José Martí in 2023 by Chip Livingston

José Martí shakes off a 127-year dead sleep as he wakes up on Calle José Martí, according to the street sign. José Martí checks his thin pigskin wallet for his national ID to confirm he is still José Martí. Revolutionary sycamore trees stretch from the sidewalk, shade cloud-scraping brick apartment buildings. The street’s concrete is cut in curves from iron trolley ruts, sloping to a city beach too brown to be Caribbean. Hijo de puta, the poet mutters to himself. Estoy muy lejos de los platanos. “Where am I? When am I?” José Martí asks a man walking nine canines that shine like a starburst, him the wiry stem of their dandelion. “You’re right there,” he tells the poet but is quickly pulled up Calle José Martí by the harnessed manada. “Where am I?” José Martí asks a woman overacting an enthusiastic power walk in tight and colorful elastic. She removes white metal plugs from her ears, presses her finger against a dark glass square strapped to her forearm. Pauses. “Perdón, I didn’t hear.” “The date, the year.” “You’re not from here,” she says. The poet offers her his Cuban cedula. “Oh dear,” she says. “This is not my island,” José Martí says. “This is not your island.” She shakes her head. “But you’ll certainly be a guest of honor. We take our poets and our revolutionaries very seriously in Uruguay in 2023.” La republica oriental. Dos mil veintitrés. Further away than I thought, José Martí thinks. José Martí smooths his mustache and tips a hat he doesn’t wear. “I hope I’ll see you again.” “I need to keep running, but I’d like to have you sign my first edition.” The poet smiles, a little less lost, a little less lonely. Not because he has a street named after him. But he, José Martí, has more than one edition.

Chip Livingston is the author of three books of poetry, a novel, and a story/essay collection, and editor of LOVE, LOOSHA: The Letters of Lucia Berlin and Kenward Elmslie. His short prose and poetry have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Ploughshares, Subtropics, The Cincinnati Review, and on the Poetry Foundation’s and Academy of American Poets’ websites. Chip teaches in the low-rez MFA program at Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM, and lives in Montevideo, Uruguay.

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