100 Refutations: Day 69

Return to the Countryside

Women pounded the grain
for a vegetable stew

night was imminent
they had to hurry because lanterns
were forbidden

when the gong called for dinner
the soldiers did not share the meal
with the peasants

the next morning half of them
had denounced their parents
the other half wore posters on their bodies
condemned to certain death

the order was to climb the mountain
to live up in the heights among the lowliest
but the sky answered with floods

so they returned to the cities
looking for carrion

that was my army
ravenous crows


In the line a woman shouts
there’s flour

I think of warm biscuits

Soon I hear
only rice is left
but my happiness is futile

They’re bringing sugar
Oh! miracle
I will wait
I hear words ricochet
the sugar is gone

The line begins to disperse

I persist
eventually they will bring something
finally a hand offers me a chicken
I leave with my treasure

In a bookstore nearby
a friend has the nerve to read me a long poem
the poet doesn’t know why I flee
such an ordinary goodbye fills me with guilt

You must live in a country with hunger
to understand how a poem’s symmetry
can be broken
by the slow drip of guts and blood


María Teresa Ogliastri

María Teresa Ogliastri was born in Los Teques, Venezuela, and lives in Caracas. She is the author of five collections of poetry: Del diario de la señora Mao (From the Diary of Madame Mao2011); Polo Sur (South Pole2008); Brotes de Alfalfa (Alfalfa Sprouts, 2007); Nosotros los inmortales (We, the Immortals, 1997); and Cola de Plata (Silver Tail1994). She has been featured at poetry festivals throughout Latin America, and her poems appear in several anthologies of contemporary Venezuelan poetry. She is a professor of philosophy at the Central University of Venezuela.

Yvette Neisser

Yvette Neisser is the author of Grip, winner of the 2011 Gival Press Poetry Award. Her translations from Spanish include South Pole by María Teresa Ogliastri and Difficult Beauty: Selected Poems by Luis Alberto Ambroggio. Her poems, translations, essays, and reviews have appeared in such publications as Foreign Policy in Focus, Virginia Quarterly Review, and the Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry. She is a founding Board Member of the DC-Area Literary Translators Network (DC-ALT) and has taught writing at George Washington University and The Writer’s Center.

Copyright (c) María Teresa Ogliastri. English translation copyright (c) Yvette Neisser, 2018.