Miyó Vestrini | Poems

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Gina Pane | Action Psyché, 1973

 

XII (from NEXT WINTER)
for Luis Camilo

I get up
I do not get up
They hate me
I tie my tubes
I hit a motorcyclist with malice aforethought
I surrender to the Oedipus complex
I wander
I carefully study the differences between dysrhythmia –
psychosis – schizophrenia – neurosis – depression – syndrome – panic
and I’m pissed
left alone in the house when everyone is asleep
I buy a magazine that costs six dollars
they steal my best friend’s purse
they grab me
I push him
I murder him
I remember the umbrella of Amsterdam
and the rain
and the angry gesture
I dedicate myself to drinking to prevent heart attacks
I chew the food fifty times
and I’m bored
and I’m bored
losing weight
gaining weight
losing weight
I give in
I’m don’t give in
I sit still and cry
someone takes me in his arms
and tells me “Be calm I’m still here“
I stop crying
I hear the wind that blows near the sea, only near the sea
I accept that flying cockroaches exist
I find that all my friends treated by psychoanalysts have become
totally sad totally idiotic
they read my I Ching and predict I’ll have a long life
life of shit, I say
I join the bandwagon
I throw myself under the bandwagon
I understand for a single trip how much gas is in the tank
they tell me to turn off the light
I turn it off
they ask me, “You done yet?“
I play stupid
I plead for peace
they fuck me up
I fall asleep up against the bar
I hear the Spaniard’s voice whenever he shits on god
someone cries beside me again
they hit me
they hit me hard
there’s a full moon
I race down the mountain road
I do the math
it doesn’t add up
my chest hurts,
the day is done,
the Red wins
rien ne va plus

 

 

ARANJUEZ

Don’t be ridiculous.
No one dies from holding their breath.
Think of your brittle bones,
of your sweaty folds,
of your dry vagina
and your receding hairline.
Or of your heart attack when you fake orgasm.
Women die of that.
Why you gotta be so obscene?
Because for twenty years I’ve not gone to Aranjuez
and that makes me pissed.

 

 

THE SORROW

I folded his shirts with care
and emptied the nightstand drawer.
Given my sorrow’s size,
I read Marguerite Duras,
hostile and saccharine Marguerite Duras,
who is knitting a shawl for her love.
On the fifth day
I opened the curtains.
Light fell on the greasy-stained bedspreads,
the apartment full of trash,
the door frame peeling.
So much pain
from such ugly things.
I looked once more at his rat face
and threw all the trash in the garbage chute.
The neighbor
alarmed by how much I’d thrown away,
asked if I was doing all right.
It hurts, I told her.
In my mailbox, an anonymous note:
“One who has love
takes care
takes care
and does not clog the drain of the community.“

 

 

BEATRIZ

With or without a dick,
there are things that cannot be done
when you start to sweat
or when the prostate hurts.
So Beatriz killed herself
at the age of fifty-three.
She did not want to participate in the grotesque ceremony
of eulogizing decadence.
She covered all the mirrors
and put satin sheets on the bed.
She was supposed to die there
neat and fragrant
ignoring the rat who bit her breath away
But she preferred the sofa
where she had made love the night before
with a professional party boy
rented for the occasion.
She left a list
of mistakes and successes.
Writing is not important, she wrote,
and signed her name in small print,
believing it apocryphal.

 

 

ONE DAY OF THE WEEK I

When were you born,
in 1938,
César Vallejo was dying.
When your little head,
your navel,
your virgin cunt,
entered the world
from between the beautiful legs of your mother,
they were lowering the poet into a hole.
They covered it with dirt
and you
you were covered the memory.
You could not choose.
Because if you choose
you life.
And if you life
you enjoy.
But joy is the horrific part of the dream:
sleep will be forever.
There will be a smell of fried peppers,
thundering voices in the bar.
It will be a day of the week,
when furniture changes places in the night
and in the mornings,
the women will talk to themselves.
Your nose will be congested and the right eyebrow
will fall more than the left.
The flattened hips,
the bad hair cut and body lost
in any slip that hides the fat in your waist.
If you had sad lunatics for grandparents,
it will be reflected in the report
of a responsible official.
They will cross your arms over your chest
and this is fatal,
because you can not
use Afrin
to breathe better.
It was fake that your hugs were convulsive
and your furies unpredictable.
Fake, the glass you still steam with your burps.
Fake, your nipples, your red freckles.
Last night you decided:
if I cannot sleep,
I’ll choose death.
But you could not have expected the leg of lamb to melt in your mouth,
soft,
milky,
on your tongue.
You could only say:
two childbirths,
ten abortions,
no orgasm.
You took a long sip of wine.
Vallejo also sought a leg of lamb
in the menu of La Coupole.
All watched his stupid eyes,
while he could only think about the quite ears of Beethoven,
He had asked his companion:
Why do not you love me anymore?
What did I do?
Where did I fail?
The sausage in the casserole left grease stains on his shirt.
Like you,
he felt compassion tired his body
and I tried to guess who would be born on this night,
while trying to fall asleep.
Dying
requires time and patience.

 

 

GRATED CARROT

The first suicide is unique.
They always ask you if it was an accident
or a sincere proposition of death.
They shove a tube up your nose,
hard,
it hurts,
and you learn to not disturb the neighbors.
When you begin to explain that
death-actually-seemed-like-the-only-way-out
or that you did it
to-fuck-up-your-husband-and-your-family
they have all turned their backs
and are watching the transparent tube,
retrieving the parade of your last supper.
Betting on whether its noodles or fried rice.
The doctor on duty coldly tells them:
it’s grated carrot.
“Disgusting,“ says the nurse with big lips.
They disposed of me furiously
because no one won the bet.
The saline dispersed quickly
and ten minutes later,
I was back at my house.
No space to mourn
nor time to feel cold and tremble.
People are unconcerned with death that comes from loving too much.
Child’s play
they say
as if children killed themselves every day.
I looked in Hammett for this exact page:
never tell a word about your life
in any book,
if you can help it.

 

 

LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT

They ask you
to whom will you leave your things when you die?
So I looked over my house
and its stuff.
There was nothing in it to give up,
but my rancid smell
And that rat.
The rat that stayed hostile and silent
waiting for it to occur
Useless, to feed it
and soften its bed with blue soap.
I waited for it every night,
anxious to see how its long mustache
would stop hiding the sharp and predatory teeth.
I was there,
staring sneaky
and unspeaking as a sphinx
hoping that my blood would run.
Futile waiting
death arrived inside
first, calm and definitive
I wrote your name on the wall
so the final sunburn,
at about ten am
drew a shadow in my will:
“The rat did not allow me to see the spring“
When dead,
I made the list.
Dinner at the best restaurant
for Ángeles and Carlos.
My books, my unpublished works for José Ignacio.
My dreams for Ibsen.
My credit card for Ybis.
My car for Alberto.
My double bed for Mario.
My memory for Salvador.
My loneliness for for La Negra
My Ismael Rivera records for La Negra.
My poems called “Grenade in Mouth” for La Negra.
My pain from adolescence and motherhood, for Pedro.
My ashes for Ernesto.
My laughter for Marina.
Last night,
told Ángeles and Carlos
if I cannot sleep,
I will choose death.
The leg of lamb was so tasty
that they barely heard me.
I remember that on one corner of Chacao,
she put her arms around me and said,
next friday we will invite you.
His hair cut short
and her happiness to have it that way
made me realize that she was not just Carlos’ silenced mother.
I rested my cheek on her shoulder.
It was only seconds,
but I felt that as the scissors cut through her mane,
something had changed.
Something that doesn’t go by her name
now haunting the sleepless and drunken nights
in the neighborhood of the family.
To die deliberately,
requires time and patience.
You evoke the gratuitous death of a son,
a thing that never happened to you.
The loss of objects
and the silence of a devastated house,
didn’t happen to you either.
The ferocious finger of an enemy pointing to you
as if without remorse.
It happens, but it’s not mortal.
Two births,
ten abortions
and no orgasm.
One good reason.
The silence of your lover when you ask him,
Why don’t you want me?
What did I fail?
and then the tour of those spaces quiet
and empty,
with you bent over,
awkward.
Validating that there is neither soap for the wash
nor starch for ironing
and at best
these oranges are rotten
Then you remember
being on a terrace at 7 am,
overlooking the sea,
and someone saying to you,
this gives me a fear of heights
but I love you.
And then,
returning to the city
and to the mazucamba of a naked joyful man.
You think again about what is deliberate.
It is not fate.
It is not vengeance.
It is one’s hand
sweaty palm,
touching her thigh.
Going back a little more
and recalling the uneasiness of your partner,
the shadowy stench
of your pleasure.
There is always a before
before dying.
Before,
I want to eat tortellinis in cream.
Or take a drink of Tanqueray.
Or be embraced with strong arms.
Or, as Caupolican says
that they put me in the presence of Maiquetia,
the most beautiful city in this whole country.
No one
that I know
has deliberated on their own disappearance.

 

 

DIAGNOSIS

Let’s see,
open your mouth.
Say aaaah.
Show me what your mother did when you were a girl.
Was that the secret?
Oral sex?
Manipulation?
Touch?
Manipulation?
Consider your uterus,
broad and outdated.
How many children passed through there?
The doctors told you
that nature awaited them.
But they just died.
And if they lived
some would have been morons
others more or less the same,
all premeditated out of loneliness.
You have problems with your teeth,
with slow digestion of the indecisive,
with the crunch of the occipital bone.
You’re just another patient.
Everyone would like to have been born in Kansas City
or in Amsterdam
or in Toronto.
Or at least
twenty years later.
Let me shake this ivory specimen.
verify the mixture’s color.
Disgusting,
that bad smell.

 

 

THE CALL

When I asked him why he had not called
he explained to me that he had been buried alive
and that he did not have a phone.
In this thin chicken lips,
there is,
or was not,
any daring.
Everything was strictly legal.
Is it because you do not believe in God?
If it wasn’t easy,
you wouldn’t try to do it.
Significance,
signifying,
significantly,
sign.
I went to the balcony
and looked at the park,
irritating brotherhood of screaming children
and calibrated birds.
Heard the remote control changing channels,
no sound.
I felt at my back
his desire to put on his pants
and leave.
I went to the kitchen to peel potatoes.

 

 

THE WALLS OF SPRING

I will not teach my child to work the land
not to smell the tang of the earth
not to sing hymns.
He will know that there are no crystal streams
no clean drinking water
His world will be hellish downpours
and dark plains.

Of cries and groans.
Of dry eyes and throats.
Of tortured bodies that no longer will be able to see or hear him.
He will know that it is not good to hear the voices of those who exalt the
color of the sky.

I’ll take him to Hiroshima. To Seveso. To Dachau.
His skin will fall piece by piece in front of the horror
and he will listen with sorrow to the bird’s song,

the laughter of the soldiers
the death squads
the walls in spring.

He will have the memory that we never had
and will believe in the violence
of those who believe in nothing.

 

 

THIS CURSED TERRITORY

After recovering the body
they did not ask me how I was feeling
and the neighbor gave me a few small pats on the neck
there where you usually nosed around before throwing yourself into sleep.
As I promised you,
I keep my legs strong and live upright as the stem of a flower,
and though they say that lemon balm is the leaf of the melancholy,
I breathe it at night
before knowing if there will be frost at dawn.
Of the recommended poetries
I’ve barely read any.
I try to kill time
time without you
without possibilities of autumns or duck hunts
nor of trips to Canada.
But suddenly
I open my eyes
and I hear my mother calling for an afternoon snack
in the middle of this silence tempering 3 in the morning.
The man upstairs opens his sliding glass window
spying on the breath of the night like someone with no place to cry
and when it happens
it fills my eyes with tears
I’m obsessed with him
a small matter from balcony to balcony.

I have tried to change this pain with a great tumult
and nevertheless,
I end up content
go and come by the dark living room
without having stopped to install the floor lamp
that would have thrown a golden light about the legs of the invited
There is that book of Hellman’s
that you loved so much
because she loved Dash and sent to him by mail a thousand meters of telephone cable
that they never used.
My hopes are low
but tomorrow I will think only of them.
For now, I curse the mountains the guava marmalade the toothpaste
the cold cream on my cheeks the intersections of avenues
the tree of the house where we moved for the second time
I curse cursed curses for all the stories they whispered at me:
you
lying down
on one side
on a long table
polished dark brown
made from my skin and all my cursed curses.

 

 

THE TRIP

I’ll tell you how I know what I am:

they say that I was conceived without sin
my cries were answered with other cries
people went on vacation and left me
gave away my New Year’s clothes
disowned the shame when I was absent
I had no mourners for my trespasses
threw breadcrumbs at watery graves
placated my own desires
held the ground between myself and the penumbra
bought a dog and let it out
paid Cesar Vallejo to love me
passed without glory or pain beneath the Mirabeau Bridge
I don’t have a single friend dead in the war
no one knows my name for sure
and yesterday
they betrayed me without asking permission

 

 

A blood all mine, running from moon to moon, with an eyelid closed
under a tranquil hand. I looked at him and my eyes filled with tears. He
likes Reverdy, Breton, Perret, Lautreamont. I hate that gang of surreal and
automatic cruelty. In the hours I am permitted, I am reborn before the
wetness, I rub against Rafael’s virgin and perk up my ears at the fountains
of Bernini. On my knees, I let myself be enveloped by the waters of
Botticelli. Under the direction of an accusatory finger, I have read Nadja
and The Thief of Children. But a simple misfortune returned me to the signs
of horror. I murmur then, as now, obscenities and stick my tongue out at
the mirror. Move your tongue in your mouth seven times before speaking.
I was remembering that biblical and familial caution and I was taking
between my lips the mystery of the dead sex, asleep, until it’s obligated to
wake, surprised by this unique gesture of fate. I feel behind my back the
soft sound of a loose breath, morbid, all of a sudden alone in the middle of
this disorder of cloth and wool tangled around my feet. The rumors of my
heart, scandalous, disturbing, no longer disquiet me. I want that hapless
look about his nape and I hope they beat him to death, I hope to feel the
heat of my own blood running in a burning and painful thread to the
narrow sides of my legs, the insides.

 

Those who write are not even of a race. Nor a caste. Nor a class. Nor are
they one. They ruin the point of living, like women in a world of science.
Behind thick lenses, the court is never dull. They have all privileges: from
philosophy up to anger, passing through conjugal relations, and the length
of the paragraphs. Between the rights of man it is figured that the writer
should write largely for himself first, then for the others, with a purpose
well or poorly defined: to flood the window displays, walls, countries,
homes. Or, when all is said and done, to commit suicide.

 

Miyó Vestrini | Grenade in Mouth
Kenning Editions 2019
Translated by Anne Boyer and Cassandra Gillig

 

 

“Critics have called Miyó Vestrini the poet of “militant death.” Vestrini is known, too, as the Sylvia Plath of Venezuela, but if she is a Plath, we think she is one who would have set Ted Hughes on fire.  And if Vestrini is a confessional poet, what she is confessing is not a set of personal problems: it is a fatal disappointment with the world at large. Her work is less a self-exposure than a set of  incantations.  These poems are spells for a death that might live eternally, for what Vestrini offers readers is a fundamental paradox: how to create, through writing, an enduring extinction.  Her poems are not soft or brooding laments.  They are bricks hurled at empires, ex-lovers, and any saccharine-laced lie that parades itself as the only available truth.

Miyó Vestrini was born in France, 1938, emigrated to Venezuela at the age of 9, and at eighteen she joined Apocalipsis (Apocalypse), the only woman to do so in the then male-dominated scene of the Venezuelan avant-garde. She soon became a dedicated and prize-winning journalist, directing the arts section of the newspaperEl Nacional. She published three books of poetry in her lifetime: 1971’s Las historias de Giovanna (The History of Giovanna), 1975’s El invierno próximo (The Next Winter), and Pocas virtudes (Little Virtues), published in 1986.  Vestrini died by suicide on November 29, 1991, leaving behind two collections:  a book of poems, Valiente Ciudadano (Brave Citizen) and a book of stories, Órdenes al corazón (Orders to the Heart).” [Kenning Editions]


 

SEAN BONNEY

Many Walls (after Miyó Vestrini)

Don’t take your children to the countryside. Don’t teach them hymns, or tell them stuff about clean water. Make them stand in the rain. Talk about torture, talk in cries and groans. Walk with them for days across the starkest of plains. Then they will know how pointless it is to listen to those who would praise the colour of the sky. They will want to go to Hiroshima, to Seveso, to Fallujah and to Grenfell Tower. There they will stare at you and you will fall to the ground, horrified as anyone who has ever really listened to a bird’s song. They will build many walls. They will make small additions to your memories, will tell small stories about the knowledge of those who know they have nothing.


 

Miyó Vestrini

 

IX

The country, we’d say
we put it on tables,
we carried it everywhere,
the country needs
the country waits,
the country tortures,
the country will be,
they execute the country,
and we’d be there in the afternoons
waiting for some mourner
to tell him
don’t be an idiot
think about the country.

El invierno próximo (1975)

 

 

XX

Sadness
dawns
in the door to the street.
Not in vain
have I been so cruel,
not in vain
do I wish
each afternoon,
for death to be simple and clean
like a shot of warm anise
or a slap whose echo is lost in the mountain.

El invierno próximo (1975)

 _________________________

 

 Commented Citation: Miyó Vestrini, by Gabriel Payares

 

 “[The collectives of the 50s and 60s] were experiences full of vitality, that were never able to crystallize. We are a burnt-out, lost generation. A generation of frustrated people (1976)

This citation by Vestrini invites me to a reflection. Maybe hers was a generation of frustrated people, as she herself says, because having had so much youth and such a wealth of literary groups, important names and revolutionary proposals of radical ideologies, in sum, a frenetic and abundant time period, the future with its drowsiness and its eternal crisis, its slow and opulent decomposition of the country and its institutions, would have represented for them the absolute confirmation of the failure of the optimists, the beginning of the era of the hopeless and cynical. Were that to be so, Miyó foresaw it, and she chose to commit suicide before languishing and becoming a fossil.

lcVo0wenSzGLYGLaUudNzA_thumb_a47.jpg

We, who today remember that “lost generation” as the inhabitants of a type of golden era or, at least, a prodigious and abundant time, are on the other hand a disconsolate generation, born of its own broken dreams and guided in life by the maxim that the latter is elsewhere. By nature desirous, we have been given the fate of witnessing how the country intends to return to its own empty shell, and how, within a panorama of grandiloquence and of the highest numbers of weekly murder rates, amid poverty and marginality and historic petroleum prices, it has been our place to know ourselves as foreigners, since every form of nationalism hides and involves –compensates– a galloping defamiliarization. Our Venezuela doesn’t belong, doesn’t apply, to anyone. We have a borrowed, portable, mobile country. We are the generation of the precipice, who look toward the future down below and with dread, while we dream with the wings of our ancestors that were broken.

“I don’t think our generation will ever mean anything, for anyone,” Miyó said, and today we’re surprised how wrong she was.

Translated by Guillermo Parra

 

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