Poetry | Untitled Poetry by Samuel Vásquez (trans. Christina MacSweeney)

Cattleya Dowiana (Oro Derivados 100x150cm Óleo sobre lienzo 2017)

Samuel Vásquez (trans. Christina MacSweeney)

Untitled Poetry

My coherence isn’t well received. Coherence is a chosen not obligatory inheritance. They expect me to split. Employ social heteronomy. Accept opposing opinions, veiled impositions.

Expect that a multiplicity of faces will open doors that are closed to me, will admit me, approve of me, applaud me. They prefer the monstrousness of many heads to the harmony of just one.

They ask me to guard my tongue. Or at least moderate its whiplashes. Practise the tempered norms of euphemism and shrewd courtesy.

They demand I change my thinking. And when I refuse, they put me in solitary confinement, like a madman. I became a painter, a dancer, an actor. They demand I change my convictions. I became a musician, believing melody could charm snakes, lead rats into the river. That was no use. They demand I renounce my beliefs. On the edge of the abyss, I risked my life, became a tightrope walker. None of it was any use. They demand I leave my opinions at home. Not express them at parties, in meetings, conferences, cafés. Give up, abandon, abstain from fulfilling my desires. Eradicate my ideas. Stop dreaming. They insist that utopias have gone out of fashion.

They pass judgment. Say my inability to forget is contagious. Say my eyes are always directed at what should be overlooked. That I see too much. That when it comes to vision, indiscretion is a sin.

That one’s conscience needs the beach, the sea, a hammock, rum. Needs rest.

That pretence is necessary in the face of stupidity, that abuses demand understanding, crime forgiveness. That I must pass my enthusiasms through the reasonable filter they have designed.

They say that I must soften the edges of my all too harsh, haughty features. That my eyes identify, accuse, my breathing is deep, anxious, aggressive, my mouth expresses mockery, sniggers or cackles, that my ears hear things they shouldn’t.

They promise there’s hope, that there will be changes, say I must take it easy.

They advise me to loosen up. That way, I’ll painlessly fit into the moulds they have designed. Advise me to accept the world they have constructed. If I do, I’ll be accepted too.

Scorned, on the edge of nothingness, I do exercises intended to alter my features. I manage to smooth their shapes. I succeed in eradicating the depiction until I reach three basic blotches. It’s like a painting by Bacon and so is even more unacceptable. I put a glass of water to the blotch that has replaced my mouth. I see the harmonious, transparent line of the glass and accept the wordless truth of beauty. I attempt to restore my face, make it more like me. But that’s no longer possible


The Colombian Edition of The London Magazine is out now and available from our online shop. Published in anticipation of next month’s Hay Festival in Cartagena de Indias, this issue will be followed by a Spanish language version, out in January 2022, in Colombia and the UK.
Cover image: Ritual (Pescadores), oil on canvas, 100x150cm (Pedro Ruiz, 2010)


Samuel Vásquez is the Co-Founder and Curator of the Bienal de Arte de Medellín and commissary for the Bienal de Pintura de Montevideo. He was invited to inaugurate the Modern Art Museum of Cartagena with theatre and the Modern Art Museum of Medellín with painting. He is the founder and director of the Taller de Artes de Medellín which brings together Theatre, Music and Visual Arts. His awards for theatre, essays and poetry include: Premio Nacional de Dramaturgia, Beca Nacional de Creación del Ministerio de Cultura, Premio en el Concurso Internacional de Dramaturgia Ciudad de Bogotá, Premio de Ensayo Ciudad de MedellínPremio de Creación Ciudad de Medellín and Premio de Poesía Ciudad de Medellín. The Museum of Antioquia awarded him a special distinction and the University of Antioquia gave him the Premio Nacional de Cultura por Reconocimiento. In 2013 Arcadia magazine called the Anthology of Colombian Poets “20 DEL XX” the best book of poetry published in Colombia that year. 

Christina MacSweeney received the 2016 Valle Inclán prize for her translation of Valeria Luiselli’s The Story of My Teeth, and her translation of Daniel Saldaña París’ Among Strange Victims was a finalist for the 2017 Best Translated Book Award. Other authors she has translated include: Elvira Navarro (A Working Woman), Verónica Gerber Bicecci (Empty Set; Palabras migrantes/ Migrant Words) and Julián Herbert (Tomb Song; The House of the Pain of Others).

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