Miyó Vestrini | It’s a Good Machine

Marlene Dumas | Measuring Your Own Grave, 2003




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 César 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





Being alone
has become something so miserable
that I write
thinking for whom I write
It’s about moving them in some way
when they’re vain
the desire to set aside time
for years
I don’t know what to do
I don’t know what to do





What didn’t happen then
when inflamed memory promised life and dreams
becomes a song of beggars
in the hot fog of midday

Misfortune offers possible mercies
but the vanquished have manias of their own

They return time and time again
speak of the Mediterranean when the war was in the Pacific
have no pity
have forgotten the premonitions

And memory becomes a lonely warning
for the few who still gather around the stirred up fire.





The object of my guilt is unfathomable
as the smell of mandarins in the garden of my father.
In the first instance
I wanted to be reasonable
to have honest feelings of regret
when cruelty began to take unusual frequency.
my mother condemned me to wander routinely
through irritating cities
where people are pushed against the edge of the sidewalk
and extract their veins to hang in the sun
and extract their eyes to turn into gemstones
and extract their guts to hang from the lampposts
The action was verified:
I was the one with infinite love for humankind
the living guilt of so many torments.




Keep on with your tedious revisions. Go on, little word!

Will you stay awhile?
I’ll stay
until you tell me your latest dream
Do not be afraid of the calm that surrounds
or the rustle of the freshly washed silk
Do not make appetites of this hopelessness
of this simple misfortune
I’ll stay
until they come for us.



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, Lautréamont. 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 raceNor 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.




For poetry, cursed and hated there is always a day that follows: death.
What can be taught from an atomic explosion but the agony of those most
dispossessed and the infernal laugh of the idiot prophets? The fire is no
surprise to the poets. The fire is part of those who, day by day, gamble their
lives on the horror of solitude.

For them, a stupid way of living.

For them, there is no way of living, Gérard de Nerval hanged himself in an
alley as dark as it was light, it was a field of corn in Kansas City. Baudelaire
slowly opened his veins so his friend wouldn’t feel scared when he was
gone. César Vallejo agonized because it was cold and he couldn’t accept
just how cold it was. Cesare Pavese knelt atop the most beautiful hills in
Italy to ask death to come and he had eyes of the fire. Distant, more distant
still, the ghosts that detained Ulysses momentarily confirmed today their
profound and true reason: not wanting to return.

There is in The next day a power.
There is in the images of The next day a power that is not of critics, not of
publicists, not of politicians, they will never understand. It is the power of
those who do not have anything, save their sweet waiting for the end. They
are the silent nothing. Those that welcome the fire like a logical inheritance
from a traitorous memory.

There is in the images of The next day a power that is not of critics, not of
publicists, not of politicians, they can’t understand, not now, not ever. It is
the power of the silent nothing. It is the power of those who don’t have
anything and accept the fire like a logical inheritance from the past.

It is the power of the silent nothing. They are neither the majority, nor

They are there: trapped by the same fire that created them.

Trapped in a familiar fire. There is no surprise for those who day by day
gamble life on the horror of solitude, of isolation, of those tiny brightness-
es, of those small squalors.

It is the power of the silent nothing. They are neither the majority, nor
minority. They are there: trapped by the fire. They feel neither surprise nor
astonishment. Day by day, they had gambled life in the horror of solitude,
of isolation, of squalor. With them, life disappears once and for all.




All the time
the jaw
ready to chew the lip
twisting me
suddenly lifting me
trying to be a shadow much taller
much longer
the cypress that crowds my infancy
leans over me
occupies itself with me
looks over me
is silent for me
crunches the meat torn apart by my nails
disregards all pain
it’s my meat
hated meat
thought of like meat
there is not a happy point on the stairs of Siena
defiance at moment of dying.




THE LAST TREMOR of the once visited cities
fragile concise vision of the trees that encircle
the hand resting on the ground
dust that fills the eyes,
cry to the end

of the triumphant encounter.
A special future,
infuriating teenager, reserved for you
mother sweet to touch and smell,
what will there be behind the mountain where the birds sing day and night?
Why does the water run with that noise of blood and us listening, motionless,
scared, victims of our own ambushes?
sweet to touch and smell
lost in thick sheets of linen
useless and superfluous
across a lifetime
someday I would have been able to look at you again
without compassion nor contemplation.




When someone says, I’m fed up, it’s commonplace.
When someone premeditates a crime, it’s original.
Both things, however, are commonplaces.
There’s more.
Unsustainable solitudes like this.
With petty questions, like,
why her and not me,
why him and not me,
and no one has the delicate suspicion of Virginia Woolf
to speak between lines of frustration.
Virginia killed herself.
Not just me.
Through the wall it’s possible to hear it all.
Yes, all.
Maybe the scratching of dragged furniture,
or the laughs of children who never end up sleeping.
I know I’m judged because I don’t dream.
They make me laugh, those who brag about their enormous
capacity to make art.
More than an idiot who tells you to dream in a placid suburb
of the capital.
Or in a horrible and hot tropical town.
Or in a chilly village of the north.
I’ve always heard the same phrase when I get
there’s something you haven’t said,
what I answer:
Are you scared?
I couldn’t lock eyes with the stranger.
Strange because the night before he had made love to me.




I don’t know why he thought that I was scared.
Squatting on the bidet,
I could only recall photographs of an actress with cancer.
But that
doesn’t mean I was scared.
when I returned to bed
he was asleep.
Snoring face up.
Ever so gently
I placed him on his side
and continued sleeping.
Touched him.
and he did not wake.
This bird who always sings at the same hour
it’s the only thing that scares me.
Doing it on purpose.
Trying to wake him
when I know
all he wants is to sleep.







I’ve never read anything quite like the late Venezuelan writer Miyó Vestrini’s poems: they obsessively sing about death. They aren’t simply obsessed with individual mortality, but with the potential for radical nothingness at the heart of the social: anyone has the agency to remove themselves from the world of the living, leaving an absence that can’t be filled or reconciled. This selection of works from 1960 through 1990, Some Poems of Miyó Vestrini – edited by Faride Mereb and Elisa Maggi, and translated by Anne Boyer and Cassandra Gillig – is the first volume of Vestrini’s poetry to appear in English. She wrote in fragmentary, imagistic lines, mixing quotidian scenes with their negations: ‘I think about Venice, / because of the blinds that go up and down / a sound like no other. / More than the nauseating rain, I am shaken by things I remember, / shit things.’

Vestrini’s writing has a clarity and directness that cuts through metaphysical obscurity: death is not mystified or transcendent. Rather, the poems embrace death as an aspect of daily life: both a mundane fact that follows one into every situation (sometimes terribly, sometimes comically), and a secret weapon that one can only use once. For Vestrini, death does not only lord power over the individual, it can also be an exercise of power against a corrupt and patriarchal social order, as in ‘Brave Citizen’, which opens: ‘Give me, lord, / an angry death. / A death as offensive / as those I’ve offended.’

Steven Zultanski (Frieze)





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s