Translated from the Spanish by Cassandra Gillig & Anne Boyer

 

 

The Call

 

When I asked him why he had not called
he explained to me that he had been buried alive
and that he did not have a phone.
In his thin chicken lips
there is
or was not
any daring.
Everything was strictly legal.
Is it because you do not believe in God?
If it wasn’t easy,
you wouldn’t try to do it.
Significance,
signifying,
significantly,
sign.
I went to the balcony
and looked at the park,
irritating brotherhood of screaming children
and calibrated birds.
Heard the remote control changing channels,
no sound.
I felt at my back
his desire to put on his pants
and leave.
I went to the kitchen to peel potatoes.

 

 

 

 

 

One Day of the Week I

 

When you were born
in 1938,
Cesar Vallejo was dying.
When your little head,
your navel,
your virgin cunt,
entered the world
from between the beautiful legs of your mother,
they were lowering the poet into a hole.
They covered it up with dirt
and you,
you were covered by memory.
You could not choose.
Because if you choose
you live.
And if you live
you enjoy.
But joy is the horrific part of the dream:
sleep will be forever.
There will be the smell of fried peppers,
thundering voices in the bar.
It will be a day of the week,
when furniture changes places in the night
and in the mornings,
the women will talk to themselves.
Your nose will be congested and the right eyebrow
will fall more than the left.
The flattened hips,
the bad haircut and the body lost
in any slip that hides the fat in your waist.
If you had sad lunatics for grandparents,
it will be reflected in the report
of a responsible official.
They will cross your arms over your chest
and this is fatal,
because you can not
use Afrin
to breathe better.
It was fake that your hugs were convulsive
and your furies unpredictable.
Fake, the glass you still steam with your burps.
Fake, your nipples, your red freckles.
Last night you decided:
if I cannot sleep,
I’ll choose death.
But you could not have expected the leg of lamb to melt in your mouth,
soft,
milky,
on your tongue.
You could only say:
two childbirths,
ten abortions,
no orgasms.
You took a long sip of wine.
Vallejo also sought a leg of lamb
in the menu of La Coupole.
All watched his stupid eyes,
while he could only think about the quiet ears of Beethoven.
He had asked his companion:
Why do you not love me anymore?
What did I do?
Where did I fail?
The sausage in the casserole left grease stains on his shirt.
Like you,
he felt compassion tired his body
and tried to guess who would be born on this night,
while trying to fall asleep.
Dying
requires time and patience.

 

 

 

 

 

One Day of the Week II

 

Shutting his eyelids to block the light of noon
was never a problem for Modigliani.
The truth is always waiting for us
at the bottom of the bottle,
he warned,
long before lengthening the necks of his women.
It is degrading to eat in bed,
but I do
at the risk of losing the company of El Flaco.
The disheveled bed,
the book of Levi-Strauss and Didier,
the crumpled paper napkin,
how many years spent wandering around here?
Belly down to watch television,
face up to be loved,
elbows folded for sleep.
Life does not form part of the universe’s great laws:
I am a solitary fate
in this space of twilight and rituals.
I now escape the perspective of those who board a bus
or piss behind a tree.
Chimpanzee eating a turkey and mustard sandwich.
It’s April and myopic eyes blink
in delicious successive messages:
postmodernism, cliques, preps, gays, the borderline.
Living cells that undress me and recount my memory.
I touch my little thing, tidy with so much iodine soap
washed
and re-washed thoroughly
An island that smells of iodine.
Little thing conducive to the entry of fungi, herpes, bacteria, bugs, foams, plastics, copper and rubber.
Come here, brat.
El Flaco caresses me with a fatherly hand:
don’t berate your little thing,
she is much more useful than art.
Once again, that child playing violin on the next floor.
I seem to see him—chubby, overbite,
smelling of polyps and inflamed tonsils,
a huge callus on the chin.
There he goes again with the scale,
nasally,
raspy,
sluggish.
Fuck, screams the Spaniard from the fifth floor.
My mother told me,
tu me fais grincer les dents,
nothing to do with the
tu me tue, tu me fais du bien,
of Hiroshima Mon Amour.
Anyway, long before this
Shakespeare had determined
that every man ends up killing what he loves.
The folds of the sheet hurt my back
as he read the horoscope out loud this morning.
Clean and full refrigerator.
The beer can with its frosted edges
and ham wrapped in aluminum foil.
A question of values:
walkman, gastronomy, zen, cool, humanism,
nobody will be defrauded by manipulation.
I choose the beer
and run back to bed.
I wonder if human rights really
are an ideology.
Fernando, the only alcoholic bartender who hasn’t retired,
speaks in rhymes:
the night is dark
and I don’t have my heart.
As I understand it, he’s one of the few left who
thinks human rights are morals.
I fluff the pillow,
I suck my thumb,
and I hope that El Flaco comes.
There are days like this.

 

 

 

 

These poems appear in Grenade in Mouth: Some Poems of Miyó Vestrini, edited by Faride Mereb, and translated from the Spanish by Cassandra Gillig and Anne Boyer. The book is published in March by Kenning Editions

Photograph © Ediciones Letra Muerta, courtesy of the author’s family archives

My Biggest Insecurity About the Garden
When We Returned to Pakistan