Ese oscuro animal del sueño / Antonia Palacios

Born in Caracas in 1904, Antonia Palacios is the author of París y tres recuerdos, written in the 1930s while living in Paris and first published in Venezuela in 1944. This was an early study of the Paris poems of Cesar Vallejo that established her reputation as a writer in Venezuela. Her first novel, Ana Isabel, una niña decente , was published in 1949. During the 1970s and 80s she ran a literary workshop out of her house in Altamira, Caracas called Calicanto. Many of the young writers of the literary groups Tráfico and Guaire (who focused on the postmodern Venezuela Saudita of the petrodollar-fueled cosmopolis under Monte Avila, with its problematic cityscape) attended Palacios’ legendary workshops. Her influence as a teacher and poetic mentor was decisive in the landscape of current Venezuelan poetry. She died in 2001, soon after her contemporary, the essayist, poet and novelist, Arturo Uslar Pietri (1906-2001). Unlike the politically active Uslar Pietri (who in his educational television shows would open with the phrase: “Bienvenidos, mis amigos invisibles”), Palacios devoted her entire life toward a poetics of silence. She received the Premio Nacional de Literatura in 1976. Ese oscuro animal del sueño was published By Monte Avila Editores in 1991.

That Dark Sleep Animal (selections)

You who stayed in places of fragrant spring. You who
crossed that bridge suspended in the void, below in the
depths the waters stirred their foam. You who defied
night with an immobile cocuyo lit in your chest. Why don't
you come to fill my steps with desert plains. Why don't
you come in those whirlwinds made of untiring wind to
caress my body stilled in the middle of the road.

There is a graze that I haven't felt. A graze like the
moon up high or some living rock that reaches me
tumbling. There is a hidden twin, mysterious and trans-
lucent, who stops in me and nourishes me in silence.
I stay awaiting a higher presence. The undone shadows
proceed from the bodies. Engraved shadows swollen
by caresses, small bites on the lips that bleed.
There is a hurt that grows slowly.

There are slow, consumed hours. Hours of hard shadows,
twisted, wrapped, as if the world's weight fell on them.
There are hours that break the edges. There are blind hours,
submerged in deep holes. Submissive hours turned off, and
a hunger of living in this stalled hour.

Come back from your nostalgia. Look at the sun burning
the leaves. Dance again. Turn in the center of the patio
beside the cypress that bends its sadness, its mute deep
sadness, bent over and without any breath touching the
water's surface. So what if you're alone? Recover older
habits, come back toward hope carrying in your hand the
chalice of a stripped flower.

A song whistles in the air. A long, exhaustive song, cut word.
Get out. Leave that place of agony and watch how the afternoon
rises on the hill. Get out. Don't think about the dead. Let their
bones disintegrate, rejoining nothingness. Get out with your
living body to write your dreams. Give your word. If no one
hears you, talk with the stars, with the passing shadow. Choose
a place of occult splendor.

Today we are others. Today we are others who yesterday
breathed in the extremes of that brief silence. We are others
who feel with absent grazing the injuring edge of things. Today
we are others who rise in the air and its high cliffs. The ancient
splendor was extinguished in the quietest oblivion. Today we
are others detained in hopeless waiting.

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