Jessica Laser


Juan Sánchez Peláez, Caracas, 1979, by Vasco Szinetar


Ode to Persistence

In reality, without limit, but for measure and repose
The snake and the bee would give up their stings.
During the lecture on why, though the lit
Transparency seems incoherent, a lullaby
Threads its roots to the language
Rumoring them to grow as I describe.
Return the vessels through an immense
Shy body littered with drunk evidence
If by drunkenness my evidence is
Brave enough to be of her, who opens up
The cover revealing my amulets accidentally
Guarded all this time against her
Because she was anonymous and they
Sought fame. Balancing my memory of her falling
Asleep in a sleepless phrase punctuated by bones
I lack diction. I would sleep but the human
Moment’s an animal and to sleep is to vehemently
Shut the grand cage. I would wake the gold leaf
Adorning her cover, paralyzed but happy, pressed
As life to death and face the years away from me
That worry on abysses formed where others fell
As I do for her by bullets from the arms we use
By usufruct, till she’s too much, and when we have
To hand them back, she leaves deep imprints on our
Hands, where holding them we tried to grip the soul.




I am my own neither
When I lose the river
And lose her verifiable sun
Nor when I remove from
The absolute the sea.
But when I am red
And you unoccluded
Iris, I am all of the souls
As they shine with men
Women, valleys, ices,
Mute eternal embraces,
Tributaries, oceans, gulfs,
Ditches, muses, fortune,
Blessings, placelessness,
Inlets, lovers, dreams,
A mountain stream, each net,
Line, hook, a crook, four
Tenants, a double
Bed, couches, flats, beggars,
Granite, money, cuckolds,
Boomerangs, catch-alls,
Laughter, criers, operas,
Plays, sordid affairs and
One beautiful one, John Donne,
His spirit, the Holy Three,
Meter, rhyme, posterity,
The Adriatic, Danube, Nile,
Silver streaming British Isle,
A cow, sheep, a denizen, a courtesan,
Some outlawed Russian nobility
Title that brings you no honor these days,
The view from above,
The one from below, shirts with
English phrases worn all over untouristed
Europe, glory, horses,
Stone horses, covers, a bet, a lost bet,
World Cup games, clover, six beers,
One cigarette, three friends, different times,
The same time, seven, nine,
Livers, spleens, mummies
Still containing them, a genuine
Stone home, kids under Roman
Arches, one big brass statue
Of James Joyce, a cocktail
Based on Ulysses, the Irish
Word for this, checked jerseys,
Striped jerseys, New Jersey,
Love handles, skinny smokers,
Cloud nine, cloud eight, cloud
Seven, cloud six, cloud five
And rain, rain go away,
Air conditioning
And what else what else
Now what my little blue canoe
My little blue


The Creation of Habit

The mayor sleeps at the threshold
Of the kissing booth inside her home.
She sleeps on the stone
You stand on should you need to reach her.
Thou shalt not cover it.
And it came to pass that a silent film was being shot inside the mayor’s home
And to the booth the host invited her guests
To express a willingness to hold thy breath
By grief at that which thou hast done
And remember it not, nor tell of it,
Lest thou be grieved again.
Before, as ever, I’m taxed at that stone. The mayor is finally
Calm in her love. Once, because I was quoting Dante
To the mayor’s guests, I was taken by chance
Up the spiral and asked
To tutor her children
For the town’s upcoming spelling bee.
First, they tested me: “Think of another
Name for stone.” I could only think of one.
“Now you must spell the name on that stone
If you can remember
And spell without grief.”
In the mayor’s home, thou shalt not speak.


Juan Sánchez Peláez (Altagracia de Orituco, 1922 - Caracas, 2003) published seven collections of poetry between 1951 and 1989. A precursor of Surrealism and member of the Chilean group Mandrágora, he was one of the founding fathers of contemporary Venezuelan poetry and deeply influenced generations of Venezuelan writers. In 1969, Sánchez Peláez was Fellow of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa.