Fantasmas/ Ghosts

•14/07/2018 • Leave a Comment

Los invitamos a pasar una tarde llena de lecturas y anécdotas espeluznantes en la mejor compañía. ¡Nos vemos entre libros!

We are happy to invite you to spend an evening filled with spooky stories and anecdotes surrounded by books and the best company. See you guys there!

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Speechless

•12/07/2018 • Leave a Comment

– Don’t laugh so loud, he said

– You talk too much, he stated

– Remain quiet, it’s for the best, he suggested

– Keep your voice down, he ordered

Why wasn’t I born mute? Or better yet, why was I born at all?

My notes lay scattered all over the house. 

A house full of ghosts, yet ghosts cannot read.

Mariana Antúnez (2018)

“The last one out” A short story by Juan Carlos Méndez Guédez

•06/07/2018 • Leave a Comment

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First, it was Audry. A brief explanation, her hair tinkling against the light of noon. And, of course, the situation was starting to get complicated; the stock exchange market, that stock market her father talked so much about and the car dealership on the verge of bankruptcy. Just the right elements to evoke the transparent air of Galicia, its asymmetrical streets and the smell of Spanish octopus.

Then, of course, that sense of vertigo living in my abdomen. And the city looking broader than ever. The traffic lights blinking their pause in the corners, and the remaining scents of Audry huffing and puffing on my clothes.

After her, Paco and Camilo, high school friends, the ones with half-smoked cigarettes, women, beers and Cuba Libre, dreaming of (and how?) the large garden their dad had left in the outskirts of Madrid. And later, a few postcards saying “come over, man, there’s no sleeping here, not even on Mondays.”

Then, in college, the Marfiorettis, the Rizos, the Di Marzos, the Marzullos, all disappearing from the attendance lists. Just like all those random stories about Sicily, Milan, Calabria, Napoli, while the Italian football league was losing up to four TV rating points a week.

It was around that time when Giovanni, the neighbor, stopped inviting me to his Italian pasta feasts and I heard from my cousin that all that was left of him was a deflated football, his goodbyes and an address in Celico.

After them, Juan Antonio, the fruit guy who, ever since I was three, appeared at my doorway with a pencil stuck behind his ear, saying goodbye on a Thursday, his laughter splattered with Tenerife’s volcanic sand and, of course, the oddness when pronouncing r’s like j’s and his Canary l’s, which sounded like an English Y with a hint of an L in front of it: “Luij Cajlos, la fruta está en la callie.”[1]

And then, the city seemed to grow bigger, not only in the spaces Audry left behind, but also in the lines at the subway and the traffic in the streets; like a coat of silence growing larger together with the murmur of the trees.

Just like the sign “Madeira’s Club for sale.” Instead of grocery stores, dark premises were left behind with the reminiscence of cured meat and coffee. And the gorgeous Fátima Do Nascimento, who once smiled and said “if it wasn’t for Audry, Luisito…”, but now it is all about her Engineering studies and some song about Lisbon and “I’ll send you some Bacalhau pie[2].”

Meanwhile, helicopters were flying at that same time (or was it afterwards?) blowing away the mansions, the palm trees and any remnant of banana smell. And then the apartment buildings: Dolce Vita, Teide, Las Ramblas, Da Silva. And some article about capital flights and Maradona scoring a goal from midfield, a true beast indeed, but Pelé may have done a better job. But none of the experts on the subject were going to school with us anymore.

And of course, all these empty seats on buses, or the comfort of a share taxi at 6 pm, or all the tables available at the only two bars still open, were not normal. And then, there were less mouth-watering butts to look at, like those of Italian girls, and less green eyes like Fátima’s and, who can forget the rabbit in Salmorejo sauce?

That time when the newspaper came with special supplements with furniture and TV sets sales, “moving abroad, everything must go”. And the President denying the payment of the debt and inflation rates, but I found an Hombres G record as the air mimicked Audry’s whispers inside my bedroom.

It became even harder, after the looting and tear gas took over our Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays. And then I got entangled in dialectics. Because the Wall, the Wall! – the analysts kept saying, but there were no walls left to jump over, just a strike in our memory: wasn’t there a glass building here? And the ice cream parlor in this corner? And the wrinkles on people’s faces, hands on the abdomen, hunched over.

Then, the empty stadiums, home runs getting lost in the gray sea of grandstands. And a single line at the door of all consulates. And Julio Miguel, who was the first of us to leave, with his agonic reply letter: “Madrid is great, Martín Romaña was right, I was kicked out of the pension because I showered every day. Now, it’s not so cold, it’s spring. They call us sudacas, and no one wants to hire us.”

And loyalty? I insisted, in a corny tone and with rage in the midst of the geometrical memory of the city. Then, people here started to leave the country. Not the politicians, who were all in Miami, running away from their files gathering dust in courts. Not the President, who traveled constantly and sent messages via fax: “Resistance, people, resistance, for the world is only for the brave!” Instead, it was the neighbors, those with crooked noses and brown eyes, or those with light skin and straight hair. The Perez’s, the Garcías, the Rodríguez’s.

So much that Estrellita, Chepa, the one with the mole, and those working at the brothels El Farol and El Nuevo Kari were the only women left.

And one day, my own family with this weird story about the possibilities of studying at the Complutense University of Madrid or the manpower needed in Australia or Canada.

And so it happened, until it became harder to make a mark on the wall when someone passed by my window. Meanwhile, the beaches boiled with the thousand strokes of those who were unable to afford a plane ticket.

And even myself, as ridiculous as I may have sounded with the whole loyalty story, was left alone with no one else to listen to me. And the TV was blank, no programming. And the silence at noon, walking in the middle of the highway, accompanied only by the memory of the houses, the airports and its airplanes.

Then, there was the fruit rotting in some garden. Or the remnants of a deserted butcher shop. And there was no one left to tell them how much my stomach hurt. And the relentless echo of my footsteps, my voice reverberating in the streets, the absence of dogs barking, of birds singing.

And then, I went straight to the airport at the coast, to see if anyone dared coming back. But there were no flights. Just the sea, frolicking with the nearby runway. Until that day a dot in the sky started growing, showing wings and turbines, and I thought someone was actually coming back. But it was just a special shipment, a rare variety of orchids was to be picked up at the request of Mr. Martinelly. And the pilot, a nice man, was surprisingly adamant: “I thought there was no one left. Come with us. We are the last ones to ever land here.”

And that issue with loyalty, the delirium at the verge of dizziness. One cup of coffee to bring the body, and the bad mood, back to life. Then, the airplane taking off with a long whistle. And the window looking out on the desert left behind. And that graffiti on the floor, screwing me up for good: “the last one out, please turn off the light”; but, how should I know where the switch was? What button to press? Where should I cut the useless sun spilling over the rocks?

[1] Translator’s Note: “Luis Carlos, the fruit is on the street”

[2] Translator’s Note: typical Portuguese dish prepared with cod fish.

Original Title: “El último que se vaya”

Translated by: Mariana Antúnez

Juan Carlos Méndez Guédez is a Venezuelan writer born in Barquisimeto, Venezuela in 1967. He is the author of “Los Maletines”, “La noche y yo”, “El baile de Madame Kalalú”  and most recently, “La Ola Detenida”.

Tangerines

•27/04/2018 • Leave a Comment

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When I lived with you

we had no tangerines for breakfast,

wine for lunch,

or bread for dinner.

My voice failed to speak,

but I had ink to write.

Today, my hands burst with tangerines

my glass overflows with wine

my nights, with bread.

You are not here,

the ink has dried

with you, I had it all

 

Mariana Antúnez (2018)

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Ludmilla Zamurocova

•13/04/2018 • Leave a Comment

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Ludmilla Zamurocova[1]
 

“I have AIDS”.

Edgardo dropped the bomb when they had finished eating.

“Please, don’t tell my mother”.

Like any other Sunday, Mercedes, Edgardo’s spinster aunt, his brother Miguel and Alberto, a putative cousin who grew up with them, gathered around the dining room table for lunch, where they sat down to dismantle the world and attempted to put it back together in a space of two hours. Saverio, a longtime family friend, was the only one who knew about the disease ever since the diagnosis and, as the noble soul he was, he offered to join him that day in breaking the terrible news. The guests looked at each other in awe, not knowing what to say or what to answer, their cups of coffee suspended midair between the saucer and their lips. Those were the years of the gay cancer, the era of heavy makeup and blush; Wham and its careless whisper and the voice of someone who insisted on having a total eclipse of the heart, every now and then.

It all started with a blister on the side of his tongue. Edgardo was prone to mouth sores, especially when he stopped smoking for a few months as paranoia caught him thinking he would get lung cancer, so he didn’t pay much attention to the issue. Soon, it wasn’t one, but ten blisters adorning his palate, gums and inner cheeks. He lived with a persistent sore throat, spoiling the simple enjoyment of food and his neck, thick and strong, had become a meander of inflamed lymph nodes. In the early hours of the morning, he woke up drenched in sweat with a fever that made him shiver to unconsciousness. He was convinced, however, that it was just the common cold, maybe a bit stronger than any previous episode, but certainly nothing to worry about. One day, when the fever gave him a break, he wanted to get out of the house to breathe a different air, go to the movies or have some coffee at the diner around the corner. It was then when all the alarms went off. He was putting on his socks when he noticed a brown mole in the instep of his right foot, a somewhat elongated, barely perceptible spot. “A mole”, he muttered. “It’s just a mole”. He finished getting dressed and left with a shaky stride.

Mercedes loved Edgardo unconditionally. His mother, however, was a whole other story. She was a renowned soap opera actress, whose busy lifestyle did not allow her to spend enough time with her son. Titina, like any other rich and glamorous woman of the cosmopolitan city of Caracas at the time, dressed with the latest designs by Carolina Herrera, wore the best perfumes money could buy and dated only the hottest hunks in vogue, most of them models and some of her on-screen husbands. She was a classy woman, who met all the standards of the Venezuelan beauty of the 80’s: tall, blond and slender. The identity of Edgardo’s father remained unknown. It was a subject Titina avoided at all costs and, in her own words, no one had the right to ask her anything. She was the sole breadwinner of that household and could fuck whomever she pleased. She was a bitter lady, incapable of showing even the slightest display of affection towards her son or, at least, not in front of others. Just a few months after Edgardo was born, Titina was ready to get back in the game. She hired the best stylists in town to get her hair and nails done and even visited a few plastic surgeons to “fix the disaster the little demon left behind when it came out of me”. And just as easily, she forgot about her newborn. Without even discussing it, Mercedes assumed the maternity role nature had denied her and became her nephew’s guardian.

He never got to have that coffee. Instead, he walked around the same block for hours, in square circles, hands in his pockets, fists clenched and cold with fever, thinking about the fucking Kaposi lesion, yes, because that’s what it was, the Kaposi sarcoma already nesting in his body and which would eventually put an end to his life. Edgardo returned to his apartment which, this time, seemed enormous before the fragility of his existence. “Come with me to the doctor. I feel unwell”, he whispered into the phone and kept it close to his ear for what felt like an eternity. Saverio saw him come out of the doctor’s office, pale, and without uttering a word, took him by the hand when he collapsed on the chair next to him. Hanging on to that familiar warmth, he cried tears of bitterness, cursed the promiscuity of his sex, his intoxications with Moët & Chandon and his taste for latex-free skins. After a few hours diluted in silence and sighs, he muttered “I’m flying to Colombia to see Father Santiago. He’ll know what to do”.

“Vultures. They are the solution. Their immune system is the strongest amongst all living beings. They eat raw food, chicken bones and any other decomposing protein they can find in the trash and carry on living, just like that”. These were Santiago’s words, an Infectious Disease Specialist who, while attending medical school, heard the Lord’s calling. “God and science don’t get along. That’s why I’m here, to become their mediator”, he said in an interview for a famous Venezuelan journal, before emigrating to the neighboring country. His recipe to strengthen Edgardo’s immune response was simple: a vulture should be beheaded and its blood, drained. He should drink a glass every morning before breakfast for a period of three months. Edgardo talked it over with Saverio, his cousin Alberto and aunt Mercedes and together plotted the most macabre plan of their lives. For inexplicable reasons, killing a vulture was a very serious crime sanctioned with imprisonment, so their actions from that point forward required caution and premeditation. “I will pay anything, but help me get those vultures, Alberto, I beg of you. At least the first five”, Edgardo pleaded. “Don’t you worry, consider it handled”, Alberto assured him.

Saverio and Alberto left Bello Monte the following morning at 3 a.m. Mercedes made the sign of the cross in the air before their departure and stayed at the apartment to look after Edgardo who, after a brunt of massive and sweaty diarrhea, had finally fallen asleep. “I’ll get the vultures, tía, but that’s as far as I go. You kill them, I have no stomach for that shit. See you later, Ludmilla”, said Alberto. “What do you mean Ludmilla?” asked Mercedes. “Yes, Ludmilla Zamurocova. That’s how I’ll call you from now on”. And with a wink, he closed the door behind him, Saverio’s laughter still reverberating in the hall. The street looked like the set of a horror movie, dark and with streaks of smoke coming out of the most incoherent places, in absolute desolation, except for the dilapidated Volkswagen Brasilia that Miguel had lent them to transport the vultures, moving along the main avenue as quivery as its passengers. Upon arriving at the dumping site of Las Mayas, they were greeted by the thickest fog which made it impossible to see beyond the windshield, it was cold and the silence inside the vehicle reproduced a buzzing almost unbearable to the ears. Finally, a sudden tapping on Saverio’s window put an end to the seemingly endless wait. It was Alberto’s guy, a man with a scar on his cheek, dressed in black from head to toe, wearing a poncho and thick rubber boots, typical of those who earn their living sorting out piles of garbage on a daily basis. They got out of the car in a haste, with the Brasilia’s opaque headlights as the sole source of illumination. “I’ve got what you asked for”, said the man, with a surprisingly melodic voice, which did not match his nasty appearance at all. “Do you have a place for them? They are aggressive, man. Look at what one of them sons of bitches did to me when I tried to grab ‘em”. His left boot had been completely shredded to pieces and rendered useless. Neither Saverio nor Alberto dared saying a word. Any comment seemed foolish in the midst of such a grotesque, yet necessary, endeavor. The man left for a few minutes and came back with two black bags, which moved uncontrollably fast. Without much effort and a certain amount of anger, he threw them into the trunk of the car and put his hand out to receive his payment in cash. “You faggots are the weirdest people. See you ‘round”, said the character with a hint of a smile, while the fog and the darkness gobbled him back into the jaws of the dumping site.

Mercedes had set up a space in the laundry room to fit the vultures in a medium-sized cage. The animals smelled of hell and they pecked at each other with a horrifying commotion. The slaughter of the first morning was the hardest. Mercedes said they looked at her with anguish in their eyes each time she approached them to choose the first victim. Saverio and Alberto helped her get the unfortunate bird out and place it on the sink for the imminent martyrdom. With the sharpest machete she could find and pressing her eyelids together to repel the tears fogging up her glasses, Mercedes cut off the head with one sole and accurate blow. Blood came gushing out while the feathered body struggled with the last throes of agony. The concoction was enough to fill two full glasses. Alberto put them on a tray and took them to the room where Edgardo was just waking up. He left it on his nightstand and tiptoed out of the room. Nobody ever stayed to see him drink the blood; it was considered something degrading, one of those actions that should be carried out quickly and in private before being fulminated by shame.

Arrangements have already been made to fetch five more vultures. There was only one left in the cage, emaciated, resigned and certain of the fate awaiting not far ahead. In the end, it had witnessed four consecutive beheadings and any hope of freedom had vanished forever. Mercedes had become an expert in the art of killing and didn’t need the help of the boys anymore. When she was about to get the last wretched bird out, Alberto’s harrowing screams stopped her in her tracks. Shaking, she stood in front of the cage, opened the door and said: “Fly now, you son of a bitch. You shall not have my Edgardo”. The bird remained motionless, crouched in a corner of its prison, as defeated as its executioner. Mercedes grabbed it by the neck and threw it out the window, enraged. She broke down in tears when she saw the bird gain height. She cried tears of anger, clenching her teeth to keep her wails, piling up arrogantly in her throat, from flying out as well. She cried, clinging to the bars of the cage, with fury and in silence.

 

Mariana Antúnez (2018)

 

 

 Photo credit: Epale Caracas

[1] Zamurocova is a play on words, which intends to give the word “zamuro” (vulture, in English) a Russian sense of belonging.

Wrath

•08/04/2018 • Leave a Comment

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For a long time now

I cannot stand the sight of you

your stares go through me

and leave nothing behind

you talk to me

and I frown

my blood boils

and I spit it out

hot and burning

you don’t seem to notice

you smile and keep talking.

For a long time now,

we have both stopped existing

Mariana Antúnez (2018)

Photo credit: Aaron Lovett, “Unhinged”

Seis poemas de Mariana Antúnez (Caracas, 1981) ~

•15/03/2018 • Leave a Comment

Digo.palabra.txt

62a0711fdf1e7f93fcc84c55a4283c02Natalie Foss


Cavidad torácica

Mi cavidad torácica es estrecha como un ataúd
y en su minucia sueña con la amplitud de una pradera.
Mil tristezas se aglomeran en ese espacio
una sobre la otra
como si disfrutaran del confinamiento compartido
y con gracia bailan sobre mis ruinas
ilesas, inmortales, impávidas.
Cada respiro despide polvo de vidrio en su forma más pura,
sus astillas me desgarran la garganta en cada trago
y me ahogo en un ronquido laborioso, gutural.
Un nenúfar floreció en mis pulmones
Pero asfixiado se secó para no revivir jamás
Mi felicidad, igualmente efímera, murió con él

White curtains

Quiero una casa con ventanas
grandes y siempre abiertas
con cortinas blancas y largas
que toquen el piso
y se mezan con el vaivén del viento

Quiero un gato blanco que haga juego
que se duerma en el marco de esa ventana
siempre abierta y limpia
y que…

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