Marie-Elizabeth Mali



Palabras son particulas de polvo

flotando en un rayo de luz

que divide el cuarto en dos,

un mapa de abandono.

No alcanzan. Toda mi vida

he querido tocar la chispa:

el tú que es más yo que yo,

el yo dentro de todos.

Necesito telescopio, tren,

y espejo para conocerte

pero no me llevan al fondo.

Tampoco te puedo conocer

por dichos sino por cambios

en el aire después que te has ido.

Tengo hambre. No me des

teorías ni noticias ni piropos.

Una amiga mía dice que el amor

no es sentimiento sino acción.

Extiéndeme la mano. Hagamos añicos

los ídolos que nos separan.

Hacienda La Trinidad, Caracas, Venezuela

Las maticas de café salen de la maraña,

vestigio de la hacienda cuya fundación

arruinada permanece en el bosque

al lado de la casa familiar. Aire destellante,

hongos que levantan cabezas mantilladas

de rocío. Cantos. Caos hipnótico.

De repente me veo en un cuerpo de hombre alto—

bigote, sombrero, camisa blanca—montando

a caballo: soy el gerente criollo que vigila

a los mestizos que recogen el café.

Desmonto y le pego a un jóven en la cara.

Se cae. Se queda caído.

En el presente, ya en mi cuerpo de prima,

empiezo a salmodear mi penitencia

y subo hasta dar un vistazo al Avila:

nublado. Una mariposa blanca aletea

alrededor de mí. Yo doy vueltas

con ella—tres en el sentido del reloj.

Bajo la caminata pensando

en los hindúes que se purifican así.

Será posible que el yo que yo era

haya sido perdonado? Dejo mi salmodia

y embisto la última subida hasta la casa

donde un perro saltando me ladra su bienvenida.

Canaima, Venezuela

Out of the green jumble rise

    the tepuys—flat-topped mesas

unique to this place—sheer faces

    visible through the morning fog

as we motor downriver toward camp

    in a curiara. At fourteen, I came here

with my parents, but all I remember

    is Jungle Rudy’s exalted jazz collection,

drawers and drawers of cassettes and LPs,

    and afternoons spent hiding with them

in the cool, church-like dark, understood

    by nobody but Billie and Nina.

How did I miss these sights: the tepuys,

    and Salto Angel, whose water falls so far

it turns to mist before it hits the pool,

    its drum and thunder doubled

by last night’s rain? On the curiara,

    a blue dragonfly lands on my thigh, huge,

and then I see it’s two.

    They fly away still attached.

I touch my husband’s shins behind me.

    As we pass acres and acres of charred trees—

camper, cigarette—the tepuys,

    these cathedrals of stone, hold down

their bass line of praise, and new ferns

    springing up around blackened trunks

uncurl their thin fingers toward

    the pierce, blare and high notes of sun.

Trip To Angel Falls, So Named In 1937 In Honor of Jimmy Angel, the White Bush Pilot Who “Discovered” the Falls While Searching For Gold In Venezuela

Upriver we travel to the rust-red Churún

     by way of the wider Carrao, in a curiara

          manned by two Pemón men.

The first rapid we climb comes as a surprise—

     the sharp right or left gesture downward

          by the rock watcher at the prow, the oar

in the water to swerve and slow.

     Dry season has started and the level is low.

          These men know every trap, every snag

in the rapids that could tumble or crack us.

     Watching the swing of his arm, the oar-brake,

           I wish I knew a place so well

I could climb the rush and crumble of it,

     wish I could see the rocks. I want to have

          more in common with these men

than arepas and whiskey. To them I’m a gringa

     and to me they’re inscrutable and we don’t

          get past that. I don’t know their names.

There isn’t space to ask them how they feel

     about this waterfall named Kerepakupai-Merú

          in their language; how they feel

hauling tourists to and from it, day after day,

     month after month; how the river

          sings to them, what the rocks say.

The next week, I fly home to concrete and glass,

     the rumble and crush of people,

          the looming boulders between us.


4 Poems


Marie-Elizabeth Mali was born in New York City to Venezuelan-American and Swedish parents and grew up tri-lingual. She has been a practitioner of Chinese Medicine, a massage therapist, and, on a good day, can put one foot behind her head. She is currently an MFA candidate in poetry at Sarah Lawrence College where she has also translated the poetry of Venezuelan writer Yolanda Pantin under the guidance of María Negroni. Her work has appeared in Lumina and is forthcoming in Calyx and Tiferet