Orlando Hernandez

Hernández author photo


Orlando Hernández is a writer, tap dancer, and performance artist from Hoboken, New Jersey. He studied English and creative writing at Yale University. From 2013-2014 he lived in Spain, translating the work of Dionisio Cañas. His poems and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in FenceNew American WritingPRISM international, and Circumference. Currently he lives in Providence, Rhode Island, working at schools and teaching tap dance. You can find him at www.orlyhernandez.com.

Concerning the Shape They Say the Dead Have

         “and in the daytime they are…, and at night they change into fruit”
         –Fray Ramón Pané, An Account of the Antiquities of the Indians



Our ancestors grow wooden—no matter, 

they are like statues covered in golden
bags. Softly we folded the bag
in northeastern cities the images
are dripping from the pipes.

The tree lent us images,
and the wooden bowl of fruit,
that we must avoid at all costs.



They are like the skin of milk 

A boy sits across from an old Cuban man
sipping coffee with milk; 

the old Cuban talks about Clinton.

There is suddenly a ripple
of milk-skin clinging 

to his young mustache,
old boy.



They saw some kind of persons
fall from some trees,
coming down among the branches. 

These forms were neither men nor women,
and they went to seize them,
but they fled as if they were eels. 

They told the cacique there were four of them,
and so they took four of us 

because our hands are rough
and thus we might hold on to them tightly, 

and so we are reaching for them
with rasping fingers.



Your live spirit appears to me often,
in a man’s shape as well as a woman’s, 

and I have sometimes wanted to do battle with it, 

and were I to lay my hands on it
it would disappear, 

and I would put my arms elsewhere into some trees,
and I would end up hanging from those trees.


The Case of the Zoo in Cuba

At Al Mall’s, in Cranston, Evans told us about the time that Fidel tried
to have a zoo brought to Cuba—but when they built the zoo there, and
opened it to the public, people came and ate all the animals. Except for
the lion.

It started with the monkey: they say the monkey was throwing shit at
people, and the people got mad and ate the monkey. Then they ate all
the other animals—the hippopotamus, the zebra, the giraffe. The only
animal they didn’t eat was the lion, and the lion acts like a little doggy.

When Fidel found out what happened at the zoo, he got very upset. So
he and his team brainstormed and came up with a way to catch the
criminals. They built an aquarium in the zoo, and put a couple of
psychological fish in the tank, and opened it to the public.

When the two criminals came to the aquarium, they looked at the fish,
and looked at each other, and thought that they were going to eat the
fish. They tried to find a way into the tank. The fish looked out at them.
The criminals—they were brothers—looked in at the fish. The fish kept
looking out at them. The brothers’ faces started to look like fish faces.
They kept looking like that.

When the police came, the criminals were staring out at them like fish.
The police took away the brothers. On the news later, I saw one of the
fish in the tank, slowly saluting the camera.

© The Acentos Review 2016