The Decapitated Country
Poems by Miroslava Rosales
Forward and Translations by Dylan Brennan
Foreword to the chapbook República del excremento Proyecto Editorial La Chifurnia, El Salvador, 2017
“Heridas”, “pus”, “necrosis” —from the beginning of Miroslava Rosales’s exquisite selection poems, one thing is clear, we are in for some uncomfortable reading. Words of destruction and decay permeate these poems from the beginning. This is a poet who is not afraid to stare into the abyss for the benefit of her readers. No, not an abyss but a whirlpool of flesh, blood and violence, from which she reports back, without fear. I first heard Rosales read her poetry at the International Poetry Festival in Granada, Nicaragua in 2015 and was immediately struck by the difference in tone from the other poetry I had heard. This was a writer willing to focus on the substances of this life, the fluids and sediments of which humanity is comprised. This was a writer uninterested in describing butterflies in the ether.
“país país país país país” —her country is the República del excremento, a place populated by «madres decapitadas y ninfas sarnosas» where life is cheap and depravity is king. Yes, this is poetry that has a social element. The kind of poetry we had forgotten about, poetry that has something to say. Something that needs to be said. Sometimes the metaphors and allusions are useless and the poet needs to simply state the facts as they are. In “Keysi en el barrio El Calvario” Rosales does just that:
En el barrio
el cadáver pequeño de un ángel es encontrado
envuelto en una sábana
This is what happened. This is where it happened. Don't you dare turn your eyes away from this. Rosales forces us to confront reality, something necessary in a world ever more easily bypassed by online trivialities. But there is beauty here too. “La visita íntima” reminds us that, though we must not fail to acknowledge the horrors that surround us, we must also go on living and, indeed, loving:
¿Por qué no besas mis pezones
y los muerdes
como manzanas en fiesta de año nuevo [...]?
The invitation to love takes the form of a question and questions are central to these poems, for it is in these questions that we find the other themes of Rosales’s work, namely love and hope. In “Niña con caramelos y albahaca en el corazón” the young woman who “sabe del peso de la noche y del semen” asks:
¿Algún día morderé la paz?
¿algún día seré un melón luminoso en el centro de un jardín?
The question does two things. It contrasts the beauty of an imagined alternative with the harsh desperation of reality. However, it also presents the possibility of future relief. In intensifying pathos it also depicts the potential for overcoming suffering. Rosales loves her characters, loves her country. For that reason she depicts it as it is while allowing for the possibility of hope:
¿Cuándo serás la música del alba y no de la rabia endurecida?
Make no mistake, Rosales’s voice is her own, but somewhere, no doubt, Roque Dalton is reading, smiling and approving. A fantastic collection of poems.
By Dylan Brennan
País mío no existes
solo eres una mala silueta mía
una palabra que le creí al enemigo
Porque el plomo de la mentira cae, hirviendo,
sobre el cuerpo del pueblo perseguido
I'm from a decapitated land
it's all just a heap of your wounds and pus
so many centuries
under the sign of necrosis
that you no longer recognise a symphony of the most intricate tenderness
gagged your mouth is gagged
My land our land
land of decapitated mothers and mangy nymphs
of knife-wielding tattooed cyclopses
of old women untouched by moonlight
of little kids yearning for violins of skies and seas
clarinets of the forests unstained by vinegar
Republic of excrement
land of pigs that devour the hearts of their youngest
land land land land land land
of street-corner crocodiles that wait to pounce on careless pedestrians
my land hope a corpse the bureaucrats dried logs
land of clicas that spread
like cancerous cells on an ageing body
of unmarked graves
land of homeboys and palabreros
chockablock prisons of stinging flies and mice
Land with no mausoleum worthy of worship
nobody offers you hymns of glorious peace or golden trumpets and jasmines
Land the coffin of my words
Land the bloody fruit on my hand
plague of termites and lions
I gaze upon the rubble of your worm temple
from which only a moan is raised as discoloured flag
You penetrate me with the bloody pages of the newspapers
in which rainbow girls are mutilated
Land of tear-gas machetes and guns against the sun dance
a herd of police and politicians
rats and millions of cockroaches splatter your morgue (on the verge of collapse)
and the heads of women people the rivers like crabs
only wolves guard the borders of aluminium and electricity
will you become grass caressed by generous rains
will you give yourself to the sun
like a child to its young mother
like the comet to the tearless sky
or become an overcoat of begonias for insects
those who know nothing of a vibrant musical score
for a tropical landscape?
When will you become the music of the dawn and not of a hardened rage?
I just listen to the night howls that advance like lines of immigrants in the desert
País mío no existes
it's the truth
the terrible truth of your epigraph
nobody talks of you anymore
to spur a flight of horses
only your blood is front page material
you my front line enemy
for your poison
for your blows you beat on each note of my delusions
will sunflowers multiply for the kids with glue in their stomachs?
They know only cruelty in the form of an ice-pick
They know only cruelty in the form of politics
When will you have the vigour of the heliconias in the botanic gardens
of the seagulls in a very clean sea
of the taste of a melon
and you can caress us the helpless like an understanding father?
when the calmness of my roots?
when the memory without a moan like a mallet?
when the breeze through my hair instead of scorpions?
when will you be a house for my thorns
balsam honey lavender aroma for these accumulated pains?
why so many walls and electric fences for your eyes?
why does your machinery of hate still work in this oblivion?
why do hymns not revive you?
why have you become a gnawed bone in the filth?
you look like the chopped willow that's been left at the side of the highway
the sicario bleeding in a jam-packed prison on the Pacific
the butchered ox
I inhale you
like the cheapest cocaine
sometimes you're a light that enters the caverns of my heart
and you rest there like a lamb
and I see you fall down into sludge forever
you only stand out for being the criminal of the vastest night
the dome of vipers night
for the edge of your knives against a laugh
for the gunshots of your unkind nights
peppered with bats
for your chupaderos and motels where hope always rusts too early
in you alcohol is an incurable haemorrhage
and your streets
and your nightclubs
and your whorehouses and your psychiatrist remind me of the necrotic intestines that I've seen in your hospitals of excrement
My brothers and sisters
all this land a white line
the elegy of whales
Land the weight of your tears sinks me in a violin despair
amorous garden for those blessed by the dollar and jewels
God bless bestiality!
God bless our sinking!
None of our dreams will remain
only your banks and businesses and your shopping centres and your political parties
None of us will remain in the face of this storm of electric saws
my land who art in heaven
why have your children decapitated you with this machete?
Where's your Nicaragua now?
Where's your laugh like a nightclub
like a plagueless summer of abundant mangoes
like a morning of skylarks in the window
like a gust of splendid parakeets?
Where's your electric-fenceless sky
with no watchmen at the gates?
Where's your sea and the caress of her waves?
Where are the daisies of the city
(killer of the small
of the bread seekers
of those who self-consume like altar candles)?
This country is a death ticket
in continual decline
for your daily devoured sex
for your 28 gunshot heart
for your unlistened-to symphony.
Nobody knows your real name
a virgin in this carnival of wolves
in this fetid accumulation
in this warren of cocaine.
One day you'll be
an unidentified corpse.
a father slices his 2 children
with his ally the night
then kills himself
will never again be a swing
in a park with a lawn well-tended by sun and rain
nor a laugh dripping with sugar and oats
nor trumpets in search of dawn
2 kids as small as medals are hanged
Miroslava Arely Rosales Vásquez. Ph.D. student in Literature (Romanistik) at Bergische Universität Wuppertal, Germany. She earned a Master in Hispanic-American Literature from the University of Guanajuato, Mexico (2019). She is part of the working group “Identities and Communities” of the International Latin American Network of the University of Oxford, Red Europea de Investigaciones sobre Centroamérica (RedIsca), and Red de investigación de las literaturas de mujeres de América Central (Rilmac). Her fields of research are masculinities, violence, Central American migration, and wars in contemporary Mexican, and Central American narratives. She is currently editing a book about Central American migration with professors Mauricio Espinoza (University of Cincinnati), and Ignacio Sarmiento (State University of New York at Fredonia).
Dylan Brennan. In 2019 Ireland Professor of Poetry Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin awarded Dylan Brennan the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary Award. His debut poetry collection, Blood Oranges, was published by The Dreadful Press in 2014 and was awarded the Patrick Kavanagh Award runner-up prize. In 2017 he collaborated on Guadalupe & Other Hallucinations, a series of exhibitions and an illustrated e-book, with Belfast-based visual artist Jonathan Brennan. In 2016 he co-edited Rethinking Juan Rulfo's Creative World: Prose, Photography, Film with Prof. Nuala Finnegan (UCC), a volume of academic essays on the work of Mexican writer/photographer Juan Rulfo. He has been invited to read at major literary festivals in Colombia, Nicaragua, Mexico, Italy, Ireland and USA and has twice been recipient of a Culture Ireland Travel Grant.
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