Providence / Rafael Castillo Zapata

Rafael Castillo Zapata's book Providence (Caracas: Ediciones Angria, 1995) is a collection of twenty-two prose poems that address the city of Providence, RI in an allegorical manner. Castillo Zapata was born in Caracas in 1958. He is currently a professor in the Escuela de Letras at the Universidad Central de Venezuela. He has published widely as both a poet and as a literary critic and philosopher. In 1993 Castillo Zapata was a visiting professor at Brown University, and it was during this time, in the winter and spring of that year, the he composed Providence. The poems in this collection are untitled, and although they can be read individually, they tend to work against and within each other's recurring images. I have included versions of seven of these poems below.

Castillo Zapata's books include: Arbol que crece torcido (1984), Fenomenologia del bolero (1990), Estacion de transito (1992), and El semiologo salvaje: Roland Barthes y la semiologia, 1953-1973 (1997). During the 1980s, Castillo Zapata was involved with the two literary groups Trafico and Guaire, which included younger poets who focused on the postmodern urban landscapes of Caracas and other Venezuelan cities in their work. Rather than idealizing or dreaming the city, these poets wanted to write the city with all of its hyper-technology, contradictions and violence.

Castillo Zapata is a regular contributor to El Universal, El Nacional and other news and scholarly publications. His recent essays, on the effect that the current crisis in Venezuela is having on the arts, have been lucid and insightful. I recommend reading Providence in the original Spanish (if anyone would like a photocopy let me know).



When will we build a pyre with these dark branches and with these thorns, when will we chop up your forehead with axe blows imitating starving invaders?

You'll go uncombed, Providence, torn by the wind. You'll go on showing your meats beneath tablets and the flowered tapestry. Your soul will be on display. Your cornices will become like fringe on a worn suit. Your granite and your painted timbers (red and saffron) will be useless to you. Your blackboards and your asphalt, of no use. I will watch you naked, stranded, thrown aside, and I will embrace you loudly, with rage. You will be mine after no one offers anything for you. Ah, your smile, between chapped lips, will be my reward, your gift of straw, your perfume, your desolation.

What will become of you until dawn? Who will sustain the night's weight with you so that it doesn't squash you under its domain?

Stone Rose: may nothing crack you like a vanquished bone. Serve yourself from my hands. Rest beneath my arms' bridge. Be mine, naked. With our backs turned away from the lightning.

The night and its inverted bonfires have fallen. It is contemplating you, Providence, making a path through your spine-thickened forests. Their lights will guide me better than lamps. Toward your furthest shore.

I did not let myself be confused by your forests, that were calling me with their claws drawn.

I looked for your face in the midst of everything.

The darkness was not there.

Fingers that sleep awaiting the blood's river under cotton.

Herds of green stumbling with pollen deserts and cardumenes will lift their dark-wood skirts and your tiles, Providence, and you'll unveil your thighs, the skin of your knees bitten by the birds, your ashen ankles washed by the water from the beaches. Storm winds. High Tide.

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