Simple as That : Magazine : A Public Space

Simple as That

Poetry Miyó Vestrini
Translated by Cassandra Gillig and Anne Boyer

SIMPLE AS THAT

To walk on 42nd Street in New York City
or to blow on my fingers burning from chestnuts
on the corner of the Via della Croce
or to be resplendent in the hustle of airports,
                                     what would be the difference?

Of all skies, I live under the most common
the sky of the starving ones
planted above my head
with no motion beyond night and day.
Each day
I tell myself:
             You have to settle for these places
                                                    to return to them
because there, sometime,
                                        you will have to die.

But the seasons and the plants persist,
the vulnerable rivers,
the tempests of passing trains,
the riddle of imprecise hours,
the fireball that crosses the edge of the window,
the exterminating angel dancing on the ceiling.

Get out of my life
                        they say,
as if life were that simple.

Simple as that.

The mirror turns soft under my fingers
                                     begins to fill the house.

Grows from wall to wall
in the vertigo of my body
                         vertigo of meadows and soft light.

Astonishment returns.
Now I know:
Only women with beautiful eyes
do not age.

Only men with restless dreams
sing when they rise.

If I had known all this
                                     you would not catch me alive.



THE STORY OF O

When you wake up
keep quiet
find ecstasy

Accept extravagance
cry for submission
ignore the arguments
be angry at all excesses of love

the water of graves will be in you
                                                   water of swamps and prayers
the unbearable will come later
when the wind makes waves in the pond
and you cannot see
                        as you disappear under the earth

USE

What I do not use:
                         the bus to El Silencio
                         the transformer
                         the Delft hen
                         the book Film 1962 by Vittorio Spinazzola
                         Berrocal’s detachable sculptures
                         the egg timer
                         the concierge’s bell
                         the hotel suggestion box
                         the sixth speed of the blender
                         pay stubs
                         barf bags
                         an Istanbul travel guide
                         life insurance for the blind
                         a criminal record
                         the people’s liberation
                         and the words
                                                to fold and unfold



REPUBLIC OF LOVE*
Discourse on the act, written by hand in the República del Este
—CARACAS, MAY 1976

Each day makes it more difficult to love. Each day, it’s more complicated to let oneself be loved. That’s why I think that tonight we should recover, once and for all, the capacity to love. The more fundamental, more telluric, more plain this love, the more of a republic we will be. In love, like in all human affairs, the entente cordiale is always the result of misunderstanding, says Baudelaire. And if for this infernal communard love was difficult, the splendid madness and the limitless violence, for us it cannot be less. I, president of the commune, warn you: only the legitimate claim of incorruptible love will be accepted. Only the terrible and sweet voice of affection will be heard. Understand it well, republicans: you must forget power, because power is in the hands of a tyrant—marvelous, crazy, clownish, and splendid. And if he betrays, we will have all betrayed. If he surrenders, we will all have surrendered. This is our risk. I know that, sometimes and especially now, in a country that torments us with its loud mess, with its mercenary vulgarity, violence patrols and bites. Like any good communard, I know the tumult, the cries, the unstoppable fury of the eternally humiliated or the simple and solitary weeping at the counter of a bar. But I know also, because I’ve learned it from you, that love unites us around this stubborn tyrant, is more powerful than all death, than all forgotten. If the imbeciles who observe and judge the República del Este from their tidy and beautiful rooms knew how much we love each other, how we conspire, they would understand how beautiful the world is for us, in spite of their miserable everyday experiences. Of love and love alone the commune wants to speak. Of love past and love present. Of Manuel Alfredo’s great, kind laugh. Of Rubén’s joyful cries as he writes. Of Mariana’s timid voice as she dodges a drunk. Of Ramón’s ineffable jokes. Of Achilles’s look when he feels alone. Of Adriano’s brilliant cough. Of Alfonso’s medieval eloquence. Of Elías’s admirable and sweet silences. Of Gisela’s voice singing to Tito. Of the spot in Orlando’s eyes—Andean, cloudy, and solitary. Of June’s solidarity. Poets, writers, drunks, traitors, crazies, bourgeoisie, the shoeless, how many labels we must carry! But the commune tells you: we know how to live together, sad or fierce, happy or lonely, but together, protected by a tyrant who loves us more than his own life. We learn to defend our right to dream, to madness, to love full and bursting. To distrust ourselves is to lose ourselves. The commune will be in the streets, in the bars, in the most remote corners of this cruel city and harsh country, to greet you tyrant, because, one day, “death will come and have your eyes.”



CHAMOMILE TEA

My friend,
El Chino,
once wrote about how women sit
and walk
after they’ve made love.
We never got to argue about it
because he died like an idiot
of a heart attack treated with chamomile tea.
Had we had the chance,
I’d have told him that the only thing good about making love
is men who ejaculate
without bitterness,
without dread.
And that after doing it,
no one wants to sit down
or walk.
I named an old palm tree
planted near the pool at my apartment after him.
Every time I take a drink
and I greet him,
he shakes his leaves,
a sign that he’s furious.
He told me once:
life’s a massive happiness
or a massive outrage.
I’m true to my childhood dreams.
I believe in what I do,
what my friends do,
and what everyone like me does.






Sometimes we stay up together
very late
talking about the worms that hound him
and the wicked heat he feels all day
in that aridity and sand.
He hasn’t changed:
hungry,
dispossessed,
he can sit down and befriend Mallarmé.
Lautréamont joined us one night
and said El Chino was right:
poetry should be made by all.
And then the others came:
Rubén Darío leading Nicaragua,
Omar Khayyam with his parties,
Paul Éluard uniting lovers.
Together,
we dipped El Chino in the pool, under a full moon,
and he was content
like when he had a river,
some birds,
a kite.



Now he’s worked up again,
because they bring him flowers
while he’s trying to scare off cockroaches.
He wanted to be interred in Helsinki,
under eternal snow.
He went around the world,
passing through London where a woman waited for him,
and on his way back,
he drank chamomile tea.
He,
who loved the shadows so much,
could no longer stay up all night.



Lucid and very hypocritical,
he had a horrible fear of dying in bed.
I know
because he wrote me a note
that the line he liked most was David Cooper’s:
a bed is the laboratory of love and dreams.



Cassandra Gillig is a poet and librarian based in Kansas City.
Anne Boyer is a Kansas City-based poet and essayist. Her most recent book is The Undying (FSG). *All pieces translated by Cassandra Gillig and Anne Boyer except “Republic of Love” translated by Cassandra Gillig.

No. 28

No. 28

Author

Miyó Vestrini (1938– 1991) was born in France and immigrated to Venezuela at the age of nine. She was a prizewinning journalist and the author of three collections of poetry. Grenade in the Mouth: Some poems of Miyó Vestrini was recently published by Kenning Editions.

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