100 Refutations: Day 74

Dangerous Matter [Excerpt]


Her awareness grew like an apple:
it was green and tiny at first,
then its volume increased, bursting
its own particles, stretching its very tissues to
gain territory. She wouldn’t have
realized if she hadn’t one day approached
too close to the mirror and an ache manifested
at her temples; she thought herself like that child with
a swelled head whose mother took him to the parks
in a wheelbarrow, not like how one carries their
newborn, but like a circus freak.
His head was largely deformed, his eyes
elongated, and one of them almost closed.
The pain in her temples grew as much as
that apple, which was no longer green nor tiny;
it grew so as she looked at herself in the mirror
that afternoon that she became aware.


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
than 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.


Gabriel Cantú Westendarp

Gabriel Cantú Westendarp has published five collections of poetry, including Naturaleza muerta (2011); Poemas del árbol (2009); El filo de la playa (2007); El efecto (2006); and Material peligroso (2015), in which these poems appear. She has also published a novel called Hamburgo en alguna parte (2016). She won the Ramón López Velarde National Poetry Prize in 2012 for Material peligroso (2015). She also co-founded the magazine Otra Orilla and works at the Metropolitan University of Monterrey.

Lawrence Schimel

Lawrence Schimel was born in New York City and has lived in Madrid for nearly 20 years. He writes in both Spanish and English and has published over 100 books as author or anthologist in a wide range of genres: poetry, fiction, essays, children’s books, graphic novels, and even a cookbook. He is also a prolific translator. Recent translations include the novel La Bastarda by Trifonia Melibea Obono (Feminist Press, 2018); the children’s book The Wild Book by Juan Villoro (Restless Books, 2017); and poetry collections Nothing Is Lost: Selected Poems by Jordi Doce (Shearsman, 2017), Destruction of the Lover by Luis Panini (Pleiades Press, forthcoming 2019), and Hamartia by Carmen Boullosa (White Pine Press, forthcoming 2019).

Copyright (c) Gabriel Cantú Westendarp. English translation copyright (c) Lawrence Schimel, 2018.