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  • Mónica Ramón Ríos

Actualizado: 20 oct

My mother says to me I should feel the abundance around me when I tell her I can afford something, that I can't afford something else.

This land is abundant, at least more than the piece of land where I was born, about to drown under the Pacific ocean or crashed by the mountain. A mere strip of land in the map, no matter how it looks on a clean day when you ask yourself how is it possible that a city is made in the skirts of such an imposing wall. There is abundance there, but it is limited. Limited are the work posts. Governments resources are limited. Limited are the number of rich people who then limit the people to whom they give their money. There, people fight for everything, a house, a spot on the road, the right to walk the way you want, writing a book, buying one, being read. In the US there are more than billion readers, more than 800 million book sales per year, an expanding empire that can tour books to places unknown. But there’s also trees, land, people, and trash cans full of edible food.

As a kid, we used to admire the loads of presents brought to us by family who had ended up here in exile. They brought us clothes, used jewelry, watches, t shirts, socks, toys. And we, accustomed to the scarcity of the dictatorship, were henceforth ravished by those shitty objects and stored them like wealth.

I never thought about coming to this country until they offered me money to study and work. It was a sort of borrowed plan that I made my own for a while. It has worked for me, medium size, because somehow work has always landed on my lap. Not the best jobs, of course, but sufficiently prestigious to bare the thrusts of gringo supremacy, constructed on the thought that everybody should their service particularly if we speak Spanish or have brown skin. Some of us serve, emulating scenes of subjection when you lose respect for people you once admired or desired; some of us don’t. I’m of the latter kind.

My mother says I should feel I deserve abundance when I finish telling her my weekly events. The past becomes a knot in the belly of that school that still haunts me at night, and the memory of my teenage years traversing the city with my foreign looks and local saber. Courageous one might say. Necessary to open bridges and ponds, I answer. Seeing places that were banned to someone with my looks and lack of knowledge as I was. I was laughed at allright. I was teased. I prepared for battle with the world and the limits it imposed on me. I was always battling. Until I got sick. A bruja, a seer, once told me that she saw in the cards that I was misplaced, as if the Earth’s magnets affected me negatively in the Southern Hemisphere. You are in the wrong hemisphere she said. And indeed I healed here.

But was I misplaced or displaced? And has that changed as my language and my culture has become champurria, and I can now use the language learned in the aulas santiaguinas to teach people to embrace displacement and create a place for inhabitation with words?

That mere possibility, the privilege of leaving that which makes me sick, is already abundance. The place beyond.

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  • Mónica Ramón Ríos

I am reading books left in pieces. I started Merleau-Ponty The Visible and the Invisible to write an article about a another book that was also published posthumously and the archive left by its author for us to decipher: Gabriela Mistral’s archive, a theory of the spectral emerging from her Poem of Chile, and a documentary that tried to reveal the ghost. In the hype of the philosophers of postmodernity, the fragment was interpreted as many things, among them the possibility of representing a mode of apprehension and understanding of a mind that was losing its course in a real then (and now) unreliable, some suggested maybe even unreal. But today as I read Merleau Ponty's fragments––as another time I did with Benjamin’s notes gathered as ouvre––I find that fragments have an element of surprise that compells me to read on. It is not exactly misunderstanding, which can easily happen in any philosophical work achevé. It is how the brewing of ideas anew exhudes via words.

I wrote to the editors of the volume who had commissioned the article to say that I can’t write it. It is a failure of sorts. I become their disappointment. But such a disappointment allows for something else to happen. A reading, an experience of reading, that is not attached to someone else’s will, the way I read as a teenager or in my early twenties before becoming unknowingly what I am today. Leave behind the fact that I had become almost a pen for hire, ready to write according to the standards imposed by the profession. The disciplining of the discipline. And my rebellious pen incapable of finding the drive to write for a book that as a reader would make me yawn in dispair, capable maybe of producing a bunch of fancy lines that another academic might cite and which would justify all the work around such amalgamation of words. Would it, though?

I think this as I am about to give up on the idea of applying to a higher paying job that I might not really want. Do I want a career in academia? Not in one that can’t accept that I write novels and short stories and texts of no real use such as this one in the effort of making another sense to recreate the present and shape another future. Or is it that I have been thinking too much about pleasure and the ways in which it can point us to a place which we actually would like to inhabit instead of patear la perra, pateando piedras, pasar el rato? And I wonder if such a road that I am taking will lead me to leave this road I has set for myself, including, materializing the fact that I can’t stand authority. Not the authority of someone I do not respect, but of someone of whom I can't see their vulnerabilities and their strengths mingled into something called a choice and that others call it life. I see through that. And I can’t become a subject to someone who does not see this in others and does not accept equality in that difference.

After leaving the article, I will go to Gabriela Mistral’s house in Bridgehampton, still impressed by the line in that documentary where the niece of Mistral’s lover said her aunt never spoke about the poet, despite the fact she lived with Mistral for ten years until her death and kept all the papers and recordings with her. Despite the various love letters and words of love and sex shared between them. And recorded for us to hear. I will go to that house asking who really dwells in that archive. For the specter. Nothing of that was meant to be seen but in fragments.

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  • Mónica Ramón Ríos

Actualizado: 17 oct

I start writing entries as an experiment. The experiment of writing in English. I lack the language, as too many colleagues or sometime random men wish to remind me, despite the fact that I am using variations from across the Atlantic of from across the boroughs. Boroughs where correct English lies in the mind of financial advisors or software engineers. I don’t lack the language. I learned to speak it with an accent since I was seven. I still speak it with an accent which I can regulate to either épater le bourgeois or to sound sexy, depending on the crowd. I write during what others would call "insomnia" and I would call "free time" during which, if I am not writing, my mind wonders into ugly things or loses itself in the catastrophes.

On the outside, my life seems pretty simple, some would say a success; the same amount of people would call it a failure. I live with my partner and my son in a relatively small apartment in a beautiful neighborhood in Brooklyn, surrounded by other families increasingly accumulating more riches and wealth. We are three over educated individuals who know little about excessive accumulation except in the form of hot wheels cars that now lie around every corner and bag in our shiny and plant-inhabited-sunny-in-the-morning apartment. We leave early for school. We work from home or cafés or park benches. We go to playgrounds and picnics. We watch movies and shows. We read books, picking up the copies left in boxes after spring.

On the other, we don’t throw out books, maybe the only other thing we accumulate other than hot wheels cars. They accumulate on nightstands and tables, on benches and windowsills, on top of other books, creating long architectures of knowledge that never seems enough, excessive in our apparently normal home away from the motherland. Those books make our home. As do hot wheels cars, who now populate the everyday stories we exchange at bath and bedtime, right before reading more books and dozing off.

On the other other hand, our lives are specific and unique. That is why I write this. Not to cope with the mistakes of Biden or Boric, the made-up news/publicity stunt of Bad Bunny and Björk, who might read or not, but with all the other events in our lives and not our own that trigger the pen. Like the death pf a 22 year-old Mahsa Amini by something called the morality police because she was wearing a hijab incorrectly. A fucking hijab. And she was beaten over and over, left unconscious, lied about the cause of death, all the while other girls and women were being beaten and pepper sprayed, even the brother outside was beaten and pepper sprayed because of asking about his beloved sister. Because of a question. Because of love. They called her depraved because of her hair. What kind of women do not have hair. What kind of man wants to take it away from her, feels so threatened because a woman can have hair. One does not have to go very far. I see a girl, almost a baby pushing a stroller with two babies. She does not have hair, but a wig. The girl walking next to her still has; she is still unwed. Both have heavy stockings and long sleeve black shirts on a warm, humid day. This is Williamsburgh, where a few blocks away there are women sunbathing with half their bikinis. Where most mornings I open my legs in prasarita padottanasana, dwipada sirsasana and yoga nidrasana. That is with my crotch on the forefront. And some dare say that feminism (whether it is white, black, latinx, racial, queer, trans) is a thing of the past. Although it is women and trans and queers who are fighting against prisons, detention centers, school funding, bodily autonomy.

I decided not to shave or wax anymore in solidarity with those women whose hair is cut, whose lives are lost. Then I decide to keep my hair shiny in solidarity with Evelyn or Eva, who disconnected from me for security reasons or was deported––who knows––after we wrote a book and became friends. I will write more migration at a later point. Tonight my heart has been broken too many times, so I will share now the ways I have used this week to repair it.

Today I talked with a witch. I was stuck, I said, like if I had a rope that would stop me at the very last minute of a good and wanted thing. I sent her a selfie she asked for and said she saw it, an entity, leeching on my back and shoulder that had been bothering me for four years. She saw a beige building with an archway. Two or three people, one with an entity that saw an opening and jumped. Today I burned candles and herbs, a cedar smudge and left my room smoky and aromatic. I drove to the cemetery right before class and left the remnants with the spirits there offering coins and candy. There is a strange feeling in my lower back, as though I had scratched it, tender skin not visible to the eye, a feeling in another dimension. I feel the words and cast away the sleez’s power over me one more time “I am not your home.” Witches power is similar, no it is the same as the poet’s, and, Vicente Huidobro, Gabriela Mistral, I am reminded of the root of my unrootendness.

In Altazor, Vicente Huidobro equated the poet’s power-language-with that of a magician. And what is not poetic language but the power to bring to the present something sensed but yet unreal? Call it actualization of the being, performance, action, practice. We are what we are, but before we are we need a language for it, an invocation.

Last week I wrote a list of things that make me happy, and whenever I feel down these days attacked by hormonal and political fluctuations, I read it. Only then I hug my son, whose body and mind knows and feels everything. He speaks it. He does not fear naming. He has the soul of a witch and a poet.

Last week I went into despair. We are looking for a third partner and consciously experimenting with our bodies. Far are the days when attraction and love and desire for other beings caught us by surprise. We study ourselves in these expressions of life. I’ve had all sorts of experiences meeting people. The first wanted to dominate me and make me his wife. He told me this over the phone. I was enraged, and then, turned on by my rage, needed to destroy his too normal masculinity with my own description of boots and restraints. We never spoke again. I was left stranded by a 28 year-old writer-wanna-be who every day insisted we meet until the day we were supposed to meet. I met a beautiful being older than me, but who looked younger, and touched and kissed me so tenderly that I walked away feeling my body flying. I texted with a man who has three houses, a boat on a lake, an obsession for fitness, and a collection of abstract expressionism. I texted with A from India on my way back from class. By the end of the three block walk, my panties felt wet as he was alone on his bed typing and etc. We met later that night, and we talked, laughed, kissed, and couldn’t find a place to go, because there are no hotels in Clinton Hill. I met a cinematographer from a town founded in 92 ace with long hair who practiced yoga with me early one morning. And then I met another man that in his boring boringness took out all my energy and made me feel miserable and old.

So on Monday, I invited my friend from the town with a millenarian castle to come watch an iconic film of Latinx queerness presented by an artist I liked and would very much want to meet. Instead, waiting for him outside the theater, I met another much admired and funny queer Latinx performer. We talked about this in an almost empty bar in Bed Stuy before kissing and touching. He walked me home and sent me a picture of a church he was at shooting.

Healing.

After going to the cemetery and giving thanks to the spirits, I went to teach Spanish to some undergrads. At the beginning of the class, another professor from the department from where I was ousted came by to see if she could attend my class. She used the voice of an angel despite her red skin, satanic face, and bleak eyes. I had met her before when in a faculty meeting she called the visiting faculty like myself “hordes,” the same word used by Trump to refer to immigrants from Latin America not so long ago and still fresh in my mind. Is this an opportunity for healing or just another unknowable, incomprehensible twist of destiny that tied us together in a chain of pain and woes? Will she at some point recognize me? Will she have a memory? Is healing possible with such a memory? Can memory forgive? Maybe this is just the practice ground for something bigger, but maybe this is as big as it gets.

I see my blonde mustache has grown back.

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