Bless us, Lord, those who have little time and a bright future.
You have to please us, Lord, because this is how we are,
impatient and shameless. Because we have suffered.
We know that it’s not all about hiking up a mountain and getting stoned,
not about drawing maps of nothing and thinking about nothing and feeling alive.
We’ve learned the hard way, Lord. We’ve changed.
Bless us, Father, we the enemies of hope,
those of us who left, those of us who quit,
those of us made mindless by the virus of fear,
those of us who only see in the present the scum of tomorrow.
My jaw hurts when I remember how small my country was.
My country was a cement goddess at the bank of a poisoned river.
It was vaginal secretions, landscapes with a slit throat, intermittences.
I thought that my country was in my body
but my body is incorruptible, and no country can be a body.
Remember, love, all those days traveling alone,
staring at each other through windows that were not ours?
We just had to resist a little more, just had to forget about ourselves.
“I already have in me the outbound tickets. I already have in me your peaceful wall.
Hold on, darling, you’ve got to hold on.”
My country is the greatest poem I ever wrote.
This city makes me feel hungry, everything makes my heart race,
anything dazzles me for hours. I’m not
the patient type I was before.
In Union Square I felt like an industrial mite,
an iron parasite staining with rust
the entrance of a boutique.
I’ve cried, I’ve been blind, I was in a coma, I can swear to it.
This city makes me love falseness and anger.
I walk at night and I want it all, I want evil,
I want the blood of life.
I hate a lot, but I hate glamorously.
I’m half a ghost but the world continues to offer me life.
Leaving, because we can’t stand the silence of the sun,
the indifferent flesh of the universe.
Leaving, because we’ll lose everything unless we break our bones.
Ocean Beach, there are formidable cargo ships
gliding behind the mist.
It hurts to gaze at those straight angles, the quick containers.
On the shore there are transparent bodies, green whips, there are
lunatics in the water waving their arms like sea slugs.
We salivate. We flee. I only think of saving myself, and not of carving paths.
There are no paths, there are things happening, noise. My ears cannot stand
the screech of the rails when I cross the bay.
The cranes are lit; the bay lights up.
These are the ports of Oakland. White. Distant.
I see these things and I lose my mind.
To leave, to want anything, to wake up with a hole in your hand
and feel that we’ve been waiting 29 million years
for the big meltdown. A beautiful, monstrous end.
But we’ll be fine, let’s stay in touch.
Our crises are always the same
and all cities are falling to pieces.
Listen to me, I’ll say it again: all cities
are falling to pieces. Only desire remains.
My desire is there, desiring me like crazy.
I love to identify it, possess it, roam on it.
I would rape it, loudly,
feeling in my hands its warm flesh, its thirsty expansion.
Bless us, Lord, those who have betrayed you.
Save us from poverty, save us from despair.
Save us, Father, from Barcelona, save us from Madrid,
save us from San Francisco, from New York, save us
from Buenos Aires. Beatitude is merely a violent dream
but your salvation is pure mystery,
an abandoned ghetto we have come to settle.
The city’s rib cage is a dismal wind.
The ships are rubbing against one another like cats, smearing themselves with musk.
I was looking for you in the sand
and I split in two like a green fish.
Tell me what we are, love, away from the ships.
“Peaceful suns, women of stone.” Everything is radiance,
not knowing what we say,
getting lost in the city every Thursday, ecstatic,
looking for level ground, wide places to breathe and redeem ourselves.
Translated by Beverly Pérez Rego
Santiago Acosta is an American-born Venezuelan poet living in New York City, where he is a PhD candidate in Latin American and Iberian Cultures at Columbia University. In 2018 his poetry manuscript El próximo desierto [The next desert] won the José Emilio Pacheco Literature Prize, awarded by the Guadalajara International Book Fair and University of Guadalajara, Mexico. He has published Mañana vendrán las piedras [Tomorrow the stones will come], a photobook made in collaboration with photographer Efraín Vivas (Archivo de Fotografía Urbana, 2019); Cuaderno de otra parte [Notebook from somewhere else] (Libros del Fuego, 2018); and Detrás de los erizos [Behind the sea urchins], winner of the contest for previously unpublished authors organized by Monte Ávila Editores (2007). In San Francisco he co-directed the journal Canto: A Bilingual Review of Latin American Civilization, Culture, and Literature. He was a founder and editor of the poetry magazine El Salmón, which won Venezuela’s National Book Award in 2010.
Beverly Pérez Rego is one of Venezuela’s most prominent translators and the author of five volumes of poetry: Artes del vidrio [Glass arts] (1992), Libro de cetrería [Book of falconry] (1994), Providencia [Providence] (1998), Grimorio [Grimoire] (2002) and Escurana [Darkness] (2004), collected in 2006 as Poesía reunida [Collected poetry] by Monte Ávila Editores. Her poems have appeared in numerous anthologies, and she has also published translations of Anne Waldman, Nathalie Handal, Louise Glück and Mark Strand. She received the Rafael Bolívar Coronado Biennial Literary Prize in Poetry and the Elías David Curiel Poetry Award. In 2010, she was a Fellow at the International Writing Program of the University of Iowa, where she later obtained an MFA in Translation. She lives in Caracas.
In our twelfth issue, we pay homage to two giants of Latin American letters: Ida Vitale of Uruguay, winner of the 2018 Miguel de Cervantes Prize, and Julio Ramón Ribeyro of Peru, whose work we celebrate on the ninetieth anniversary of his birth. We also feature poetry, interviews, and stories that range from the Caribbean to the Andes and from Central American to Brazil, exclusive book previews and reflections from translators, and a special section dedicated to the work of Edwin Lucero Rinza, a young poet who recently published the first ever verse collection in Kañaris Quechua.