ER

•14/01/2018 • Leave a Comment

Two in the morning,

my back, a minefield of stabbing pain

wounds embracing me, ruthlessly

Ibuprofen, methocarbamol

intravenous lidocaine

a sterile needle into my decaying body

Face up,

onto one side, then the other

boa constrictor intertwining around my spine

Seven in the morning,

back and chest comprising

neuralgia, contracture

I cry for the fear of dying

of neuritis, of panic

Ketoprofen, xanax

also intravenous

emergency room

smells of alcohol and burnt cranium

A young man agonizes to my right

he silently succumbed

to the mercy of his tumours,

the same ones inhabiting me,

and which names I have changed

The longed neurocardiogenic syncope

takes me to my inexorable wreck

echoed by sobbing and farewells

I go back to the defile of existence

to the opprobrium of darkness

and take the final jump

The pain detaches

it is left behind, alone

as I smile, triumphantly

my death rattle still in the background

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The Crone

•08/01/2018 • Leave a Comment

Glen-Morgan-Photography-Casey-Cooper-CCCosplayer-The-Crone.jpg

I don’t recognize my name anymore

I only respond to silence

I am broken, beyond repair

a well-played game of Russian roulette

 

I sleep during the day

and wander by night

but all my hours are born dead

sleep and wakefulness have become a blur.

 

My hair is a bundle of gray shades

which I braid and braid

to make it grow down,

like an endless tangle.

 

Years go by and I remain in this house

my hair, long and dusty,

pulling me down to this soil that has never felt as mine

and which grip will release me solely upon my long-awaited death

 

Mariana Antúnez (2018)

Sehnsucht

•06/01/2018 • Leave a Comment

​My words fall into diaspora cracks

my wishes are trivial

my unhappiness, a crisis

my jaw gets crushed under the weight of sadness.

In the kitchen,

I cut dried dill

alone and enraged

I cut away not to cut myself.

Meanwhile, the cracks open

expand, let some light in

I too fall into them

and I run, covered in blood and dill

Mariana Antúnez (2018)

Myrtle Beach

•21/12/2017 • Leave a Comment

Un gorrión se estrelló contra mi ventana,

azul e hinchado de infortunios

su pico de coral

sus alas, rugosas de arena

Traía noticias tuyas,

una nota hecha de espuma y mar

destilando nostalgias

insoportables para sus huesos

Se rompieron mis vidrios

y mi corazón

ahora mi casa huele a algas y sal

a ti

Todas las tardes

me siento en mi alféizar

a esperar que otro gorrión

venga a hablarme de ti

mis ventanas se quedaron sin vidrios

ahora sólo me resta desnudar mi pecho

para que tus gorriones se estrellen contra él

 

 

Mariana Antúnez (2017)

Polvo azul

•21/12/2017 • Leave a Comment

Abárcame toda con tu palabra

lléname completa con el ruido de tu pelo

erízame con la caricia de tus cejas

Hoy, soy solo polvo azul suspendido sobre ti

toma mi cuerpo resquebrajado, enmiéndalo

une mis pedazos con los tuyos

Haz que mañana me levante entera

que viva y no desfallezca

para que la noche me rompa de nuevo

 

Mariana Antúnez (2017)

My Sarah, you are four

•13/12/2017 • Leave a Comment

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Four years later, you still remain my best decision

the greenest leaf attached to my aging branch,

each and every one of my heartbeats

the only comfort in my darkest hours which are, sadly, many.

 

On our daily walks,

the sun bursts with jealousy for your golden locks

and the sky pales before the blue in your eyes.

School becomes an obstacle to our embrace

and all your peers are my potential antagonists.

 

All morning, I look forward to the warmth of your little hand in mine

to your infinite kisses and to feeling your head against my chest.

Give me time, it is hard to see you grow.

You will be an amazing woman tomorrow,

of that I am certain.

For now, I am happy to be granted a few more years of snuggles,

giggles, hair full of popcorn and a messy house.

 

I love you so.

 

Mariana Antúnez (2017)

 

A letter to my dad- never intended to be read by him

•28/11/2017 • Leave a Comment

 

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“Already we are the oblivion we shall be”

Jorge Luis Borges

 

When I entered my last year of high school, you took me out one Sunday afternoon. Our lunch dates, which had been established to be held on the last day of every week, had decreased dramatically over the years. You remarried when I was eight and ever since, to be accompanied by her seemed more appealing to you. With her, you could address more mature topics of conversation, which could be more interesting and entertaining than those involving school subjects, dolls or my pet dog, a cocker spaniel named Fresita- in honor of my childhood’s favorite doll, Strawberry Shortcake (which I’m sure you didn’t know). Soon, your new trophy wife took a place I never really had at your table, always a restaurant table, and my presence in your life slowly faded away right in front of your eyes.

 

Each of those rare Sundays when I knew you were coming to pick me up was filled with the excitement of a teenage girl about to go on a date for the very first time and beauty rituals started the night before. That particular day, I got up earlier than usual to get my hair and nails done. I tried my hardest to be perfect for you, but somehow you always found me to be too fat or too thin, depending on my time of the month. Your concept of beauty was based on how lean and tall a woman was and, sadly, I was neither of those things, especially during those bizarre years of adolescence, and you always made sure to remind me that. I looked forward to finding a trace of warmth in your eyes, to catch even the tiniest sparkle of joy at the moment you saw me coming down the stairs of my apartment building. I saw nothing instead, your gaze was, the few times I dared scrutinizing you face, bereft of any expression. You were always very hard to read and I could never tell what you could have been thinking when we were together. You were absent-minded most of the times, only physically present. A closed book would have been easier to decipher. You picked me up at my place, with an expression that denoted tedium for having had to wake up earlier on a Sunday (although you always came around 3 pm, as it took you all morning to procrastinate your commitment to me), drive across the city to take your teenage daughter to lunch and listen to her jabber for two hours, with the imminence of Monday duties lingering over your head. You were not in a good mood on Sundays. On the drive to the restaurant, the same one you had taken me to ever since I can remember, you asked me the same questions you always asked, using the same tone of voice and even the same wording. I knew which question was coming next even before I could finish answering the previous one. Our relationship was that predictable, but I didn’t mind listening to the same stories or answering the same questions. I was elated to be with you.

 

The whole purpose of that lunch was to ask me what I wanted as a graduation present that year. My mom had already asked me that question a year before that and I had already known the answer for a while then. All I wanted was to enroll in a program for exchange students, because I wanted to learn and study the English language. My mother, in her delusion of grandeur, wanted to send me to England. You, a more pragmatic man, not as big a dreamer, suggested I should be sent to Barbados, a country of the West Indies, to which you had been a few years back and which English was as good and as British as the one taught in England, despite the little singing tone typical of the island. Besides, it was much closer to Venezuela and thus my mom could come visit in case she missed me too badly. My mom, never you. I always assumed I wasn’t going to be missed by you. A few years back, when I needed to decide whether the last two years of high school should be devoted to science or humanities, I was adamant to choose the latter. I never failed any subjects at school, ever, but numbers and physics were my least favorite of them all. I was happy reading, learning how to decline in Latin and reading Robespierre in his original language. I told you I wanted to be a writer because it was you who taught me, unknowingly, the beauty of the written word. The few articles you published in your lifetime as an Engineer were impeccable and I yearned to learn how to write like that. Besides, your gifts to me were always books, which I devoured faster than I could get them and for that I will be forever grateful to you. While stirring a glass of Cointreau, your favorite beverage after a meal, which you ordered “in a shot with crushed ice”, you stared at me with smiling eyes and said: “In this country, you will starve as a writer”. So I chose to study Modern Languages instead. I decided to become a translator. That way, I could learn to communicate in other tongues or dialects and be able to transfer someone else’s words to the paper using my own. I could, somehow, be an author’s ghost writer to make their work known in some other corners of the world. I didn’t, and I still don’t, mind the lack of acknowledgment.

 

Today, I decided to use this, my second language, which wasn’t born with me but feels as familiar as if it were and which has given me a voice in the midst of the most utter silence, to write this letter to you. In this case, it serves the purpose of a shelter. Although it was a life-long dream of yours to learn how to speak English, all your efforts were sadly in vain. To you, it was impossible to conceive that not all the syllables in a word needed to be pronounced. I laughed loudly every time you tried to utter the word “business”. It was unthinkable to say “BISNESS” when there clearly were more letters to the word. You never got mad at me for mocking you or for trying, unsuccessfully, to explain that to you. You had an amazing ability to laugh at yourself and not care about what others had to say or thought of you. It is one of the things I have tried to imitate along my years. So, I am certain you will never be able to read this letter, as it has been written in a code that you, indirectly, taught me.

 

I just finished reading a book by Héctor Abad Faciolince called: “Oblivion: a memoir”. Abad is a Colombian writer whose father was murdered in 1987 for exercising his right to speak against crimes, corruption and public health issues in his native country. His book is a moving tribute to his dad’s memory, an attempt to keep it alive after all these years and the method he chose to tell the world what it felt like to sit next to his lifeless body, full of bullet holes and covered with a bloodstained sheet. That picture still haunts me to this day. Writing that piece of work was his catharsis and a blank screen became his canvas to pour his grief out, one that was aged while trapped between his chest and his back for more than twenty years. As I read those pages overflowing with nothing but admiration and love for that figure still alive in his memories, I felt an awkward kind of envy of that mutual sentiment. There is a particular chapter where he describes how he searched through his dead father’s pockets and found a list of a few fellow Colombians, him included, who were scheduled to be killed by paramilitaries. He also found a piece of paper where Dr. Abad had copied, probably hours before his demise, a poem by Jorge Luis Borges called “Epitaph”. The writer also evokes the moment he got back the clothes his father was wearing that fatal evening. He explains that the coroners didn’t even bother to search his belongings or closely inspect his clothes, as a bullet bounced off the floor as soon as he unfolded his shirt, which he kept for many years without knowing why, until one fine day he decided it was time to burn it. When he was a child and his father went away on business, he asked his mom not to change the bed sheets as he feared forgetting his smell while he was gone. Many nights, I went to bed devastated and in tears. The book both drained me and gave me hope.

 

I couldn’t help but feeling sad to realize that I have no idea how you smell like. I don’t know which side of the bed you sleep on and, when I come to think of it, I don’t believe I have ever set foot in your bedroom, at least not since I was baby. The very few times I have been to your house in my adult life, I have been treated as a guest, my stay forever restricted to the couch in the living room,  always kindly and politely, of course, but as a guest in the end. I ask for permission to use the bathroom and seize that moment of privacy to go through your cabinet and smell your perfume. That’s the smell I recognize from my early childhood, a superficial scent, a chemical one. Not the one on your bare skin. You have always worn the same one: a large, bulky green bottle of Yardley for men. The last time I checked, it was new and hadn’t been opened. Your declining mental health has kept you away from all vanities. You no longer wear cologne, your hair, the very few strands still left on your head are permanently unkempt and your stubbornness to take a shower has become a daily struggle for your wife who, with the passing of the years, has become your heaviest, most unbearable trophy to showcase. But that’s a subject requiring a much longer letter.

 

At this point, I feel like I rattled a snake that should not have been rattled. I have cried and laughed writing this, so I presume some sort of catharsis was needed on my end. Unfortunately, I will never have a chance to talk to you about any of these anecdotes. Prostate cancer and a faulty memory resulting from your last car accident are slowly taking the little I had of you away from me. I didn’t get a chance to thank you for teaching me the love for books and writing. If it weren’t for that space in my life, for that shelter I have found in the literary world, I wouldn’t be sitting here today. You gave me two amazing older brothers: One who is a child prodigy, has the kindest soul you could ever encounter and who I will forever refer to as my eternal soul mate; and the other, the eldest of us three, who is very much like you, a left-brained son of a gun who loses his temper very quickly and stops talking to the other two when he’s enraged, but who also has a heart of gold and adores you to the point of worship, very much like the love Mr. Abad felt for his dad. I guess you gave in the same measure you were given. I remember a very weird and disturbing story about your father that has stayed with me all these years. You must have been ten or eleven when you came home with a failed math test. Back then, as well as nowadays, failed tests must be returned signed by your parents as evidence of their review.  Upon seeing the low grade and without saying a word, grandpa Hildemaro led you to the basement of the main house, which was very large given that a family of 17 required the space, and locked you in it with nothing more than a pitch-black darkness, your fear and a very well shaken beehive. He came back for you two hours later to find you had peed on yourself and were almost passed out from the bee stings on the dirt floor. All he had to say was: “I will let you go now because you are a boy who is compassionate and kind to others. Consider yourself grounded for two weeks”. The guy was relentless and once you confessed to me how scared you were of him, even as a grown man. He died asphyxiated by pulmonary emphysema caused by his excessive smoking and, on that very day, you stopped the vice of aspirating four packages of Marlboro reds a day. Even his death was a lesson to you. You never gave us physical demonstrations of love because you simply didn’t know how, but what your father saw in you is a virtue that, thankfully, was passed on to us, your children.

 

You were named Napoleón, like the French Emperor. You are as short as he was and, in your fine years, your ego was as large as his. You used to be a man who had handkerchiefs embroidered with his initials and whose suits had to be tailor-made. You were, however, kind-hearted and always ready to help anyone who needed your assistance. But now the tables have turned. You are an old and fragile man who needs to have his toenails trimmed by someone else and who relies on others to carry out the simplest tasks around the house. It kills me to see you like that and I wish there could be more that I could do for you. I always yearned to spend more time with you, get to know the real you, I would have given anything to have my dad all to myself on a weekend away, but that was just wishful thinking. Soon, I became accustomed not to have you around and often forgot to call you on your birthday or on father’s day because those dates were simply not registered within my web of significance. We were never the traditional father-daughter duet because in our own way, each of us is anything but traditional. I was only seven when you gave me my very first book, which was comprised of two short stories by Uruguayan writer Horacio Quiroga: the Decapitated Chicken and the Feather Pillow, the latter which, just a few weeks ago, I found again in a compilation of stories on Vampires, go figure. From then on, we were linked by the bizarre and the little things time allowed us to share I have treasured with the most utter apprehension. I remember when I was just a child, I asked you to take me to your place after lunch. I would run to the office you had set up in a little room down the hall and go straight to a wicker basket on the floor where you kept your magazines. There was a particular one that I loved. It had many pictures, thankfully, because I did not know how to read yet. It was an issue featuring the death of a Colombian girl named Omayra Sánchez, who was pinned under the rubble of her little village after the Nevado del Ruiz volcano tragically erupted.  What impressed me the most was that her legs had been smashed between two heavy concrete walls and her upper body was barely kept afloat, mud and water up to her chin. There was no way to pull her out, despite the unsuccessful plea of all those present for the government to send a water pump. Whenever someone tried to pull her out, more mud came out from under her with the risk of ultimately drowning her. She said to one of the many cameras on her, that something else was keeping her legs trapped: Her aunt, who lived with them, had died equally trapped beneath her, with her arms wrapped around her niece’s legs. Her death was documented by photographers and journalists on the site and for nearly 60 hours they kept her company and watched her die of hypothermia or gangrene. That could never be determined. Her agony was something that amazed me and I asked you repeatedly to read the whole thing to me out loud over and over again. You offered to give me the magazine to take it back home with me, but I never accepted it. It was something that kept me linked to your house and to your lap, even after I learned how to read. Thank you for having the patience to deal with such a weird little child.

 

I will end this here with the satisfaction of having poured some of my feelings for you out on this screen. Next time I see you, I will take advantage of any minute alone with you and venture to catch that scent that is missing from my olfactory records, maybe ask you what your favorite color is, try to strike up a conversation about Quiroga or Gabriel García Márquez and I will sneak out of the bathroom and into your bedroom to see what it looks like. Perhaps, I will take that magazine home with me this time.

 

I forgive you.

I love you.

I have always missed you.

 

Mariana

 

Mariana Antúnez (2017)