For a couple of years now, a piece attributed to Rafael Cadenas has been making the rounds on the web. It has been shared thousands of thousands of times on Facebook and Twitter, and it’s even dripped onto the worst gutters of cyberspace: those massive Whatsapp chains on your mom’s smartphone.
The article has won the guaro author high praise from hardcore opposition web keyboard warriors. And now that Cadenas has been awarded the Federico García Lorca prize in poetry, it has resurfaced.
Many people who have celebrated the award have only read that piece: a lament about how the best of Venezuela is spread all over the world and how what’s left is an unrecognizable piece of burnt land. They have been applauding his clarity of mind —for such an old fellow— regarding the state of current affairs in the country. The debacle, you know.
They are right to praise the poet’s clarity of mind, because the 85 year old, in fact, has very clear thoughts on what’s been going on in the country. Proof of this was his response to César Miguel Rondón, when the journalist prompted him to answer ‘what could poetry do to help the country in this dark hour?’ ‘Very little,’ he answered.
The piece’s many fans are, however, missing one small detail. Cadenas very clearly didn’t write it.
Its title – “Venezuela, Venezuela me hace falta” – is the only part of it that Cadenas actually wrote. The original author, Golcar Rojas, used it as an epigraph at the top of his piece, and then it started jumping from one crappy website to the other, until, predictably the magic words “Rafael Cadenas” migrated triumphantly to the byline.
Some poor soul even wrote a paper analyzing the meaning of the poet’s words, and it was published in a UCV site.
Not a big deal, really. It’s not uncommon for writings to be attributed to the wrong author. Just like in that story attributed (by the way) to García Márquez, where an old lady has a premonition that something horrible is going to happen to the town, and word spreads that someone thinks something horrible is going to happen to the town, and folks start saying that someone said something horrible was going to happen, and everybody assumes something horrible is going to happen, and they end up burning down the whole damn town before something horrible happens, but too late, in fact something horrible happened to the town. It’s wildfire. A viral reaction. The contagion of stupidity.
But how could a person have known that a piece attributed to Rafael Cadenas wasn’t really by him?
Well, by reading Cadenas in the first place. Yeah, by inoculating yourself against the nonsense.
Because if any of these people had read Cadenas before, they would know how simple his words are how clean his style. Hard. Minimalistic in essence, not at all pompous, and never in search of an easy tear.
Yes, his work has always had a confrontational approach towards power. But if you read him, you would know. Just know in your heart (dammit!), that the man who has admitted to not having words to spare in his final days, could never had written this kind of dreck:
This is not a country anymore, just a parody of a banana republic. This puddle of lead and blood, this mourning in gerund, this cry that doesn’t cease, this is not the country of which the Gloria al Bravo Pueblo sings about. This, this plot of docile lines of hunger is not the land that gave birth to the independence heroes. This is nothing more that the bolivarian republic of venezuela. Like that, with lowercase letters. Diminished and impoverished. In the shadows, vyle and sad, the way it was bequeathed to us by a megalomaniac who thought of himself as an intergalactic and immortal leader. A resented being which they are now trying to turn into a deity.
Such words you might find in the comment section, below. Not in Cadenas’s verse.
Here at Caracas Chronicles we want to give you the gift of Cadenas, the vaccine against stupidity:
I who have never had a trade
who have felt weak facing every competitor
who lost the best titles for life
who barely arrive somewhere and already want to leave
(believing that moving is a solution)
who have been denied in anticipation and ridiculed by
the most able
who lean against the walls so I won’t completely collapse
who am a target of laughter even for myself
who thought my father was eternal
who have been humiliated by professors of literature
who one day asked how I could help and the answer was a
who will never be able to start a home, nor be brilliant, nor
triumph in life
who have been abandoned by many people because I barely
who am ashamed of acts I haven’t committed
who have needed little incentive to start running down
who have lost a center I never had
who have become the laughing stock of so many people for
living in limbo
who never found anyone who would put up with me
who was omitted in favor of people more miserable than me
who will spend my whole life like this and who next year
will be mocked many more times for my ridiculous
who am tired of receiving advice from others more lethargic
than me (“You’re so slow, get with it, wake up”)
who will never be able to travel to India
who have received favors without giving anything in return
who traverse the city from one end to another like a feather
who let myself be pulled along by others
who have no personality and don’t want to have one
who muffle my rebellion all day
who haven’t joined the guerrillas
who haven’t done anything for my people
who don’t belong to the FALN and all these things and others
whose enumeration would be interminable make me
who cannot escape my prison
who have been dismissed everywhere for being useless
who actually haven’t been able to get married or go to Paris
or have a serene day
who refuse to acknowledge facts
who always drool on my story
who am an imbecile and more than an imbecile from birth
who lost the thread of the discourse being executed within me
and I haven’t been able to find it
who don’t cry when I feel the desire to do so
who arrive late to everything
who have been ruined by so many marches and
who desire perfect immobility and impeccable speed
who am not what I am nor what I am not
who despite everything maintain a satanic pride even if
at certain hours I’ve been humble to the point of
bringing myself to the level of stones
who have lived in the same circle for fifteen years
who thought I was predestined for something beyond
the everyday and have achieved nothing
who will never wear a tie
who can’t find my body
who have perceived my falsehood in lightning flashes and
haven’t been able to topple myself, sweep away
everything and create my indolence, my flotation,
my wandering a new freshness, and obstinately
commit suicide within arm’s reach
I will get up off the ground even more ridiculous to keep
mocking others and myself until the day of final
[Translation by Guillermo Parra]