Ludovico Silva was a philosopher, literary critic, poet, and for many years a professor of Philosophy at the Universidad Central de Venezuela. During the 1980s he wrote a weekly column for El Nacional. This is the only poem I have read by Silva and I should note that my translation does not do justice to the frantic, despairing tone of the original, which was first published in the literary supplement of El Nacional in the summer of 1986.
Silva's main work as a writer was in the field of Marxist philosophy. His books include: Anti-manual para uso de marxistas, marxólogos y marxianos (1976), La alineación en el joven Marx (1979), Contracultura (1980), and La alineación como sistema: teoría de la alineación en la obra de Marx (1983).
Memories and Rain
One evening, in Saint Germain of the Fields
already so long ago, Paris, so long ago
that it strayed from my memory
and has become a chunk of quartz,
a night in which the streets of Paris
were full of poet corpses
rotting in the Metro vents,
I emerged trembling from my shelter on Cuyas Street
and went out to find death.
Dragging myself, I arrived like an ancient marble
at the café of Saint Germain of the Fields
where skeletons accumulated
alongside the moribund bodies of revolutionaries and the bourgeoisie.
The bomb’s explosion had been atrocious, molecular,
and the only things left standing were
the bottles of wine and an old waiter
who sadly poured my bottle.
I couldn’t take any more.
Strange messages came to me from the galaxies,
from a region where beings are made purely out of gas,
terrifying messages, such as this, came to me:
“Everything, everything is ultimately fatal, even chance!”
Then, accompanied by my bottle
in whose depths sang Baudelaire
I grabbed my notebook and wrote:
“My great torment is: I want to live eternally!”
I thought I was going to die from life itself or from premonitions
on that night of my twentieth year.
I was in love with a blue-eyed woman,
a small French woman from Melun.
I had been happy with her until I fell in love.
From that moment on
she mistreated me, used me and left me like a dog.
I cried so much at the Monsieur Le Prince,
I walked so much, like a lunatic,
without wanting to return to my shelter. I had no money,
but, regardless, I had to give a few Francs
to a hallucinating Algerian who asked for them,
gun in hand.
Suddenly, it began to rain like shit from the skies
and I remembered the rains in my distant country,
where the universal flood is reborn every year
and where we have to build Noah’s Ark
each year. My poetic metaphors
say absolutely nothing
in the face of those vertical rivers,
those crying storms
that fall from the heights
and later roll through the eyes of the miserable,
the homeless, who own nothing besides death.
I was like that on this rainy night of St. Germain,
falling through the streets of Paris.
Paris! City or coin fallen from those heights
like a piece of gold
stained with divine trash.
I never knew you, city, and I never will
because you were too cruel to me,
like a woman with a whip and fangs.
I loved, suffered, died, wrote transcendental stupidities there,
but nothing remains aside from pure, fragmented memory,
the remembrance of a remembrance.
I’ll never see you again,
but you still hurt me
and above all those blue, murderous eyes.
Now, after so many years
since escaping St. Germain and the St. Michelle,
I find myself in a city of red rain storms
and in a city full of corpses.
But not poet corpses,
because the poets here protect themselves very well,
but instead the corpses of the shirtless, the miserable, the unemployed.
This hematopoetic poem is for them,
made of blood and spleen.
For them, whom I have never truly fought for
despite having written many violent books
that should be burned
so as to produce so much as a smoke signal
that says: “I want to live eternally!”
In that tenebrous season of St. Germain of the Fields
a wise friend said to me: “If you only write about shadows,
your only memory will be of shadows.”
He was right. It’s my only option.
I don’t recognize any metaphor beyond death.
She’s like a prism
that illuminates every angle of my life.
Dying is less important,
what’s important is learning how to die.
I will go on dying like a snail,
walking until the end, without hurry or pause,
and I only ask of Sister Death
that she allow me to arrive with my funereal prose
at the fixed terminal set for me
by those three women who weave up there.
Everything else is pure sound and color.
I see mountains that crumble,
I see poets screaming under the mud of the cliffs,
I see volcanoes that vomit God’s irony,
I see how time approaches like an iron bull,
I see Mozart and Glück singing in my fields,
I see myself at last like a specter,
like a sign for those around me,
an ivory body with a hint of gold in the sick eyes,
a few broken poems, a few good verses,
some jewel smiling in the darkness.
Tristis est anima mea usque ad mortem.