Poetry is This Screaming Madwoman 

- 1953-
translated by Tess O’Dwyer

(ars poetica)

Poetry is this screaming madwoman. Everything seems poetry. Madmen
gaze high. Everything seems madness. Madmen fear no moon, fear no fire.
Burns of flesh are poetry. Madmen’s wounds are poetry. The witch’s crime
was poetry. Magic knew how to find its poetry. The star wasn’t poetry
before the madwoman discovered it. Discovery of fire in the star. Discovery
of water with sand. Neither poetry nor prose. Salt is for fish, salt is for
death, the poem is not among the dead. Remember, but don’t write it. Love
her duendes and act as her Lazarus, but don’t wake her. Sleepwalker
among cats, thief among dogs, man among women, woman among men,
blasphemous toward religion, fed up with poverty. Tear out poetry’s voice.
Don’t let her find you, hide. Disregard her, ignore her, forsake her. Don’t
touch her wounds, she’ll scorn you. Back away. Scorn the poem. Develop
without her. Give her the necessary distance. Let her feel conceited. Then
insult her for not having written with power. Deride her dreams, slap her
eyes. Kneel down and ask her forgiveness. Take the poem from her belly.
Sleep beside her, but don’t avert your eyes. Listen to what she tells you in
dreams. Acknowledge her when you see her spell the names of hell.
Descend with her into hell, climb her streets, burn within her history. There
are no names, no history. The volcano erupts and rushes toward the poem.
I can’t do anything but bash her against a rock. I can’t do anything but
embrace her. I can’t do anything but insult her dreams, and she can’t do
anything but open the poem for me, just a crack, a crack in silence, without
watchmen or maidens, with a fowl and an owl to keep distant, to keep
silent, to show up barefoot. And she couldn’t do anything but crash against
the rocks, and the wind couldn’t do anything but blow her locks, and time
couldn’t do anything but eternalize her moment. And poetry is nowhere in
the castle. She disappears through the trapdoor, escapes with the fire that
burns her and dissolves in water.

 


La poesía es esta loca que grita

(Ars poetica in Spanish...)

La poesía es esta loca que grita. Todo parece poesía. Los locos miran alto.
Todo parece locura. Los locos no le temen a la luna, ni le temen al fuego.
Las quemaduras del cuerpo son poesía. Las heridas de los locos son
poesía. El crimen de la bruja fue poesía. La magia supo encontrar su
poesía. No era poesía la estrella antes de que la loca la descubriera.
Descubrimiento del fuego en la estrella. Descubrimiento del agua con la
arena, no es poesía ni es prosa. La sal es de los peces, la sal es de la
muerte, no está el poema en la muerte. Recuerda, pero no lo escribas.
Ámale los duendes, y sírvele de Lázaro, pero no la despiertes. Sonámbula
con los gatos, ladrona con los perros, hombre con las mujeres, mujer con
los hombres, blasfema con la religión, harta con la pobreza. Arráncale la
voz a la poesía. No dejes que te descubra, escóndete. No la pienses ni le
des importancia, abandónala. No le toques las heridas, te despreciará.
Apártate. Despréciale el poema. Desenvuélvete sin ella. Dale la ncesaria
distancia. Deja que se siente engreída. Entonces insúltala, por no haber
escrito con fuerza. Entonces ultrájale los sueños, abofetéale los ojos.
Arrodíllate y pídele perdón. Sácale el poema del vientre. Duérmete a su
lado, pero no la dejes de mirar. Escucha lo que en sueños te dice.
Reconócela cuando la veas deletrear los nombres del infierno. Desciende
con ella al infierno, sube por sus calles, arde dentro de su historia. No hay
nombres ni hay historia. Se precipita el volcán y la lava está deseosa de
introducirse en el poema. No puedo menos que estrellarla contra una roca,
no puedo menos que abrazarla. Ni puedo menos que insultarle los sueños,
ni puede menos que entreabrirme el poema, a medio decir, en silencio, sin
centinelas ni doncellas, con una lechuza y un buho para guardar la
distancia, para guardar el silencio, para presentarsedescalza. Y ella no
pudo menos que estrellarse contra la roca, y el viento no pudo menos que
soplarle los cabellos, y el tiempo no pudo menos que eternizar su
momento. Y la poesía no está en todo el castillo, desaparece por la puerta
defuga, se va con el fuego que la quema y se disuelve en agua.

More by Giannina Braschi

Empire of Dreams [excerpt]

translated by Tess O'Dwyer
 
On the top floor of the Empire State a shepherd has stood up to sing and dance. What a wonderful thing. That New York City has been invaded by so many shepherds. That work has stopped and there is only singing and dancing. And that the newspapers—The New York Times, in headlines, and The Daily News—call out: New York. New York. New York. Listen to it. Hear it on the radio. And on television. Listen to the loudspeakers. Listen to it. The buffoons have died. And the little lead soldier. Shepherds have invaded New York. They have conquered New York. They have colonized New York. The special of the day in New York’s most expensive restaurant is golden acorn. It’s an egg. It’s an apple. It’s a bird. Fish. Melody. Poetry. And epigram. Now there is only song. Now there is only dance. Now we do whatever we please. Whatever we please. Whatever we damn well please.
 

Empire of Dreams [excerpt]

translated by Tess O'Dwyer
 
I love hiccups and I love sneezes and I love blinks and I love belches and I love gluttons. I love hair. I love bears. For me, the round. For me, the world. Round is the happy face. And round is the midday. And when the moon is most beautiful is when it’s round. Sex is round. And the heart also. The hand is round. The mouth also. Sneezes are round. And hiccups also. The milk from the breast of Lady Macbeth was also round. I would have liked to be like her and be bad. I am good. I am Bacchus. I am sex. And I am hiccup. And I am sneeze. And I am cough. Hoarse. Hoarse. Hoarse. I am thunder. I am voice. I am obscene. Obscene. Obscene. I am pure like the tit or the milk. I am water, sea, or fish, or tadpole. I am round.
 

Empire of Dreams [excerpt]

translated by Tess O'Dwyer
 
Listen to me, ladies and gentlemen. Listen to the sermon of memories and sorrows. Listen to hell. Why didn’t I do what I should have done. I repent. I’ve  sinned. I have memories. And torments. I am burning in the flames of memories. Why didn’t I keep quiet? Why did I do that? I repent a thousand times. Why did I betray you, and why do I remember you? Oh woe, woe is me! Oh, and I stood you up in the street. Listen to memories. Listen to them again. Why did I betray you? Why did you leave and forget me? And I grieve and remember you. And the worst were my tears. And the worst was your memory. Listen to the soap opera and listen to memory. Oh, and now what’s left for me. I’m left with monologues, soliloquies, and memories. I’m left with shadows. I’m left with memories. I don’t want monologues or sorrows or soliloquies. I am a singing bird. I am a child. I am the nightingale. What does winter or autumn or spring or summer know of memory? They know nothing of memory. They know that seasons pass and return. They know that they are seasons. That they are time. And they know how to affirm themselves. And they know how to impose themselves. And they know how to maintain themselves. What does autumn know of summer? What sorrows do seasons have? None hate. None love. They pass.