"to write a poem/about this city/I hate so much." / Martha Kornblith

Martha Kornblith was born in Lima, Peru in 1959 and committed suicide in Caracas in 1997. The familiar and insistent presence of death appears throughout many of her poems. She attended the Universidad Central de Venezuela, where she studied Communications as an undergraduate and Literature as a graduate student. She was a member of the Caracas-based literary group Eclepsidra, one of whose former members is the novelist Israel Centeno (who currently runs the literary website El Meollo). I’ve only been able to find one of her books, Oraciones para un dios ausente (Caracas: Monte Avila Editores, 1994). In 1997 Editorial Pequena Venecia (run by the poet Yolanda Pantin) published a book of poems she wrote in 1980, entitled El perdedor se lo lleva todo. Her work can also be found in a few Latin American poetry anthologies.

Writing about Oraciones, Tatiana Rojas Ponce says the following:
“It’s a collection that is crossed by all the negative signs, not just silence, but also renunciation, oblivion, hunger. The word is directed at someone who does not listen, and she prays to someone who is absent, who does not exist. Only the anguish of the void remains, the path along the loose string that borders madness. Agonizing, Kornblith hesitates between paranoia and schizophrenia, and her verses are violently interrupted by waves of rage and cursing.”


Clínica Monserrat
We were allowed
to get drunk with water
to forget
what we were not,
because eventually
everything had lost its flavor.

We were
beings expelled from the world’s Eden,
light wasn’t made
for us,
we’d been left behind
by the heavens.

The goodbyes were slowed
at the vespers of one
who was going to dream
that the door would open, once.

We all told ourselves
we would visit each other in a better world,
but we didn’t keep that promise.

Between those walls we yearned for
a horizon we couldn’t see
like a billboard promising
an island of crystalline seas.

We waited for our doctors
kneading the bread from lunch
to fake our existence
for them.
In the rarest hours
we took each others arms.

Sometimes we were allowed
to lay out in the sun
so as not to be seen.

The books circulated,
Wayne Dyer, Buscaglia,
How to Live a Happy Life,
The University of Life
and others.
For the more intelligent
poetry was a place
to plan their escape.

There was a man.
He gave me Laing and Cooper
and although he preached anti-psychiatry there
he didn’t survive the mockery
of the medical spells.

—He called himself a painter—
trafficked in drugs and dynamite.
He proposed marriages
that had as an only guarantee
a few pathetic yawns.
Then I showed him psychosis
in a poem by the Colombian, Asunción.
He jumped the walls.

I found there
the best metaphors.

My friend and I spoke
about dog concerts at night,
of barks we thought
were calling us.
We knew that delirium was
a means for sustaining ourselves
on the precipice.

We orchestrated dances
with soundless music.

Except for the hours of fear
it was also possible to laugh.
At the complaint meetings,
at the hard flesh,
at false Mormons
that prophesized new developments.

I also prayed
to a God that wasn’t mine
when we met at seven
after dinner.
We allowed ourselves to mix
the legend of Christ
with that of David and Solomon,
because anything was good
if you were trying to find
a hope in that temple.

I don’t think you were evil,
Clínica Monserrat,
only that you had good and evil things.
I forgot about you when freedom
revealed itself,
tilted like a banner,
like something that doesn’t elude me
and forces me
on a brick wall
in front of the newly opened window.

Since then
God is someone
who surges again from those pieces
so as to not know
that there are still beings
who moan simultaneously
at dawn
calling their mothers.

Family Saga
In all houses
there’ll always live a poet
with a sister (who isn’t a poet)
who’ll always tell her
to write a biography
of their family.
In all houses
there’ll live a poet
—crazy, by the way—
like those that sustain
their own disdained biographies
amidst dire sufferings:
They sighted past autisms
women that speak gnarled words
jump at midnight.
In all houses
a distant cousin will exist
—who lives in a another country—
and who searches (in English)
the family’s genesis.
He met, years ago,
this schizophrenic relative
(So quiet, so withdrawn—he said—)
(“So quiet, So withdrawn”)
He didn’t recognize her in the last photo
(“lucía tan diferente”)
(“She looked so different,
so attractive, so outlocked”)
In all houses
a sister who’s a poet will live
—crazy, by the way—
who searches her own disdained
(the one we know already)
In all houses
a sister will live
who will ask her poet sister
to write the history
of their family
This poet (the house lunatic)
will eventually become part of this saga
on the day she leaves the phone disconnected
at the edge of dawn.


To go one Saturday
afternoon to a bookstore
without realizing
how dull we were,
plagiarizing even
curses and suicide.
To go one Saturday to the
to copy Sylvia Plath
or the closest neighbor.
Although either way,
almost everything always converged
in misfortune
it was an argument
to suddenly encounter
a current of vision
and run back to my house
to write a poem
about this city
I hate so much.

Saturday is a day to hate
this city
to hate this city
and its poets
until death


I’ve lost the world.
It is my own disappointment
I seek.
It is Tuesday
I read Kristeva
(“melancholy is sterile
if she is not created in a poem”).
It is Tuesday
and one month ago
my left hand
burned in live flesh.
I met a doctor
I loved madly.
That man washed
my blood
that man cleaned
my burned skin
with tenderness.
That man knew
my lament
but that lament
was not a lament
that came from within
it was a different
an outside lament.
It is Tuesday
I read Kristeva
(“I inhabit the secret
crypt of a wordless
To him I dedicate
“Love can arise from pain,
the profoundest love.”
It is Tuesday
and I read Kristeva:
“melancholia is
a perversion,
it is up to us
to lead her into
words and life.”

Who can tell what I’ve lost?
Who can tell what I’ve lost?
if the orange is no less orange because it rots
if the tree is no less tree because it twists
if the sky’s habit cover us,
the morning habit
the day habit
We have made all of this
fruitful or not
it is our skin, our name
We can’t stroll all the gardens
we can’t hold all the silences
This path is our only path
our roots have gathered
into the gold and clay
we have harvested in poverty
That our privilege, our earning
is accustomed and the journey
is what I’m referring to.

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