The following poems by Gabriela Cantú Westendarp appear in Dangerous Matter, translated into English by Lawrence Schimel, available in Fall 2018 from Literal Publishing and UANL.
Extracts from “DANGEROUS MATTER”
Some matter might be
dangerous, an excess of light (for example)
might provoke a temporary blindness or, on
the contrary, might induce a state of
clairvoyance, which if that were the case, is also
temporary. The effect depends on the object
that irradiates the shine and the capacity of response
of the other. The other is you. You when you pull back and
you look strange to yourself, when you don’t recognize your
own body and its reaction, you when
you speak sentences that seem alien to you, you when
you’re at the precise moment of falling asleep and
you resist, you when you’re struck by the light
and for a few moments you feel yourself the prey of some
savage animal, a sensation that seems eternal,
but which in reality (as I said) is temporary
and, if you’re lucky, will open a door for you.
Certain things should only be seen for a few
seconds, otherwise too much is risked.
Let me explain. There are glances whose strength can
come to erode edges, surfaces and, in extreme
cases, even entrails if the object had them.
The effect is not limited to the exterior, a mirror
phenomenon takes place. The observer’s inside can also suffer
the erosion and therefore the warning, to call it one, is
in both directions. With this I don’t want to say that the
aforementioned should abstain from practicing contemplation
(not at all). They are the ones who practice it
with more insistence, perhaps also with better
results. A brief glance, just fleeting, might be
enough, might even be much more intense and effective
that a prolonged one. It is not the same to look as to look.
Carrying out this action implies, paradoxically, closing
one’s eyes, turning within, and constructing the image.
Extracts from “THE SYMPTOMS”
Some time ago I did some reading about the
body and the soul. Are the needs of the body truly
those of the soul? Sometimes I think they are, that
there is a tremendous coordination between the parts.
On those days I function like an orchestra that
will play “The Four Seasons.” I feel
as if I were the city of Cuernavaca (where
I’ve only been twice, but which without doubt
has the best climate in the country). But
I also must say that there are moments when my
parts don’t manage to coordinate. Sometimes I wake with
my spirit clear and willing to traverse the day creating
new compositions and resolving the most-difficult of
challenges, but the body doesn’t respond and I feel
like some wounded little animal, a dove with a broken
wing let’s say. Then I must keep abed and close
my eyes and provoke something like an unfolding,
an escape so as not to explode.
As if I didn’t speak enough during the day they say
that I speak while I sleep, and I think they’re telling the truth.
Last night my own voice woke me as if it were that of
someone else. It seems that some of my nocturnal pronouncements
have to do with dates and names, but sometimes
I also curse, that is to say, I speak high-faluting words, words
that if said in the light of day and in full awareness wouldn’t
worry me. They say that only 5% of us adults suffer
from somniloquence (the scientific word that refers to speaking
while asleep). They also say that in these recitations,
both real and fantastic elements intermingle. It’s true that I suffer
from certain sleep disorders and that I’d sometimes like to be able
to sleep for three or four days straight without interruption; and while I’m
certain that that is far from happening I don’t lose hope.
Translated by Lawrence Schimel