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Rafael Cadenas: Failure

What I took for victory is only smoke.

Failure, rock bottom language, trail from a different more demanding place, your

        handwriting is difficult to make out.

When you put your mark on my forehead, I never thought about the message you were

        bringing, more valuable than any triumph.

Your blazing face pursued me and I didn’t know it was to save me,

For my own good you’ve pushed me into corners, denied me easy successes, deprived

        me of ways out.

It was me you meant to defend by not granting me brilliance.

Purely out of love for me you’ve manipulated the emptiness that on so many nights has

        made me speak feverishly to an absent woman.

To protect me you made way for others, led a woman to prefer someone more resolute,

        removed me from suicidal trades.

You’ve always helped me out.

Yes, your ulcerous, spat on, hateful body has received me in my purest form to hand me

        over to the clarity of the desert.

Out of madness I’ve cursed you, ill-used you, blasphemed against you.

You don’t exist.

You were invented by delirious pride.

How much I owe you!

You elevated me to a new rank washing me with a rough sponge, throwing me on to

        my true battlefield, assigning me the weapons left behind by victory.

You led me by the hand to the only water that mirrors me.

Because of you I don’t know the anxiety of playing a role, using force to stay on a rung,

        climbing by my own effort, quarreling over status, inflating myself till I burst.

You’ve made me humble, silent, and rebellious.

I don’t sing you for what you are, but for what you haven’t let me be. For not giving me

        a different life. For hemming me in.

You’ve offered me only nakedness.

It’s true that you taught me roughly –and you cauterized me yourself!– but you also

        gave me the happiness of not fearing you.

Thanks for taking thickness from me in exchange for large handwriting.

Thanks to you who deprived me of swellings.

Thanks for the riches to which you compelled me.

Thanks for building my home with clay.

Thanks for pushing me aside.



Translated by Rowena Hill  


Cuanto he tomado por victoria es sólo humo.

Fracaso, lenguaje del fondo, pista de otro espacio más exigente, difícil de entre leer es tu


Cuando ponías tu marca en mi frente, jamás pensé en el mensaje que traías, más

        precioso que todos los triunfos.

Tu llameante rostro me ha perseguido y yo no supe que era para salvarme.

Por mi bien me has relegado a los rincones, me negaste fáciles éxitos, me has quitado


Era a mí a quien querías defender no otorgándome brillo.

De puro amor por mí has manejado el vacío que tantas noches me ha hecho hablar

        afiebrado a una ausente.

Por protegerme cediste el paso a otros, has hecho que una mujer prefiera a alguien más

        resuelto, me desplazaste de oficios suicidas.

Tú siempre has venido al quite.

Sí, tu cuerpo llagado, escupido, odioso, me ha recibido en mi más pura forma para

entregarme a la nitidez del desierto.

Por locura te maldije, te he maltratado, blasfemé contra tí.

Tú no existes.

Has sido inventado por la delirante soberbia.

¡Cuánto te debo!

Me levantaste a un nuevo rango limpiándome con una esponja áspera, lanzándome a

        mi verdadero campo de batalla, cediéndome las armas que el triunfo abandona.

Me has conducido de la mano a la única agua me refleja.

Por ti yo no conozco la angustia de representar un papel, mantenerme a la fuerza en un

        escalón, trepar con esfuerzos propios, reñir las jerarquías, inflarme hasta reventar.

Me has hecho humilde, silencioso y rebelde.

Yo no te canto por lo que eres, sino por lo que no me has dejado ser. Por no darme otra vida. Por haberme ceñido.           

Me has brindado sólo desnudez.

Cierto que me enseñaste con dureza ¡y tú misma traías el cauterio!, pero también me

        diste la alegría de no temerte.

Gracias por quitarme espesor a cambio de una letra gruesa.

Gracias a ti, que me has privado de hinchazones.

Gracias por la riqueza a que me has obligado.

Gracias por construir con barro mi morada.

Gracias por apartarme.


Copyrightght 2021 Rafael Cadenas. Translation copyright 2021 Rowena Hill. From The Land of Mild Light by Rafael Cadenas. Ed. Nidia Hernandez (Arrowsmith, 2021). Included in Vox Populi by permission of the publisher.

Rafael Cadenas (born 1930) is a Venezuelan poet and essayist. He taught for many years at the Central University of Venezuela. He received the National Prize for Literature (1985), Guadalajara’s International Book Fair prize of literature (2009) and the García Lorca Prize (2015).

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This entry was posted on June 25, 2021 by in Opinion Leaders, Poetry and tagged , , .

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