Archivo como una casa


Reading aloud a poem last night that quoted from Derrida's Mal de archivo, not knowing that he had recently died, since I'd been away (in suburbia) from newspapers or the machine. I enjoyed the sound of my voice and Matvei's through the speakers, amplified by the wooden walls. Crisp air and shadows of the island, walking up and down the blocks to S.'s studio on 29th, our discussion of the inevitability (and nightmare) of the machine, in all of its inhuman manifestations.

Reading aloud my translations of Animal de costumbre into the machine (microphone). Earlier that day coming across a painting by Oswaldo Vigas from 1977: "Mi animal de costumbre." I. and I had seen his retrospective at the MACCSI in 2002 and days later our father's friend showed us his small collection of prints and drawings by Vigas, hanging in his office and dining room. When we left his house that morning, he joked with el Negro, saying "You and I are the last Indians left in Venezuela."

"Sí, es verdad."


From Matvei's reading, I jotted down these three lines:

"The Chinese garden has one Jewish tree"

"You, poet of the blank revolver"

"Oh, to be removed from the machine"


The Roman numerals are, like so many things, taken from Juan Sánchez Peláez, whose Obra poética (Editorial Lumen, 2004) arrived today from Spain. His decades-long revisions, cutting his stanzas down to their ghost, abiding by the rules of silence first. The final section of this Collected Poems includes ten recent poems, some of whose versions I've seen before in different forms. Four of them appeared in El Universal in the spring of 2001, when Patricia Guzmán was still editing its now-defunct literary supplement, Verbigracia. But Sánchez Peláez had gone back to the poems since then, changing and adjusting words or phrases slightly, at times almost imperceptibly. My reading of him eventually borders on a mythological conception of the function of poetry. Not for myself, of course, but rather as a reader of those few poets whose work I find inevitable.

When I re-write his poems in English I feel like a ridiculous character out of Borges, embarked on a futile and ridiculous task. I don't know how tone, mood or ghosts can even be touched across languages. The same thing happens when I translate Elizabeth Schön's verses, although at least when reading her I can adjust myself to the vines, flowers and branches of her gardens, the pulse/sound of the river she writes alongside.

One of the poems in the final section of Obra poética refers to Schön's garden, any poet's garden, that necessary library that Sánchez Peláez failed to build, like I fail for lack of sleep, for fear, for the infernal machine of capital tied to my feet.



Mi novena inquietud
tal vez ocurra en ciudades que carecen de nombre;
al despedirnos de sabios maestros
un día ligero y tibio
improvisaremos veinte mil rosas:
bajo un cielo de todos, de todos nosotros
se han ido volubles nociones sentimentales y trágicas
y tengo una herida abierta
mientras huye el mar que calma y apacigua,

¿de dónde vengo
al despedirnos los sabios maestros en un jardín,
o he sido con mi sentido de estar vivo
huésped puntual?

o jamás viví o ha sido
cercanía de hechizos con regiones
adoradas la vida hermosa
que juntos imaginamos.


A simplicity, a blindness, a naive sentiment, a hallucination, or the invoked traces of paranoia in repetition's verse. Lucidity and resolve.

There was an epigraph I found yesterday morning, in the introduction to Eugenio Montejo, The Trees: Selected Poems 1967-2004 (Cambridge, England: Salt Publishing, 2004):

"Although superficially refurbished with eye-catching and ear-pleasing 'revolutionary' imagery, the current Venezuelan neocaudillismo (that is, the adoration of a strong ruler with a highly individualized and egocentric leadership style) imposes upon the present a cult of the past. But this past, instead of the spiritual environment often recreated by Montejo's poetry, has proven to be a solemn and archaic idolization of founding fathers with no positive effect whatsoever on the country, now officially renamed República Bolivariana de Venezuela. The 'Bolivarian Republic' created by Hugo Chávez's regime in 1998 amounts to a new mirage, a grotesque cover-up for an undoubtedly reactionary revival of old ghosts."

{ Miguel Gomes }


One would build the house in five stages

That one disappearing incrementally fused

Without machinery a tentative field of rubbish

The separation of our bodies assured

Vision formed without words about this act

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