 19th. If I am learning things from it, but it is also destructive, should I continue?

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