Two Poems by Yolanda Pantin

BOMB 110 Winter 2010
110 Winter 2009

Notes Toward a Poetics

(Version II, Against Myself)

I.

I had fallen from grace

possessed as I was
by a gallery of ghosts
to whom I dedicated
the best years of my life

Shipwrecks storms Turners
old etchings which the bombing
has destroyed

Wars don’t discriminate

    Madame X

Today Persia
tomorrow the River Ouse

    —Time passes, time will continue passing—

It happens just as when I went to Paris
everything seemed so disjointed

    —From one of my molars I extracted
    the thread of Ariadne—

My sister Valentina lives here
We go to the museums
we remember our parents
our childhood
we analyze the differences and,
almost always, conclude
our country is completely corrupt

Two foreigners in the Metro

In this city, culture is free
Someone told me that when
she saw Tarkovsky’s Mirror for free
she cried and cried
The first time I cried
It was before El entierro del conde de Orgaz
in Toledo
Then it happened again while looking at a small painting
    by Toulouse-Lautrec (The Abandonment or Two Friends
    as I remember)

These Turners are disquieting
It’s not difficult to recognize oneself
in their oranges.

My sister Valentina and I
recognize ourselves
shards of heart of liver of pancreas
and of kidney
in homage to our brother
recently transplanted

How beautiful London is
though our memories are more so

    —In what era would you most like to live?

Predictably in the 19th century
grand magenta dame
in England

We eat fried fish for lunch

    by day

The wind frayed the fringe
of the palm trees

Threw dust in our eyes
on the island where we’d arrived
like two drowned women

    —What more do you want?

Now for example I miss the warmth of your body
and your company
I would then be able to write a delicate poem
that no longer spoke of fear but instead of this
human relationship
afternoons of leisurely reading
and the lingering in the garden that happens sometimes
when you sleep at my house
We do nothing but from this nothing come
lightness and consistency
Life has unfolded in an act of extreme purification
and even the poem demands
the naturalism which overcomes the wound
because upon dropping the veil of grand gestures
perhaps the void of what is truly important might emerge
At the moment I open my eyes
and allow my skin to be touched
and if I write
it will be because I had the courage
to call things by their names

My women poet friends
have written about those
quotidian hells

    It is not always true that man
    has courage

    We are all such small things
    In the end

My friends relate
in poetic language:

 

                    * * *

I like this island

              Margarita
If I lived here I wouldn’t write
I would tend a nursery which
I’d probably call House and Garden
White letters over a dark green background
Anglo-Saxon and enveloping
orchidarium garden of verdure
and a pergola in which to drink tea.

    —Why don’t we communicate?

In this city the people cry in parking lots

I told you: give me the steering wheel
I gave you soup at my house

woman—essential

woman—ideal

woman—ghostly

    —women don’t want to poeticize. Understand: in the lyric sense
    they poeticized us enough.

Poetic discourse
poetics
No poetry no narrative no essay

    movie dialogues
    —They are the islands of which I was speaking
and everything I wanted to say about the living
and about the dead

How sweetly your beauty crashes down!
 

II.

My sister Valentina and I return to the museum

In the restaurant with views of the park
we drank tea in homage to the fallen

Criticism had taught us

   —Carlos Basualdo

that the I was suspended

   —To destroy the I in literature

We performed a ceremony in front of the steel statue
we made a bonfire

The orange tongues
—Turner’s England—
licked papers words and
the frayed palm trees
of William Faulkner

all these things lost forever

—Don’t find anything to speak of

Fragments of the spirit
clots of the 20th century

There are poets like this
they have the gift for words

God speaks through them

I don’t know
what the case is with me

In any event

silence is preferable
to the beautiful buildings of words

                               That come crashing down.

 

Kazimir in the Prow of a Boat
(Variations on a painting by Malevich)

1.

I was sailing down the Yenisei
Toward the mouth of the river
In the maw of the landscape
To be devoured.

I was traveling onboard
Across the landscape
Without counting the days
Since my destruction.

I was traveling toward my capitulation
To houses without
Clear views
Without a thought for the humble

Investiture of the monk.
I was distracted, not looking,
When I saw the riders
In a small oil painting,

And I lost my mind.


2.

I was sailing down the Yenisei
Toward the mouth of the river
In the maw of the landscape
To be devoured.

I was traveling onboard
Across History
Without counting the days
Since my destruction.

I was traveling toward my capitulation
To houses without
Clear views
Without a thought for the humble

Architecture of the laity.
I was distracted, not looking,
When I saw the riders
Approaching the riverbank,

And I lost my mind
 
3.

I was sailing down the Yenisei
Toward the mouth of the river
In the maw of the landscape
To be devoured.

I was traveling onboard
Across my History
Without counting the days
Since my destruction.

I was traveling toward my capitulation
To houses without
Clear views
Without a thought for the white

Investiture of the saint.
I was distracted, not looking,
When I saw the horses
Approach the riverbank,

And I lost my mind.

Translated by Clinton Krute.

Clinton Krute is a writer and translator currently living in Brooklyn.

This issue of First Proof is sponsored in part by the Bertha and Isaac Liberman Foundation.

Yolanda Pantin is a poet based in her native Caracas. She has received a number of literary awards including the 1989 Fundarte Poetry Prize in Caracas, a 2004 Guggenheim fellowship, and Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center residency. Her more recent poetry books include Poemas huérfanos (Orphan poems), El hueso pélvico (The pelvic bone), and País (Country). Her collected poems were published by the Caracas press Otero in 2004.

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Originally published in

BOMB 110, Winter 2010

Featuring interviews with Antonio Caro and Victor Manuel Rodriquez, Ducle Gomez, Ana Teresa Torres and Carmen Boullosa, Evelio Rosero, Juan Gabriel Vasquez and Silvana Paternostro, Javier Tellez, Mario Galeano Toro and Marc Nasdor, Sergio Fajardo, and Carlos Cruz-Diez.

Read the issue
110 Winter 2009