“A Cuban Sandwich in the Miami Airport”:
Excerpt from The Star-Spangled Brand

By Marcelo Morales

Translated by Kristin Dykstra




A Cuban sandwich in the Miami airport.
In Chicago I read with a guy who wrote stuff like:

And I said something to her and she said, Oh yes!, or Hell no!

He had Italian shoes or might have had them and he moved like Malkovich and Jackson.
And the love songs were all talking, all talking about you.
And the clouds in Vermont skies.


Havana, green fermented water. Loaves of bread under arms.
And the love songs were all talking about you, all of them talking, you,
you didn’t.


Staying in love, like one of those riders who stays on wild bulls in rodeos, or those mines that
you have to seek. Sweeping leaves off the top.


I wake up, in a Korean movie a guy says to a woman:
“Miss, I think you have a little piece of seaweed in your teeth.”
I slice the nylon around some chicken, a cold chicken, a frozen one. I put my hand in there.


They say that Kid Chocolate, at the very instant when he died, sat up and put his hands over
his face. As if he were expecting a punch, one final punch, the final knockout. You’re alone when
you talk to god.
When I talk to you, I’m alone. I sit up, raise my fists in front of my face.


What is this love that glows for me?

Through the darkness

that glows.










Un sándwich cubano en el aeropuerto de Miami.
En Chicago leí con un tipo que escribía cosas como:

Y yo le dije algo and she said, oh yes! or Hell no!

Tenía zapatos italianos o podía tenerlos y se movía como Malkovich y Jackson.
Y las canciones de amor hablaban todas, hablaban todas de ti.
Y las nubes en los cielos de Vermont.


Habana, agua verde y fermentada. Barras de pan bajo los brazos.
Y las canciones de amor hablaban todas de ti, hablaban todas, tú,


Permanecer en el amor como uno de esos tipos que se montan en los rodeos encima de un toro
salvaje, o esas minas que tienes que detectar. Quitar las hojas arriba.


Me despierto, en una película coreana, un tipo le dice a una tipa:
– Señorita, creo que tiene un poco de algas en los dientes.
Rajo el nylon que envuelve al pollo, un pollo frío, congelado. Pongo mi mano ahí.


Dicen que Kid Chocolate, en el momento de morir, levantó el torso y puso sus manos sobre la
cara. Como si esperara un golpe, un último golpe, el último knockout. Uno está solo cuando habla
con dios.
Cuando hablo contigo, solo. Levanto el torso, los puños, delante de la cara.


Qué es este amor que brilla para mí?

A través de la oscuridad

que brilla.





This week’s Poesía en acción feature also includes:

An interview with Kristin Dykstra




Marcelo Morales (b. Cuba, 1977) is the author of El mundo como ser, released in a bilingual edition from the University of Alabama Press in 2016 as The World as Presence. BOMB published a 2017 interview in which Morales discusses his more recent interests, including some of the poet’s own photographs. His first book of poetry appeared in Cuba in 1997, when he was twenty years old.  With excerpts that later came together to form his 2006 poetry collection El mundo como objeto, Morales won the 2004 poetry prize presented by La Gaceta de Cuba, as well as an honorable mention in Cuba’s national Julián del Casal prize competition and a coveted finalist position in the international Casa de las Américas competition. He is also the author of the poetry collections Cinema (1997, Pinos Nuevos prize), El círculo mágico (2007), and Materia (winner of the 2008 Julián del Casal prize), among others. His novel La espiral appeared in 2006.  Morales edited and introduced Como un huésped de la noche (2010), an anthology of poetry by Roberto Branly, a Cuban writer who similarly explored both prose and poetry.


Kristin Dykstra is principal translator of The Winter Garden Photograph, by Cuban writer Reina María Rodríguez, Winner of the 2020 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. The book was published by Ugly Duckling Presse, which also brought out the anthology Materia Prima, a Finalist for the 2020 Best Translated Book Award, introducing Amanda Berenguer of Uruguay; it is co-edited by Dykstra with Kent Johnson and features a team of co-translators. Her translation of Cubanology, a multilingual book of days by Omar Pérez, appeared in 2018. She guest-edited “Out of Alamar,” a dossier about Cuban poet Juan Carlos Flores (1962-2016) for Chicago Review in 2018. The University of Alabama Press published four of her book-length translations of contemporary Cuban poetry, including editions by Rodríguez, Flores, Angel Escobar and Marcelo Morales between 2014 and 2016. Her 2016 translation of The World as Presence, by Morales, was longlisted for the National Translation Award.



Poesía en acción is an Action Books blog feature for Latin American and Spanish poetry in translation and the translator micro-interview series. It was created by Katherine M. Hedeen and is currently curated and edited by Olivia Lott with web editing by Paul Cunningham.