Sombras nada más / Israel Centeno

Nothing but Shadows

To Martha Kornblith

I never knew Martha Kornblith. I’ve known how to deny her three times since her death. Poisoned by inner desolation, I’ve raised a temple where I lead the useless ritual of an intimate certainty versed in the phantasmal signature of people; of the other in her multiple roles, of the afflicted friend reflecting a world that doesn’t reflect her, of the spirit opening the mouth of her face with its vague expressions, my face and those of my friends, all making a stained glass without pigments of Martha’s face, estranged from immediate reality; an unreachable presence had it not been for the texts she read each Wednesday in Rafael Arráiz’s workshop, with that voice that breaks and that tremor of noble substance carved in the word she knew how to build from the solitude we know she suffered.

She endured the illness of abstract entities, of angels and demons. Abraham has called me recently to tell me that not too long ago he saw Martha sitting in a park in La Castellana, he was in his car and as he headed uphill to the Cota Mil highway, she remained sitting on a bench, receiving the leaf storm in a blue reality of fast clouds, there in her autumn, reddened.

One afternoon in the CELARG, Carmen saw her revolve around herself several times. Martha would always visit the Casa de la Poesía, sit in front of the desk next to Luis Gerardo, and smoke, smoke a lot and speak, returning again and again to her topic: yes, she was obsessive, monothematic, she only spoke about the books she wrote or about the painful condition of the task, of the emptiness. Carmen saw her revolve around herself and didn’t understand that she was dancing around her axis, these were the steps of the final exhalation.

Ubiquitous, she could be seen in transit through others, whether in the Escuela de Letras at the Universidad Central or facing the ticket counter at the Margot Benacerraf cinema; a regular at the gatherings of poets at the Consolidado building, an assiduous participant in the meetings for the Eclepsidra group.

The literary world read her avidly. Her voice emerged from the creative void into this void we are becoming each day; with her strong voice she produced arid sounds, a rude voice; authentic in her pretensions of failed exordiums, a voice of the voices in her mind, a voice that gathered its fragments in an unleashed fear, a voice in the acceptance of emptiness as a fate, a creature of the first day, a creature of the last day, an ambiguous presence or absence, her own ambiguity, the voice that has descended to the consistent infernos in the insensitivity of the act of rotating around herself, over and over again around the axis where she orbits, tracing the ellipsis of distance. A voice that has been unique for quite some time; a solo that claims the lives of those who dare to pull it off.

I never knew Martha Kornblith, despite having exchanged a few words with her and sharing the innocent experiences of a literary group. I don’t think anyone will know her except through her three books, two of which will be read posthumously, because we live in Hades and in Hades Ulysses would find only shadows, nothing but shadows.

Translator’s Note: Abraham Abraham, Luis Gerardo Mármol Bosch and Carmen Verde Arocha were members of the Eclepsidra group. The CELARG is the Centro de Estudios Latinoamericanos Rómulo Gallegos.

{ Israel Centeno, El Nacional, 8 June 1997 }

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