Translated by Cassandra Gillig and Anne Boyer
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.
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
as if life were that simple.
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.
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.
When you wake up
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
What I do not use:
the bus to El Silencio
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
an Istanbul travel guide
life insurance for the blind
a criminal record
the people’s liberation
and the words
to fold and unfold
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.”
once wrote about how women sit
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
And that after doing it,
no one wants to sit down
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
talking about the worms that hound him
and the wicked heat he feels all day
in that aridity and sand.
He hasn’t changed:
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.
we dipped El Chino in the pool, under a full moon,
and he was content
like when he had a river,
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.
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.
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.
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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