Owner of a Lonely Heart / Ednodio Quintero

Owner of a Lonely Heart
—a song by Yes—

They jumped me on the corner, and before I could react they were already taking me away, almost dragging me by the armpits. The attackers were two strong individuals, armed to the teeth, dark sunglasses, keepers of the law. We climbed the steps to the Palace of Justice, an iron mass of concrete and mirrored windows, ninety stories high, the tallest building in the city. I knew there wouldn’t be a trial nor any right to defense: they’d execute me with a shot to the head, in an airless room. A clamoring multitude was waiting in the reception room, they were celebrating a carnavalesque ritual and fighting over the belongings of a beggar who thought he was a king. I took a chance during a moment of confusion and escaped. I got into an express elevator that was heading to the top floor, ninety seconds is all it took. I ran towards the terrace, from where I could see the cursed city from a steep height. I was the owner of a lonely, frozen heart, my heart. I took a running start and threw myself into the void, heading south. I’ve always dreamed I was a falcon.

{ Ednodio Quintero, Combates, Barcelona: Editorial Candaya, 2009 }


Muros / Guillermo Sucre


The stone perpetuates its own solitude
Constructs a vision
These walls don’t limit the sky
They concentrate it
The wind doesn’t blow in the backyard
Where I stop
A sun overwhelms me in its gleam
A crevice an armed salamander
Forgotten goddess restoring me in wounded fire
Something isolates me from the world
Blind I see myself with the eyes
That tomorrow will be a memory
Bird wandering in the unique foliage
Where its music is more limpid
The house is the labyrinth and I know a wooden plank
Encompasses it at night with stealth
This is where space begins
Another secret is spaced
I don’t name the fig tree
I’m talking about this thin, eroded
Line of light
That separates me from what separates me
I’m in an unknown city
Between higher walls
Ivy devoured by rust
Nothing belongs to me
And everything belongs to me
I move through the dead leaves that autumn governs
I’m just passing through
One step from what awaits me
From one city to another
Grey walls frozen gusts
Wine and the face I suddenly discover
An abandoned
Topaz stone
Caryatid with a single candescent glance
Everything there is of me in its
Bold nakedness

Guillermo Sucre, La mirada (Caracas: Tiempo Nuevo, 1970)


Marginal / Guillermo Sucre


I am this land I name
These environs this fire where a glance agitates
I tend to divide days months years
In a brief pause from my life
If I live I also belong to that torrent of debris
Marginal wall
A vine has to persist when it returns
Burning lime or stone or cracks
That hard muted light moves me

Guillermo Sucre, La mirada (Caracas: Tiempo Nuevo, 1970)


Tres historias perdidas / Rubi Guerra

Three Lost Stories

On the Barque

     We row along the river’s slow current. Standing on the flat bottom of the boat we pushed ourselves along with poles made slippery by the sweat and humidity. My two companions leave the last of their energy in the struggle against the viscous and absorbent riverbed. A yellow sky, unprotected by clouds, hangs over our heads like a threat. A tenuous cloud of vapor rises from the surface of the water. Shadows move amidst the palm trees on the far shore, we don’t know if they belong to animals or to the inhabitants of the devastated region.
     A wide estuary opens to our efforts. The waters of the river seem to spin around themselves, they form whirlpools of unhealthy colors, as though they couldn’t find an escape toward an impossible sea. The heat becomes less crippling.
     We advance toward a line of big mansions with wooden doors. As we drawn near, we notice that the iridescent water reaches the lowest windows. The fire has consumed the rooftops, the doors have fallen off the hinges and there are gunpowder and blood stains on the walls. We direct the boat toward one of them, more elevated than the rest, protected from the waters by a marble staircase.
     We agree to spend the night there. Hunger torments us. Even in that condition we manage to sleep, aided by exhaustion and the will to annul the world.
     I wake up with the first light of the sun. I shake my companions and we’re soon on our feet, ready to continue our journey, to reach the sea, to move as far away as possible and forget this region that’s been forgotten by the gods. The golden reflections of the newborn sun on the water and the facades of the mansions make the horror of the destruction disappear for an instant and allow a fugitive beauty to prevail.
     We search amid the underbrush and palm trees for the way out of the estuary. Slow spirals disorient us, but we eventually find it, hidden between scrubs and fallen trunks. The jungle surrounds us once again and accompanies us for hours.
     After unprecedented efforts one of my companions manages to catch a large fish. Three little horns stand out on its head. We gut it and lay its meat to dry on the planks of the boat. Hours later we devour it, sating the hunger that threatens to bring us down.
     Long stretches of jungle have disappeared, consumed by the fires. From the dead and blackened earth rises the smoke of the charred trees and animals. Further ahead, standing in the mud of the shore that stains her dress, a woman makes signs at us. We manage to drawn near and she climbs onto the boat. She stretches out on the floor with her eyes closed, her hands over her mouth in a gesture of stopping some words that she will never pronounce. We look at her and then back at each other; she’s a beautiful young woman despite her pale face that seems to announce death. I touch her on the shoulder; I offer her the remnants of the raw fish.
     At night we’re stunned by the icy glimmer of the stars. The constellations spin while we take turns rowing.
     The presence of the woman, who remains apart and silent, has made my companions stern and between them they’re plotting some type of violence. I decide to keep one step ahead of their designs: I wait for my turn in charge of the vessel; when I see them sleeping I toss the one closest to me into the thick water, where he sinks without even screaming. I hit the other one behind his ear with the pole. He tries to stand up; blood runs down his neck. I unleash a second, terrible blow to his skull. The sound of broken bones wakes up the woman, who begins to shriek as though she were crazy. The whiteness of her thighs awakens my drowsy senses.


The Tavern

     The two men —one old and the other young— arrive at the tavern. Like many other travelers in this corner of the country, they seem like they’re running from something, this is what the tavern keeper thinks. The majority of them come from the south and are heading north, toward the ports. The desert is in the east. The tavern is the last human establishment before the sands and the yellow stones that no one has crossed in centuries. The cities of the west, it is said, are cursed and have vanished from the memories of men.
     The old man and the young man get drunk every day with the liquor that is distilled in town. Some people affirm this drink brings on hallucinations.
     One night the tavern keeper stays at the table with them. There’s no one else around and he’s bored, so he’s willing to listen to a story. The youngest of the travelers affirms that the old man has been to one of the lost cities. The tavern keeper laughs. He’s already heard too many similar stories. “This one’s true,” the young man affirms. After a painful trip in which his companions and the animals for transporting their goods died, the old man —who wasn’t old at the time— arrived at a city of iron doors and stone walls. The doors were rusted and open, the temples had been decayed by time and by the grains of sand dragged along by the wind. In one building he came across a fountain from which a cold and crystalline water was bubbling. During the day he would explore buildings in which no utensil was left, no tool, no tapestry or jewel, not even a pottery fragment, as though its inhabitants had left taking everything with them, or as if thieves had visited the place for a thousand years taking even the slightest vestige. At night, he was visited by the specters of the city’s inhabitants, who came before him to voice their complaints as though he were a magistrate from the beyond. The translucent apparitions had terrible, sad faces.
     The tavern-keeper smiles reluctantly. Another absurd story.
     Just before dawn he wakes up and gets out of bed with careful movements. He’s been married for forty years and he’s still careful not to wake her when it’s still early. He goes outside. In the sky, the stars fade one by one. A cold and fast breeze coming from the desert shakes his wool clothing. He contemplates the infinite amplitude that extends before his sight as though it were an extinct planet. He too dreamed of one day crossing the great sands and conquering a forgotten kingdom.
     He puts on his clothing and blows on his hands before heading out to the corral to feed the chickens.
     His insipid days anticipate the indifferent sleep of eternity.


The Campaign

     We initiated the war to avenge the affront perpetrated against one of our women and to wash her husband’s honor. For forty five days we laid siege to our enemies’ city; we devastated their fields and took control of their flocks. At night, we would light giant bonfires that we nourished with animal grease to honor our God and to torment the starving defenders with its aroma. One morning the doors gave way to the push of the timbers. We penetrated like a man who claims his rights from a frigid woman, with blood and violence. First the defenders of the walls fell, then the priests who approached to negotiate; then came the men capable of picking up any weapon or tool; after that the elderly, the women and children, some of them disemboweled, cut in half, others slain quickly. Finally, we slaughtered all the animals remaining inside the walls. The blood mixed with the earth formed a thick, hot mud that stuck to our sandals.
     Our victory was not complete. Four hundred enemy soldiers had managed to escape through a secret door that led to a narrow mountain pass where they had hidden. Exalted by fervor and fury, we pursued them through the stone gorges until they were cornered. Then, our general, wise and prudent, spoke from his war chariot:
     “Brave warriors, God has favored us with his blessing; it has been a glorious day, but now the massacre must cease. Those who await death between the stone and the edges of our swords are brothers to us. It is true that they have offended us, but we worship the same God and speak the same language, their hearts beat like our own. We cannot allow their seed to be extinguished.”
     We made vows of peace. We gave them wine and food.
     We initiated a new campaign. Our army went to a neighboring city. We laid siege to it, broke its defenses, killed the soldiers and gathered the survivors in the plaza. Our general spoke once more:
     “Every man and woman who has had the experience of sleeping with a man should be irrevocably destroyed.”
     Then we took four hundred of their virgins and handed them over to our brothers. We slit the throats of all the rest.

Translator’s note: These texts are included as an appendix to Rubi Guerra’s novel, La tarea del testigo [The Task of the Witness], about the final days of the Venezuelan poet José Antonio Ramos Sucre (Cumaná, Venezuela, 9 June 1890 - Geneva, Switzerland, 13 June 1930).

Image of José Antonio Ramos Sucre in the mural “Letras y Tiempos” by Francisco Maduro Inciarte at the Liceo Andrés Bello school in Caracas. Photo taken in 2010.

{ Rubi Guerra, La tarea del testigo, Caracas: Lugar Común, 2012 / Fondo Editorial El perro y la rana, 2007 }


Al sur / Guillermo Sucre

To the South

If a certain gleam awaits me
I see the Southern constellations
A sky my eyes have covered a thousand times
Mirror of pride or terror
Murmuring faces in the shadows
Burnt stars
Some I no longer recognize
A long absence a sacred glance
Sonorous doubtful light
I go and see death shine
With a blind hand I close his eyes
His name was Juan
Sunny silex syllable
Subdued rivers thick frontiers
The earth was vaster for him than his dreams
He left the body his hands touched without sullying
The transparent elegy of sex
Solitude and passion
A more arduous flight and inhospitable air
Mother memorable madrepores
Ardent loyalty
I was allowed to know his radiant purity
I’m not bound to lament
I enter the prairie of my childhood
Which also belonged to your silence
Its glance dawns like a bird over the river
Promise of sun
Pollen I now disperse
Nothing is seen for the last time
Her eyes keep passing through my life
I see what I didn’t see yesterday
Burning streets walls that time doesn’t smooth
Though it calms us
City purified by stones
The waters bathe in nostalgia
The great rains are a house
In the lightning glow
Those elements were my only wisdom

Guillermo Sucre, La mirada (Caracas: Tiempo Nuevo, 1970)


En los caminos del abismo (III) / Alejandro Sebastiani Verlezza

On the Paths to the Abyss (III)

                              [Von fragile, ASV]

                                  Save yourself
                                  on that trail
                                  Yolanda Pantin, País

                                  maybe we don’t exist anymore,
                                  but we can’t realize it yet
                                  Luis Gerardo Mármol Bosch, Purgatorio

“To begin, we’re all out.”

“The fatherland.”

“Are they conspiring?”

“For all eternity.”

“What’s up with that cough?”

“Well, the body.”


“Hungover, way down low.”

“You leaving?”

“Yeah, to the altars.”

“With who?”

“With the avengers.”

“Are there that many of them?”

“They all live in my system.”

“Oh, really?”

“Since the Republic was born.”

“Something happened with the midwife.”

“Poor thing. Even the heroes weren’t buried. It’s just that you can still hear a lot of screams and bellowing way off in the bushes, especially when the rain passes and the roots are stirred up. But we believe, we believe. We cling to it.”

“Do they hear you?”

“When I pray. They sound, appear by the dozens.”

“They speak from a blurry, opaque spot you can hardly tune into.”

“I’m the only one who can feel them, understand?”

“Invite me to breakfast.”

“I said no.”

“Are you accustomed to servitude already?”

“It becomes beautiful when it’s voluntary.”

“Is that so?”

“These are historic efforts.”

“What a shame.”

“It’s my life, my struggle.”

“Our death, everyone’s, doesn’t this implicate you?”

“You all rush too much.”

“It smells really bad.”

“It gives so much.”

“Aren’t you afraid?”

“I lost the pain. I lost my voice three years ago.”

“Now I just drag myself along the roads. Many of us live like this.”

“It’s better not to see, better to pretend nothing’s happening, better to leave.”

“Your boss has given you a certain metaphysics.”

“I’m indebted to him even for that.”

“And you can’t go backwards?”

“Can I?”

“Frankly, no.”

“Do you have for your ticket?”

“I’m clean.”

“The roads are poisoned.”

“There are specters.”

“Places you can’t see.”

“They’re burning. Even the ones furthest away they’re burning.”

“And you?”


“Not even a blink?”

“I forgot about you, soul.”

“You’re so fried.”

{ Alejandro Sebastiani Verlezza, Papel Literario, El Nacional, 1 June 2016 }


La segunda versión / Guillermo Sucre

The Second Version

I myself didn’t even know what dark allegory
I was seeking. I wrote a poem and named it
“the secret plot,” as if I were naming
an enigmatic —I supposed it was more
elusive and infinite— plot. All I did
was naïvely spin the story
and its tautologies. Any life,
we know, is only its nakedness, that
slow plundering of time. How could I
overwhelm you, earth, with naive
pretensions. I just wanted to return
to your inclemency.

                       Always, I wrote,
the tree of the storm will unleash itself
over the River; in the mornings
the City will always flower beneath
young light, and in the eyes of a child
the vigil always and the purification

                Life flows and changes,
but not everything that changes flows
with life. Preserve, earth, these
images, write with them what has
loved you. They are also epitaphs.

January, 1989

La segunda versión (1994)

{ Guillermo Sucre, Conversación con la intemperie. Seis poetas venezolanos, selección y prólogo de Gustavo Guerrero, Barcelona, España: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2008 }


La vida, aún / Guillermo Sucre

Life, Still

Where’d the happiness of living go?
The unscrupulous slowness in conversation
and the clear glance of pride,
the glimmer of character and fate,
the hand that knew how to prohibit and consecrate,
the bodies that thanked the soul
and agile like vines wrapped
in nights of pleasure and also
pain; everything that was ceremony,
frugal or generous celebration, where is it
now, under what tinsel
and hate and opprobrium is it lying? Are there beings
who still live in the climate’s friendship,
breathe the earth’s vapor
at sunrise, who bathe in the sea
like a purification? Is beauty
still beautiful, does her face light up
on ill-fated days and do we love it
with patience?

                 Or have we only been
rancorous blood, patient only
for malice and insults?
Did we ever really know passion,
the suffering of its long wound?
Or was there only enough soul
for astuteness, threatened
honor, devoted vanity? Were we
once fair without enduring
mockery? And meanwhile there
was the desperate ridicule
amidst the misery, and did we have
no pity, no reverence? And meanwhile,
because of everything it takes to be
a man, were we merely Venezuelan

                 Or was life simply
fallacious, and venal. The only one who didn’t know
how to be austere, she didn’t retire on time,
she didn’t even have time to get
life insurance. A prostitute
for everyone: she was too beautiful
and only wanted to give pleasure,
or its illusion. Deep down, she never
thought she’d die. Now she seeks
refuge in memory, wanders
through desolate gardens thinking
she’s deciphering in the rose or jasmine she loved
the intimate, naked gleam
that lit her for the world. She is filling up
with ruins in the house covered
in vines. She realizes she no longer
matters, and cleans her masks.
Now she’s learning how to live her only
face: her secret agony.

La segunda versión (1994)

{ Guillermo Sucre, Conversación con la intemperie. Seis poetas venezolanos, selección y prólogo de Gustavo Guerrero, Barcelona, España: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2008 }


Soles / Guillermo Sucre


In some primordial landscape of my life
They awaken alone on the horizon
The clay in the sky opens up
The world’s first seed
Butterfly burning with the slowness of silence
Moderation and a long flight
The earth becomes transparent
It’s the first day and the last one
Torrent of clarity
Light and shadow are mirrors
The river passes through us its waters overflow
I see myself and have lost everything save
The moment that clarifies me
Owes them the memory that later explodes
In the delirium of midday
Sparkling head rolling
Allude to the abyss below
Cold fever a tree collapses
The beach cracks open invades me
The sweaty ocean of the shade
But in the end I always recover them
One afternoon a thousand years later in another country
With the same sacred glory

Guillermo Sucre, La mirada (Caracas: Tiempo Nuevo, 1970)


Hay la cabeza / Guillermo Sucre

There is the head

There is the head born in the mirror polished by
it appears like music coming back after a
      long forgetting
the light drawing it keeps the evening awake from where
      it emerges
remote like the bird pulsing in our
the skin burnt by the scars of the
it is the beloved head lying on the cliffs
      in the depths of the years
the salt destroys itself and dissolves into his hair
the beach the sun illuminates as it leaves
      fading on his forehead
his eyes fix the cold fulguration of someone
      who wakes up in the middle of a dream
      and no longer recognizes the world.

La vastedad (1988)

{ Guillermo Sucre, Conversación con la intemperie. Seis poetas venezolanos, selección y prólogo de Gustavo Guerrero, Barcelona, España: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2008 }


Y en los días de lenta lluvia / Guillermo Sucre

And on days of slow rain

And on days of slow rain we become patient like things. Notice the clarity of water and memory. The stones, the wall of the house grow closer. The sensitive grove of trees is there: its freshness touching us. Images behind a glass, we are the immobility of the world in a glance. And so we keep discovering, not solitude, but quietude. Like everything a hand draws or writes will sink and emerge from blankness. What’s dissipated by fate and also stripped. Meanwhile only the slow, ceremonious rain persists.

La vastedad (1988)

{ Guillermo Sucre, Conversación con la intemperie. Seis poetas venezolanos, selección y prólogo de Gustavo Guerrero, Barcelona, España: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2008 }


Mil novecientos sesentiséis / Guillermo Sucre

Nineteen sixty six

Nineteen sixty six: a late November afternoon. And suddenly the calm burst of light that envelops everything. What air was that air behind the persistent and heavy midday; taking its time and light, made of crystal, like a bird that stops flying when we breathe. The perfection of the sky: that still intimate and final splendor of the city that was about to be given to us. In the garden: the mahogany tree still not too slender, the acacias and the dance of the green and red. And you’re reading in a corner beside a large window. And you lift your eyes not as if looking to see the afternoon: as if returning from the long memory of having already seen it.

La vastedad (1988)

{ Guillermo Sucre, Conversación con la intemperie. Seis poetas venezolanos, selección y prólogo de Gustavo Guerrero, Barcelona, España: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2008 }


Pienso en las páginas que pasan / Guillermo Sucre

I think of the pages passing by

I think of the pages passing by
when I write
                    the days
that are erased
                    the signs
the occult
that silence slowly
        with sparkles
various suns already
the snows of Oakland at dusk
or at sunrise
                    the fire
two bodies graze hands
cover and push away
the wind
          the gust the word
sealed another blow no less
          in the end pride
of dying
          like a finger
of sand
          rubbing our eyes
writing within memory
the poem

                                        to Alejandra

En el verano cada palabra respira en el verano (1976)

{ Guillermo Sucre, Conversación con la intemperie. Seis poetas venezolanos, selección y prólogo de Gustavo Guerrero, Barcelona, España: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2008 }


Ya no estamos en el verano / Guillermo Sucre

We’re not in summer anymore

We’re not in summer anymore
But we are the summer
We were able to be another way
We were given another fate
We are earth incarnate
The sun plots our dreams
The sea your fragrance
Memory sifts through the sand
The water bathes you and you flower
Coral of desire
The air and your body dilate
Cup of transparency
The dry liquor of language subdues us
Solitude pride
Arc of the sky
                        with no horizon
Your body creates space
If a bird crosses
A lightning bolt scratches its eyes
The sea is illuminated and its white
          close on your skin
Salt that devours and it devours us
Brightness that blinds and it blinds us
We were given that fate
I was able to see myself
In your glimmer
                        in your gaze

La mirada (1970)

{ Guillermo Sucre, Conversación con la intemperie. Seis poetas venezolanos, selección y prólogo de Gustavo Guerrero, Barcelona, España: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2008 }


El fin y el comienzo / Guillermo Parra

The end and the beginning

The end and the beginning
I step towards the world
Amid bodies that gather
A single desire
Copious like a sky
They are cities and seasons
Streets that lead to a single
And hard possession
Solar rose sex of the skies
Savage hydra
A thousand times I bit your thousand lips
I contemplated your thousand eyes
I made you starfish
Sonorous cliff
I drank sipped the wines in you
Beside your fire
I covered myself in your ashes
Your ireful hydras
You were the blind night
But I could see
Cracks passageways in the darkness
I would always exit
To the glowing fury
The earth irradiated in my eyes
I had its face
Visage of volcanic stone
Eruptions of dreams
The forests were breathing in my chest
The coasts the beaches
Writing of desire the sands
The abandonment of our fleetingness
The glory of our fleetingness
A few steps and a glance
Between stupor and the encounter

La mirada (1970)

{ Guillermo Sucre, Conversación con la intemperie. Seis poetas venezolanos, selección y prólogo de Gustavo Guerrero, Barcelona, España: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2008 }


Memorable / Guillermo Sucre


I’m not there anymore I’m not there
I’ve slept on the animal stone that pulses
The river in the penumbra the nets
The stars tremble in their final gleam
And suddenly the shine that erases my name
The morning presiding all the encounters with yesterday
The peaceful fluttering city
The sky breathing inside the blue
The glare the consciousness of the sun
I say words only the wind recognizes
I think of other lives a forest
Sand dunes that intern me in time
I am alone I should be happy
That’s how we are when we come out of the shade
But I can’t find your eyes
I’m leaving everything is waiting for me
If you know me you know I live by the sea
With the seagulls
The wave’s eyelash opens
and closes over love
In Juangriego your skin divides the horizon
Day and night
Mirror and memory
Your sonorous glance like cliffs
They’re waiting for me I won’t stop
The red beast of the earth cracking
Stalks me I set sail
I’m ambushed by the air in Esnujaque
Idol of silence midday deciphers me
It writes for me in blood
Language of this extensive country
I always speak
And in whose blind habit I build myself
I come back but some things
Never come back with us

La mirada (1970)

{ Guillermo Sucre, Conversación con la intemperie. Seis poetas venezolanos, selección y prólogo de Gustavo Guerrero, Barcelona, España: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2008 }


El insomne / Vicente Gerbasi

The Insomniac

to Francisco Pérez Perdomo

The insomniac doesn’t rest.
He closes his eyes
and keeps seeing the specter
passing through the wall
and coming back with the shining,
opaque lamp
of the dead.
The insomniac touches the cold
wooden bed
and feels like he’s sleeping
in the coffin.
The insomniac opens
his eyes
and sees the specter again
passing through the wall
with its severed head.
The insomniac puts on the severed head
in place of his own head
and starts to scream,
but he doesn’t scream
because no one hears him.
The insomniac screams, screams,
but no one hears him.
The insomniac floats
in the silence of the Universe

{Vicente Gerbasi, El solitario viento de las hojas, Caracas: Tierra de Gracia Editores, 1989}


Sol poniente / Vicente Gerbasi

Setting Sun

The nostalgia
of an unknown country
in its golden clarity
when the orange groves
ripen their fruit
on the evening prairie.


Sol poniente

La nostalgia
de un país desconocido
en su claridad dorada
cuando los naranjos
maduran sus frutos
en la pradera del atardecer.

{Vicente Gerbasi, El solitario viento de las hojas, Caracas: Tierra de Gracia Editores, 1989}


Tres poemas / Rafael Cadenas

Three Poems

What the Tao did was play

with Basho, the pond and the frog

to allow the poet his great find.

Where the master lives

time is light, you’re

within reach of what’s happening.

An old samurai

laments having dedicated himself

to war, instead of living.


El Tao lo que hizo fue jugar

con Basho, el agua y la rana

para facilitarle al poeta el gran hallazgo.

Donde vive el maestro

el tiempo es leve, sólo

se está a la mira de lo que ocurre.

Un viejo samurái

Lamenta haberse dedicado

a la guerra, en vez de vivir.

( Rafael Cadenas, En torno a Basho, Pretextos, 2016 }


Una forma de ser / Ramón Palomares (1935-2016)

A Way of Being

Here comes The Night
the one with stars in his fingernails,
a furious stride and dogs between his legs
lifting his arms like lightning
splitting cedars open
throwing branches all over himself,
very far away.

He comes in as if on horseback
and passes through the entrance
shaking the storm off his clothes.

And he climbs down and starts to inquire
and memorizes and extends his eyes.

He looks at the towns spread about
some on the slopes and others leaning on cliffs
and he walks into the houses
seeing how the women are
and investigates church sacristies and bell towers
frightened when he steps onto their stairwells.

And he sits on the stones
finding out forever.


Una forma de ser

Aquí llega el noche
el que tiene las estrellas en las uñas,
con caminar furioso y perros entre las piernas
alzando los brazos como relámpago
abriendo los cedros
echando las ramas sobre sí,
muy lejos.

Entra como si fuera un hombre a caballo
y pasa por el zaguán
sacudiéndose la tormenta.

Y se desmonta y comienza a averiguar
y hace memoria y extiende los ojos.

Mira los pueblos que están
unos en laderas y otros agachados en los barrancos
y entra en las casas
viendo como están las mujeres
y repasa las iglesias por las sacristías y los campanarios
espantando cuando pisa en las escaleras.

Y se sienta sobre las piedras
averiguando sin paz.

{ Ramón Palomares, Papel Literario, El Nacional, 8 March 2016 }


Máscaras / Ramón Palomares (1935-2016)


And here we exist at the limits of the lie
that our life is impalpable
that these represented people belong
to an owner of another order.

We always show up on stage punctually
to face the big audience. This is how we recreate under the stars
and make it to an appointment in the winds
stepping out ahead of our parties.

Our heart has been lent to other characters,
we murmur a dream and our lips are not responsible,
we’re beautiful or noble according to circumstance.
We’re assaulted by a random delirium
and we fall onto the stages under a foreign will.

And we have no life,
since we’re always driving through an unknown country
whose flowers interest us in a frivolous manner
and whose women love us in alcoves of falsehood.

We start a fire and her blue heart
crackles with more strength than ours
as the logs burn in the manner of blood.

We let ourselves be strange. Falsifiers.
Wearing an insincere emotion.
While we walk, exiled from our body
on an interminable stroll.


{ Ramón Palomares, El reino, Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 2001 }


De incógnito / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen


Turning the corner you stumble into an imposing ship’s rigging slowly heavily penetrating the noisy congested hemiplegic streets. The sunset stains crackling fabrics on the deserted deck purple. The distracted people blink and don’t notice the bejeweled and malignant Night taking over the city for ever.


De incógnito

Se tropieza uno al voltear la esquina con imponente arboladura de navío penetrando pesada lentamente en ruidosas calles congestionadas hemiplégicas. El poniente tiñe de púrpura telas restallantes sobre cubierta desierta. Guiña los ojos la gente distraída y no advierte cómo la Noche enjoyada y maligna se está adueñando de la ciudad para siempre.

Amago de poema - De lampo - De nada (1984)

{ Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Simulacro de sortilegios: Poesía completa, Madrid: Visor Libros, 2006 }


Lo propio acaso del poeta / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

Appropriate for A Poet Maybe

Puts his shoulder so the dead weight of the dream won’t crack and bring down the bulky and rambling cosmic ship —uncertain between fuller and emptier— reality so light and sweet because unmendable.


Lo propio acaso del poeta

Pone el hombro para que el peso muerto del sueño no agriete y traiga abajo abultada y divagante nave cósmica —incierta entre más lleno y más hueco— realidad ligera y tierna por irremendable.

Amago de poema - De lampo - De nada (1984)

{ Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Simulacro de sortilegios: Poesía completa, Madrid: Visor Libros, 2006 }


Whale Songs in NY: El Techo de la Ballena at MoMA / María Gabriela Fernández B.

Bones, flesh, viscera, waste. Words of struggle, of life and death. Ideals of agitation. Guerrilla art. The convulsion of the sixties in Venezuela, situated on a global stage leaning left after the recent flames of the Cuban Revolution, was the detonator for transformative movements promoted by intellectuals and artists who took up the direct struggle in Venezuela against formalism and figuration, in aesthetic terms; and against the social conventions that for many people ruled the upper spheres of Venezuelan society.

Carlos Contramaestre, Juan Calzadilla, Caupolicán Ovalles, Rodolfo Izaguirre, Carlos González, Edmundo Aray, Adriano González León, Salvador Garmendia, and Francisco Pérez Perdomo made up, along with at least 60 other visual artists and writers, the avant-garde group El Techo de la Ballena [The Roof of the Whale], which emerged from the dispersal of the group Sardio, and from where they promoted a rupture toward informality and rebellion in art with manifestos and insurgent exhibitions.

A warehouse near the corner of El Conde, in downtown Caracas, a garage on Avenida Abraham Lincoln (today Sabana Grande), and other small galleries with no ties to the art market, housed some of the most irreverent creations of Venezuela’s 20th century. Some of these works, destined to disappear in many cases because of their ephemeral nature (such as the exhibit Homage to Necrophilia), have survived along with a few other vestiges. Challenging documentary registers of a time that took a chance on the creative possibilities of chaos.

An exhibition of what might be the most complete documentary archive of creations linked to this group is on display through February 28th. The exhibition, entitled “The Roof of the Whale”: El Techo de la Ballena and the Venezuelan Avant-Garde, 1961–1969, is at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York where the largest collection of the whale’s rebellion is housed, made up of 266 objects.

Traces of the Collection

Unconcerned with commercial interests and, even more so, anxious for their work to be disseminated for free outside formal salons, some of the members of El Techo de la Ballena paid little attention to keeping track of the fate of their creations, which were soon spread out among their workshops, books, magazines, posters and pamphlets or barely captured in photographs. That’s how the poet and visual artist Juan Calzadilla remembers it, declaring that “El Techo appeared as a marginal movement, without a legal figure, with the participation of an audience that was also linked to resistance groups, and who believed in a free, spontaneous, fresh literature. With no economic interests or concern for authors’ rights.”

While museums (like the National Gallery of Art in Caracas) were concerned with acquiring some of the works by representatives of El Techo de la Ballena, without grouping them together, the collectors Valentina and Ignacio Oberto built an archive where they gathered elements (such as photographs, post cards or bibliographical material) that reflected the movement’s activities and spirit.

Part of that private collection was loaned for a show celebrated at the National Gallery of Art at the end of 2002, according to the curator Féliz Suazo, but it was later donated in its entirety to MoMA in 2012, according to the museum’s registry.

Pillage or Dissemination

The Venezuelan Luis Pérez-Oramas, curator of Latin American art at the MoMA, points out that since 1929 this museum has housed “the largest collection of modern Latin American art in the world,” and he catalogs the donation as a “generous gesture” on the part of the collectors “who know that in this way they can guarantee its preservation and the international projection of this historical group of artists and poets.”

In contrast, during the presentation in July of 2015 of the book Nueva Antología del Techo de la Ballena, edited by Edmundo Aray, the professor of the Techo de la Ballena Free Seminar in Venezuela, Juan Carlos Omaña, qualified MoMa’s action as an example of “cultural pillage” and he warned about the museum’s ties to “the Rockefeller family, that is, the CIA.”

In 2015 in Venezuela, some of the literary expressions of the group were digitalized and republished, for which the Ministry of Culture and the publishing house El Perro y la Rana received “donations of more than 20 original works,” according to the information provided last year by the ex-Minister of Culture Reinaldo Iturriza.

However, Suazo warns that no State collection of El Techo de la Ballena exists in the country (and would be quite difficult to organize) to match the magnitude of the one owned by MoMA. Regardless, he insists the contemporary idea of patrimony “suggests we can’t talk about a robbery when it comes to something that will be fully exhibited so that everyone can enjoy it. The aspiration today is for patrimonies to be made available not just for the citizens of one country but for all human beings.”

The photographer and member of El Techo de la Ballena Daniel González assures that he’d be in agreement with an action by the State to “recuperate” the patrimony of El Techo de la Ballena, but he laments that “culture hasn’t sparked that interest, nor any of the necessary funds.”

The surviving members of El Techo de la Ballena weren’t invited by the MoMA to collaborate with the assembly, which is why Calzadilla mentions that “it will be the interpretation established by the museum,” about whose research methods he has no doubts.

Perán Erminy celebrates the dissemination of the works, and declares: “If the MoMA or anyone else is interested in spreading the contributions of this movement, as it should be, that will be something positive.”

The writer and member of El Techo de la Ballena Rodolfo Izaguirre also calls attention to the interpretations that could be made of this movement in Venezuela, and he laments that “some people are trying to raise the old virulence of El Techo transformed into tame admiration for the current regime.”

Consulted about how curious it is for the work of a rebellious group to end up being exhibited in one of the world’s most important museums, Suazo concludes: “It’s truly a paradox, but it’s the paradox of all avant-gardes. Irony is part of the legacy of El Techo de la Ballena.”

{ María Gabriela Fernández B., El Universal, 17 January 2016 }


Sobresalto y deslumbramiento / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

Fright and Astonishment

Unlikely radiant face —as close as the one glimpsed in acts or daydreams of love— suddenly appears amid the whirlwind and throng of people in streets and plazas —more beautiful than the crest of a wave absorbing all space around it. (Nothing —you know this— just a thousand years of punishment with no pardon for whoever loses such a jewel in the vortex.)


Sobresalto y deslumbramiento

Inverosímil rostro radiante —vecino tanto como aquel adivinado en actos o ensueños de amor— surge de pronto del torbellino y agolpamiento de gente por calles y plazas —más bello que cresta de ola absorbiendo todo espacio al redor. (Nada —lo sabes— solo mil años de castigo sin perdón a quien pierda semejante joya en la vorágine.)

Amago de poema - De lampo - De nada (1984)

{ Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Simulacro de sortilegios: Poesía completa, Madrid: Visor Libros, 2006 }


Sentencia de vida / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

Life Sentence

Exposed for the fifth or thousandth time to the corrosive recourse of a shimmering glance transferring body and shade to a placid region where the big and small rivers gather without recognizing each other and the scream of a single bird expands in astral music and silence. Yes —placed for the fifth or thousandth time in oblivion from life— distracted from death.


Sentencia de vida

Expuesto por quinta o milésima vez a recurso corrosivo de mirada lampo trasladando cuerpo y sombra a región plácida donde los ríos pequeños y grandes se juntan sin reconocerse y el grito de un ave sola se expande en música y silencio astrales. Sí —puesto por quinta o milésima vez en olvido de la vida— en descuido de la muerte.

Amago de poema - De lampo - De nada (1984)

{ Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Simulacro de sortilegios: Poesía completa, Madrid: Visor Libros, 2006 }


Aviso demorado / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

Delayed Notice

Collectors are hereby alerted it is suitable to orient yourself toward the late era when pocket Apocalypses abound in good condition. Careless peddlers mistakenly sell them throughout sunny markets in Andean and trans-Alps foothills or arriving unexpectedly at houses on the peripheries behind the most abrupt mountains on the planet. Small though effective the Apocalypses are all different no matter how interchangeable they might seem. Hurry —discount prices!


Aviso demorado

Se advierte a los coleccionistas que conviene orientarse hacia la época tardía en que abundan Apocalipsis de bolsillo en buen estado. Los malvenden mercachifles incautos rondando mercados soleados en estribaciones andinas y transalpinas o arribando de improviso a quintas periféricas tras los montes más abruptos del planeta. Pequeños aunque eficaces los Apocalipsis son todos distintos por más que intercambiables. ¡Apresurarse —precios de ganga!

Amago de poema - De lampo - De nada (1984)

{ Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Simulacro de sortilegios: Poesía completa, Madrid: Visor Libros, 2006 }


Derrota / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen


Foolish writings of a lost and indecisive walker passing through a desert or mangrove or other region within or outside upon which not even a single shade or artifice of revelation falls.



Escritos necios de caminante extraviado e indeciso por desierto o manglar u otra comarca de dentro o de fuera sobre la cual no cae ni por acaso sombra o artificio de revelación ninguna.

Amago de poema - De lampo - De nada (1984)

{ Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Simulacro de sortilegios: Poesía completa, Madrid: Visor Libros, 2006 }


Quieren cambiar todo, menos ellos / Rafael Cadenas

They want to change everything, except themselves

Donations crack boulders, especially if these are porous.


Revolutionaries hate capitalism, but so many of them really love capital.


National sovereignty, without the measure imposed by civilization, fits dictators like a glove: that’s how they can subjugate their peoples more easily.


Calling his discourse empty is an insult to emptiness.


Doña Bárbara defeated Rómulo Gallegos and remains in power still.


Utopia bleeds.


They want to change everything, except themselves.


Justice can’t be revolutionary or reactionary. It lacks an adjective. It stands alone.


Forcing a way of thinking impedes thought.


We can engage in combat without hate, which enslaves the hater.


When the state becomes a giant, the citizens become underaged once more.


The main component of all authoritarianisms is the inflation of the ego.

Totalitarianism warns you: if you dissent, you’re an enemy, in other words, something to be exterminated. Democracy tells you: think however you’d like.


Nationalism is the enemy of humanity.


Democracy and communism are antonyms.


Now we know: revolutionaries, with honorable exceptions, I figure, deep down just really wanted to live like the bourgeoisie, and they’ve achieved it. They’ve become what they thought they hated. Their enemy ended up winning when they came into power.

They make up the new class that Milovan Dilas wrote about.

This conversion by now seems to be a law of history.


He’s a friend to all the dictators and autocrats of the world and many intellectuals support him. They should explain that to the country. I’m curious to see how they’d do it.


Since they see themselves as redeemers, they should at least talk with courtesy, like Saint Teresa recommended.


As for vulgarity, some so-called revolutionaries are insuperable, but that trait was seen by Trotsky as counterrevolutionary.


Nothing solid can be built without cordial coexistence.


Detach yourself from hate and pick up off the ground the poor fraternity you tossed away, hallucinating from an ideology extenuated from so much failure.

From Otros dichos, by Rafael Cadenas (Barquisimeto, Venezuela, 1930). Curated by Josefina Núñez.

{ Rafael Cadenas, Prodavinci, 5 January 2016 }


Fin de pieza / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

End of the Piece

To fall, with or without weight, into a soft bed or Mme Récamier sofa, now or a century ago, legs stretched and with an awareness of the journey’s end, well disposed to the imminent enjoyment of any inferno or paradise.


Fin de pieza

Caer, con peso o sin peso, en lecho mullido o sofá Mme Récamier, ahora o hace un siglo, las piernas estiradas y con la conciencia del periplo terminado, bien dispuestos al disfrute inminente de un infierno o paraíso cualquiera.

Amago de poema - De lampo - De nada (1984)

{ Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Simulacro de sortilegios: Poesía completa, Madrid: Visor Libros, 2006 }


Poema ersatz / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

Ersatz Poem

Metamorphosis of a subterranean voice, arrived from beneath the dream, in a tremor or an earthquake of multicolored bouquets, maybe the closest thing to a simulacrum of an apotheosis.


Poema ersatz

Metamorfosis de voz subterránea, llegada de debajo del sueño, en temblor o terremoto de ramilletes multicolores, lo más cercano quizás de un simulacro de apoteosis.

Máximas y mínimas de sapiencia pedestre (1982)

{ Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Simulacro de sortilegios: Poesía completa, Madrid: Visor Libros, 2006 }


Error de cálculo / Emilio Adolfo Westphalen

Calculation Error

The sea has slid through the poem as if it were its natural cave and refuge without keeping in mind the different proportions. When the seams burst under the weight, where will all the accumulated turquoise drain?


Error de cálculo

El mar se ha deslizado en el poema como su cueva y refugio natural sin tener en cuenta la diferencia de proporciones. Cuando cedan las costuras bajo el peso, ¿adónde irá a desaguar todo el azulverde acumulado?

Máximas y mínimas de sapiencia pedestre (1982)

{ Emilio Adolfo Westphalen, Simulacro de sortilegios: Poesía completa, Madrid: Visor Libros, 2006 }


La crítica sin odio (I) / Alejandro Sebastiani Verlezza

Criticism Without Hate (I)

                     [Photo: Vasco Szinetar]

I’d like to think these notes are part of a bad dream

                                                                                    to Rafael Cadenas


Silences, small contritions?


They say it’s always outside

but some days it shoots closer each time

exile —now— is here


In order to understand the functioning of Evil and its resorts.

“A system that can only function in a state of emergency must maintain that emergency at any cost.” (Giorgio Agamben)



The country to come: plural, lay, austere.


What’s the animal of transitions?

The monkey and its sunset clouds through the branches.



exile isn’t a promised land

only this voice speaking of peace with a war tongue

the razor with the owner’s name

while the jugulars are threatened


there is nothing more

save this instant

the desire to be alive

even when there’s no place


The induced misery of these years: the broken streets, the food lines, the fanaticism, the cult of power and its irrational penetration, the murky operations, the aversions, the corruption, the misery, the waste, the insults, the slander, everything bitter, the elusions, the erosions, the accusations, so many mouths dedicated to confusion.


The government won’t try to resolve the crisis, nor the food lines, nor the shortages, nor any of the evils it might be attributed with. On the contrary: it will systematize and refine its procedures. It will be not only State policy but a method of social control and just another form of the burden trying to attenuate the already galloping and unstoppable discomfort.


There are no saviors, ideologies are a cage.


Avoid becoming what you critique.


Thinking in transit: from the hero to the despot, from the despot to the martyr, from the martyr crowned to his image duplicated by official printers, a long and tedious echo.


The terrible merit of turning democracy into a rhetorical figure.


Evil maneuvers to twist the past.


Simone Weil, Essential Ideas for a New Constitution.

“It doesn’t matter how the government leader is chosen but rather how his power is limited, how his exercise of power is controlled, how he is punished, if that were to be the case.”


Sycophants in their labyrinth.


Compassion —and moderation— in exile.



“Victory is ours


victory is ours

while the Empire


the theories

that will justify

our ruins!”


Does compassion have an ideology?


Chronology of the Abyss (1999-?).

The revolution is yet to come

the revolution is yet to com

the r volution is yet to co

the r olution is yet to c

the r lution is yet to

the r lution is yet t

the r ion t

the r n

the r n

the r




Where did I hear it?

“Maybe we need the basement”

“The sun makes us too happy”


Months ago.

At the Bicentenario supermarket in Plaza Venezuela I saw a huge line of people (it reached the Zona Rental metro stop and extended even further, almost to the hotel district). In order to enter the supermarket you had to pass through a very narrow fence, almost a corral. Meanwhile, soldiers were checking IDs. A legacy of humiliation.


A true “current” for change can’t be founded on hate.


Fragments of country that stab the body.

Splinters, pulverized glass.

Long, painful uncertainty.

What’s coming?


To think of these years through the fable of Midas in reverse.


The tribe without a chief, nor a fable, its stubborn prayers to the void.


For so many years, he said: I, I, I, I am you, I am all of you, I am us, you and I, the great one and its shut down echo, stubborn ashes that don’t say goodbye.


Cadenas, Anotaciones:

“A people without awareness of language end up repeating the swindlers’ slogans; in other words, they die as a people.”


Francisco Andrade, quickly:

“It’s not class struggle. It’s society vs. the State.”


Freedom, Sancho!

“The democrat, after all, is he who admits that his adversary might be right, who, therefore, lets him express himself and who is prepared to reflect upon his arguments. When parties or men are persuaded enough by their own reasons to shut their opponents’ mouths with violence, democracy ceases to exist.” (Camus, Combat, February 1947)


Abyss project: a state of tutelage and lowered heads, frightened and meek, repeating and uniformed. Here, thus, the universities —and freedom itself— play a role that’s anything but minor and by all means inconvenient.


Fine! I won’t say “dictatorship”! No, it’s not! Venezuela suffers, actually, a pathological presidentialism, the deferred repetition —infinite— of Chávez’s Aló, Presidente TV show: marimbas, whistles, threats, insults, scoldings, promises, bad jokes, classes of invented history, geography, baseball, math, cosmology, Marxism, linguistics, sociology, the mise en scène of that Ego.

{ Alejandro Sebastiani Verlezza, Papel Literario, El Nacional, 29 November 2015 }