Patria o muerte— ¡Venceremos!

TRANSLATED FROM SPANISH BY DAVID BRUNSON

 

I joined the socialist party at 16.
That is
I lived through the flowering of a failed state before losing my virginity.
We watered the votes with our voices,
The revolution was our face in front of the Che sticker that Grandpa
Stuck on the rearview mirror as a poetic act.
That was before he was held hostage.
But who were we? 

We’re up to our elbows in blood
Even though we know we’re not the bad guys
And that there’s no harm in an idea.
But there can be. 

Because speaking of silver spoons and the poor, Auntie,
Is to believe that we aren’t poor,
And all the liquor chocolates in our crystal bowl
Couldn’t mask the bitter taste of last Christmas
When many people didn’t eat.
But our stomachs didn’t roar with hunger.
So then, who were we? 

The generation of change that left the country,
The aspiring artist that will never paint her Uncle Roberto,
The ghost of the girl that celebrated the victory of Chávez—
February ’99.
But I didn’t even know that Jesus didn’t exist.
So who were we?
Mother, when we screamed at each other,
When we couldn’t agree,
And I told you that I was afraid,
That I’d had a gun pointed at me
And I had to be escorted by a bodyguard,
But I didn’t know where we were going,
Nor who we were.
Who were we? Where do you go, Uncle, every day,
In your suit of green foliage where no flowers grow?
What does it feel like to lose control of a border?
What is a border?
A border is a scar where goodbyes are written.

Do you think of us?
Tell me that you think of us,
Because I’m ashamed of the image of the president shaking your hand.
I don’t want to remember this photograph, but here it is,
Just like my dream of my aunt,
With her hair as red as Klimt’s Danaë,
Laying down on Chávez’s grave
Reciting our names,
Although we don’t know,
We don’t know yet:
Who were we? 

Here we are, a family name lost to statistics,
Another foreign name,
But back there
              Back there
We are the news, the front page of the paper
Which subscribes to hope,
The Vice Ministry of Supreme Social Happiness,
A place that exists, just as Ernesto exists,
My cousin who honors his uniform,
Trafficking gasoline
That sets fire to my gums
Every time I chew on his name.
But I love him more than all the rats
That want to dirty our faces,
Because he is also family,
But he will always be right-wing;
He walked through Miami, rode yachts,
Never opening books,
His daughters dressed as Disney princesses,
Wore Real Madrid jerseys,
Mulco watches… 

And who were we?
My grandmother serving coffee to an unknown Chávez
On his first campaign?
Or the mandate of Bolivar’s sword
Which cut across Latin America?
But did it also cut through us?
           Sabana, mañana cuando me vaya,
           Te quedaras tan solita….
           Savannah, tomorrow when I go,
           You will be left so alone 

And who were we?
Because today we’re the party, we’re partitioned,
We’ve parted,
We’re halved, divided…
And every time we talk politics
I want to cry, because the truth is that yes it hurts,
And one avoids thinking in mournful words
Like silence. 

But the brother of my first love
Is locked away for treason to la Patria.
How can one betray something
That they no longer recognize?
No longer loving the sacrifice of their children
Mothers un-kiss the prison bars.
They pull out their god-given hair and eat it in rebellion
Though Diosdado Cabello’s name
cannot be berated or unbraided,
And we are dissolved,
Uprooted,
Dispersed across the entire world,
Speaking English, Arabic, Dutch,
Learning new verbs,
Because we don’t know what to call what we’re doing. 

Who were we?
The grandchildren of the landowners
Who built the country with oil-blackened hands,
Because our footprints…
What does it matter how many times we mark our tracks,
In the ration lines at the supermarket,
Or in customs and airports?
It’s needles pressed into the lines of our hands
And we leave pools of blood
Each time we hug on the street corners
Where we run into each other
And in the mirrors where we convince ourselves that we aren’t so strange,
That we’re not like them.
But we leave, stained red,
And the Velvet Revolution still has not reached us,
And we still don’t know who we are.

 

 

 

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Venezuelan poet Sara Emanuel Viloria researches and practices both two-dimensional conceptual illustration and watercolor, as well as digital illustration. Viloria incorporates fine art themes into her narrative and poetry—a distinct characteristic of her work—in which she writes to “heal” the wounded canvas. Her poetry has been anthologized in the Antologia del II Festival Internacional de Santiago, and published in the plaquette Incendiario by the Chilean-Venezuelan journal and press Los Poetas del Cinco.

David Brunson is a fourth-year poetry and translation MFA candidate at the University of Arkansas. His poems and translations have appeared in or are forthcoming from Manoa: A Pacific Journal of International WritingNashville ReviewCopper Nickel, and Los Poetas del 5. He is the editor and anthologist of a Spanish-language anthology of Venezuelan migrant poets in Chile, forthcoming from Libros del Amanecer in Santiago, Chile.

 

Lyric from “Sabana” by Simón Díaz, an iconic Venezuelan folk singer.
Patria o muerte— ¡Venceremos! is a rallying cry first used during the Cuban Revolution

 

Read more Sara Emanuel Viloria in this issue of TLR: “Eat Shit, Horseface