Fernando’s eyes

A tribute to the Jesuit priest Fernando Cardenal, by the writer and poet Gioconda Belli

Fernando’s eyes

Fernando’s blue eyes
Fernando’s steady eyes

It rained in Granada;
a cloudburst in summer
at 9 in the morning
on the day of his passing,
The very day the Poetry Festival concluded.

What most strikes the poets
who’ve come from all parts of the world
is the silence of the multitudes filling the square.
They hush to listen to poetry:
vendors of snow-cones, popcorn, cigarettes,
women who sell vigorón in the park,
men who offer sunglasses, dozens of them,
pegged to a plywood sheet.
The high and mighty:
professionals, children, entire families,
are silent to hear with veneration
their poetry.

Fernando’s sweet eyes
Fernando’s fierce eyes

I think about Nicaraguans’ love for poetry;
And I see Ernesto, the great poet,
And Fernando, opening Nicaragua’s eyes in the Literacy Campaign
So many eyes were opened, pair by pair:
the eyes of the illiterate who couldn´t read or write.
How many were given the magic world of poetry, of fiction, of science, of mathematics,
in that most vital of the Revolution’s battles?
A battle of love Fernando led like a tenacious and transparent general
at the head of hosts of adolescents
who left their homes singing, to go deep into the backcountry
and teach people to read.

Fernando’s blue eyes
Fernando’s sweet eyes

So much was lost of all that mattered most in that revolution,
but Fernando’s war will remain in the annals of our history
as the greatest and the sweetest campaign this country
ever launched.

Fernando’s sweet eyes

Fernando’s fierce eyes

Nothing, not a handful of earth for his grave did this General ask for himself
He took his leave of public life, in silence he withdrew, to continue
serving, because his commitment was never to a party but to God and
his fellows. And for them, humble and dogged, he always came through.

Fernando’s steady eyes

Hard to imagine we’ll see him no more. I wish I could invoke new words
to say that his memory will live, that we’ll never let him die.
But it’s too soon to think of days without him, and I prefer not to say goodbye.
I’d rather applaud, ring the bells,
honk the horns, shake the castanets, for all he gave us:
For his beautiful
generous life.
February 20, 2016

This poem has been translated from Spanish by Havana Times

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