100 Refutations: The Mystic


María Adela Bonavita knew she didn’t have much time left, so she called her brother to her bedside and told him to write down what she was about to tell him.

She suffered from what her brother would later describe as a “nervous illness,” which appears to have plagued her most of her life. “The illness,” however, “never […] robbed her of hope,” wrote her brother, “though she knew of the incurable damage it had caused.” And I imagine him beside her bed, clasping a pen, averting his eyes. Writing down titles while life slipped out of his sister with each breath, with each word. Silver smoke through metal bars and light through outstretched fingers. And I wonder if he thought, ok—thought, whatever you say—thought, we humor the dying because we cannot disappoint the dead.

“She was not a Catholic,” not one to see in a cracked ceiling the opening of gates, not one to fear the floor might burn her feet. But she did perform her own last rites, “The Magnets of the Abyss,” “The Birth of Symbols,” “The Turn of Thought.” Reciting titles for her brother, enumerating poems as though christening constellations. “She was,” her brother wrote in the introduction to her promised second book, “a mystic, I think.”

And, as I imagine her voice saying, I fall into the abyss. / I long for it, dictating lines of poetry for a someday book with her last-day breath, I hear a friend’s voice, too, asking, “Why do we do this, Lina?” when I tell María Adela’s story, when I say, “…largely unknown…,” and “…out of print….” Why? And I shrug, saying, “I don’t know,” though maybe I do.

“Around noon on the ninth of May, she combed her hair all on her own and put on a wool robe.” María Adela on her deathbed, “in a state of strange calm,” and her brother beside her with a list of poems in his shirt pocket. Lina, what’s the point? Why do any of this? Then, “her light began to dim.” A ceiling without cracks, a cold-tile floor beneath, and silver smoke slipping out an open window and rising toward the perforating light of “peaceful stars.” Because she asked.

Lina M. Ferreira C.-V.


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Lina M. Ferreira C.-V.


Lina M. Ferreira C.-V.

Lina M. Ferreira C.-V. (100 Refutations translator and editor) earned MFAs in creative nonfiction writing and literary translation from The University of Iowa. She is the author of Drown Sever Sing from Anomalous Press and Don’t Come Back from Mad River Books, as well as editor, with Sarah Viren, of the forthcoming anthology Essaying the Americas. Her fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and translation work has been featured in journals including Bellingham ReviewChicago ReviewFourth GenreBrevityPoets & Writers, and The Sunday Rumpus, among others. She won Best of the Net and Iron Horse Review’s Discovered Voices Award, has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, and is a Rona Jaffe fellow. She moved from Colombia to China to Columbus, Ohio to Richmond, Virginia, where she works as an assistant professor for Virginia Commonwealth University. Visit www.linawritesessays.com.


Amanda Dambrink (100 Refutations co-editor) works as an editor for the University of Wisconsin's Continuing Education, Outreach & E-Learning program in Madison, Wisconsin. She also holds an MA in creative nonfiction from Ohio University, and her previous work has appeared in Prairie Margins and The Normal School, among others.

Copyright (c) Lina M. Ferreira C.-V., 2018.