No. 8-9


Giannina Braschi   




Rich gifts like reechy kisses turn sour grapes when lovers prove unkind.  To think that I called you nymph in my horizon—and you redelivered my gifts proving to me that you like my mother will make blisters out of an innocent rose.  No wonder this excellent roof of majestic canopie seems to me a pestilent congregation of vapors.

  —Where is your father?  
—At home, my lord.  
  —Oh, yes, tell him to pledge allegiance to the American flag.  I am Puerto Rican. You understand that.  A radical who has no bait of truth—two flags—and no roots.  I have not a single root left. They were eaten by a certain convocation of political worms.  I mean, American and Puerto Rican.  I mean, you and I have a common interest in the stock market.  I mean, you know what I mean. We will have no more marriages.  I am a stockbroker.  Get a life!  Get a job!  Stop depending on my statehood.  Make your own plans—impertinence to mine.  Your needy arms are nothing but a sea of trouble surrounding my island.   Keep your star!  Keep your stripes! Get an independentista life!  I said, we will have no more marriages.  It has made me mad.  Why are you surprised that I said: 
  —I never gave you aught. 

When you redelivered my gifts proving to me that you were unworthy and unkind, and I was offended, and for that reason I told you:

  —I loved you not.

It was the answer you deserved—given that I was the more deceived.  I am so deceived that I see ghosts—clouds—heavy clouds that explode—and I hear the cat meow and the dog howl—and I am as smart as a fox—and if you deceive me, I will deceive you too—because I thought you loved me but you proved unkind when you redelivered the gifts I gave you with my kindness and you provoked my madness—and that is what you get for trying to prove that I am unkind.  At that moment when I asked you: 

—Where is your father?  

You should have signaled me with your eyes, or with your thumb, letting me know that he was behind the arras.  You were more his bitch than mine.  You should have been my bitch—not his bitch—you bitch.  

—My brother shall know of it!  

Oh, yes, you went mad, but even in your madness you said to the king:

—Laertes shall know of it!  

You should have said to your father like you said to the King: 

—Hamlet shall know of it!  

Your loyalties were to your father, to your brother, not to me.  It has made me mad.  Fuck you!  Keep your job!  Keep your stripes!  I want my independentista life.  I am going to start my own business.  I am going out on my own.  But then I look at my bank account and see zero to the bone.  I can’t quit.  Not yet, anyway.  I look at myself in a mirror.  I see I am getting old, but I lack advancement.  I was supposed to be my own boss by now—because I am a good boss—and my boss knows it—that is why he is always checking on me, keeping me down, clocking my hours.  Was I out late last night because I was late again this morning, and I’m disheveled, distressed.  I’m stressed out, and I don’t know what to do. What should I do—take a gun and shoot myself—or pop some sleeping pills—to dream, perhaps to sleep—ah, there’s the rub.  Why would I give them the benefit of the doubt.  Why prove them right. 

—You see, what a complicated person, a trouble maker.  Always on guard. Why do you have to be so defensive?—they always say to me—nobody is attacking you.  

So what do I say: 

—I have been misused and mistreated—undervalued—underpaid—taken for granted, not heard, not taken seriously, denied, and deprived.  
—Are we better off than we were 20 years ago?  

That is what politicians always ask when they put their hands in their pockets and take some coins in their fists and make them ring like a bell.  And they wink at you as if you were an accomplice to the crime.

—We are in this business together.  Either we survive or we drown the stage in tears, even for an eggshell. 

They know and we know better—not that things are not better.  Who am I to judge.  And I don’t care if we are better or worst.  I am more cynical than that.  I know better what to expect, and I also wink my eye, as an accomplice to the crime.  But don’t lie to me.  Don’t wink your eye and tell me that things are better when they are not. Or that they were better when they weren’t.  I see what I see with my eye—not with yours, which doesn’t mean that I don’t approve of your winking.  I wink when you wink at me—and if you cry—I’ll cry with you—but I won’t lie to myself.  What I see is what I see—but allow me to disagree—I like your lies—and the way you tell them I like more—because I love show business—and I love acting.  There is something in this where my melancholy sits on brood.  Replacing is a way of not noticing the difference, and what is important is the sameness, we are all equal with equalizers—and if you are not an equation that equalizes—you better downsize your size because who the hell do you think you are?   


I’m a cactus raised in the desert of neglected love.  I hardly need water.  I need strictness, diligence, cruelty.  I need danger.  I need to feel the columns of this castle tumbling down.  The main thing is to overthrow everything that is comfortable.  I hate comfort.  I hate when I feel self-satisfied, as if I had done something great.  To feel great I have to have done something great.  The only time I feel great is after a total eclipse of darkness inside lightness, of being inside non-being.  I felt great after the play I wrote and directed.  I caught the king by the cheese.  And I caught the mouse by his tail, and he screamed: 
  —Lights!  Give me some lights!  

And then I considered killing him.  I don’t know why I didn’t—oh, I know why—because I wanted to inflict pain on my uncle and my mother—and my weapon of choice was guilt—and I plunged those daggers of guilt into their breasts so they could bleed my words and feel what I was feeling.  What makes me Hamlet are my feelings—what was done to me—the wrong—not the revenge—yes, that had to be delayed because first I had to feel—in order to arouse your empathy—and in order for you to identify with me.   

I am Hamlet because of the immensity of my feelings.  When it rains, it pours 20,000 times more.  And I crawl between to be and not to be.  Between the consideration of both. Between heaven and earth, between lunacy and lucidity, between understanding and misunderstanding.  Between what should be and what is and what it would have been like if my father were alive and how it has turned out to be—in this dank dungeon of liberty—where I can’t see Ophelia without seeing my mother’s halo harrowing around her bouffant like a spider web.  No, it is not what it should be or how it should be.  My prophetic soul is not beyond good and evil—it crawls between them—and that is my tragic flaw.  I have to liberate myself from the deliberation of Independentista o Estadista—putting an end to my Estado Libre Asociado.  I love comparisons because I love competition. And I am very jealous of anyone who gets more love than me or gives more love than me because I love more than you.  That is why I leaped into Ophelia’s grave and dueled with Laertes after I had said: 

—I loved you not.  
I also said:
—I loved you once, but not anymore.  
And then I said: 
—Laertes, on your life, I loved Ophelia.  20,000 men go to their graves like beds, and 20,000 brothers named Laertes can’t rival the love I had for her. 

My mother might have been an erotomaniac—but I am an egomaniac.  Rosencrantz says that I don’t love myself enough, and Guildenstern says that I love myself too much.  Both are right.  But what they don’t understand is that I love myself so much more when I am neglected. And that is why I delayed everything for the grand finale—because my obsessions become so obsessed that even if it is only a little spot—like something rotten in the United States of America—I make a big stink—and I shove it up your nose—and make you feel what you did to me.  You say my problem is that I have no moments of being—that I can’t be happy.  Wrong.  I was very happy when I caught the conscience of the king.  I was very happy when I made my mother my mistress of grief.  And I was happy too when I gave Ophelia a plague for a dowry.  The problem with you-know-it-alls is that you know it all—and when you are wrong and I am right—even against all my instincts that said:

 —You-know-it-all, this time I am right and you are wrong. 

But since you always believe you are right and I am wrong, I let you believe you are right, right as usual.  Because, as usual, I am wrong and you are right.  And you say it so often, and with such conviction:

—You are wrong

that even when I am right and you are wrong—you are right—right to be the righteous asshole that you are.  You asshole.  Fucking asshole.  My asshole doesn’t define my brain because your asshole defines yours.  The asshole, allow me to say it, is you, and I don’t want to fuck you.  I prefer not to.  And you feel my insolence and resent my rejection and for that reason you say that I don’t accept myself for what I am.  But what I am saying is that I am not what you think I am.  For you, I am an asshole that you want to fuck.  But you will never get into my asshole because I am not the asshole that you think I am.  My moments of being are my moments of poetry—when I make you confront your lies, when I go to the core of things, when I tremble in the orgasms of life and death—in a whirlwind—when there is danger and eradication—I am a radical cure that cuts the roots of comfort and corruption.  I must be cruel only to be kind, and I must be mad only to be lucid.  I am not in madness but mad at heart, wild at heart.  Generous and magnanimous—I was never.  I am proud, ambitious, vengeful—with more offenses at my beck—oh, yes, offenses.  I killed Polonius to avenge the offenses—and look what I get—instead of offenses at my beck, dead bodies on my back.  I am a tooth without a root—a prince without a throne—I don’t speak—better to seek than to become an ogre, a monster, a sore affection.  While the wedding party makes vows of wantonness—I go mad inside my sickly heart of hearts—a pain that is so sickly that I can’t hold the reins of the hobbyhorse of my childhood.  And soon my silence will sit drooping—like an epileptic attack—the seizure lasts minutes followed by years of sitting drooping in a chair, thinking, and yawning, and thinking again.  What is a man if his chief good and market of his time be but to sleep and eat, a beast, no more.  How many times I had to be that beast—and my silence would sit drooping all this time waiting for the lightning.  And I am impatient and importunate.  I can’t wait for the moment to pass and to come—but I feel there are celebrities living in my skull, and they make me I feel I was right all this time—waiting for the call—but with a broken cord—with a broken voice—like the sound of a cello—the caller keeps calling and I keep answering and hanging up—sorry—wrong number—no—I don’t recall where it came from—from what origin—inscribed in a yellow portfolio—with the lightbulb fundido—it came back—the caller—calling and calling—insatiable—as if the desire fed on what it ate—it had a broken wing—and it was neither bird—nor beast—it awakened my almost blunted senses—eyes without feelings, feelings without eyes, ears without hands or eyes, and clouds crowded with masses of broken arms, not mine, broken desires—what do I do with so much information—if I receive no calling—useless uselessness—like my mother use to say I was useless.  But I interpret the calls that keep hanging on cords, on messages—I know how to interpret messages and I know this call was to wake up my almost blunted and forgettable—unforgettable—purpose of fulfilling my call.  But, oh, there is no evidence for your accusations.  Where is the body of the king himself—in flesh—to come back from the dead—break through the sepulcher—with his hair sticking up like Porcupine quills—to say that his brother killed him.  No—ghosts have never been accepted as evidence—not in the court of law—only in the realm of fantasy are they proof that the spirit exists.  But if we accept the testimony of the ghost, we have to accept the word of God.  Who told you to kill that man.  I heard God’s voice.  Or I saw a ghost.  You are mad, mad as the sea and wind when both contend to see which is the mightier.  So, sorry, your testimony is not credible.  Why?  Your mother never saw the ghost of shreds and patches with a tardy disposition walk away from her.  Why?  Because she had the body of the King.  She replaced one body with another body. She never saw the ghost. She never believed in the spirit, that there were qualities, ghostly qualities of my father that were missing, because my mother didn’t sense, she didn’t have the sixth sense—eyes without feeling, feeling without sight, ears without hands or eyes, smelling sans all.  Only you saw it—and your mother, who could have been a witness, didn’t see a thing.  

  —No, but Horatio and Marcellus saw it.  They saw me chase it. 

Oh, yes, but they didn’t hear what the ghost said to you.  Only you heard it.  And there is no evidence that your uncle killed your father.  Where is the evidence.  There is no blood on his hands.  No distilment in his chambers.  But we have the body of Polonius as evidence that you are a bloody murderer. You, Hamlet, you are your father’s ghost.  Don’t tell me that you saw a visible, palpable, touchable body of evidence.  You saw your own thoughts hanging from a robe of shreds and patches—on the verge of committing suicide.  Or you saw your own skeleton gasping for a breath, a wind, a suspiration of some suspicions that you thought were true.  And you saw your proposition as evidence of a ghost hanging from a rope of fire—and you said—that ghost is my father, and these are his thoughts—and they have mastered a form—and in that form is my father’s command—and I will follow his command—and the evidence is in the thoughts that are ghosts—and I will prove that ghosts are thoughts that have a conscience—and I will catch the conscience of the king with another thing of nothing. 

I write when I have nothing more to think about—when only the wind keeps banging on the door—and that wind, which I call the wind of inspiration, takes my thoughts to the extreme limit of my being—where I can’t do anything but commit the act of liberating myself from the thoughts—so that after I write them I don’t have to think them over again—because I have committed the ultimate act of killing the thoughts—killing the obsession—killing the ghost. 

III. Ghost 

I am doomed to roam the night errantly—erratically—unmistakably me—myself—lurking bodiless—condensing all my energy in order to ordain a voice as big as a body that had no flesh to give it weight.  I had a purpose to survive and a vengeance to redeem.  I had to come back from the dead, break through the massy cerements and become light.   I was as light as a beer—and as heavy as a burden—oh, heavy burden—touch me—and you’ll touch the incandescent air of a fragile chimera—inodorous—incolorous—nothing but rage—purpose—sheer energy—inspiration—this apparition—this portentous, monstrous, miracle of an image. And what is a ghost but an apparition of a flash of something that appears and disappears—a voice that dissolves in the face of the sun.  Swear by my sword—swear.  A proposition—a reminder—of something ghastly—that is nowhere to be found but in the dust of merriment.  


It’s not the past that I miss.  It’s the losses I miss.  I am lost when I miss what I have lost.  It’s like looking for the missing thing.  If I find the thing—in my mind’s eye—it comes as a visitation like the ghost of my father.  But at least with the thing, I can find another thing, yes, I can replace the past with the present.  So that I don’t have to miss the thing I lost.  Isn’t this what my mother did.  She replaced one body with another body.  But is the body the thing to catch the spirit of the King.  For the body was with the king but the king was not with the body.  For if the sun breeds maggots in a dead dog.  And who do you think is the dead dog?  Polonius is the dead dog.  Of course, didn’t you notice the foreshadowing—like when Gertrude was going to be poisoned—I had said to her beforehand: 

—You will not leave until I set you off a glass where you’ll see the inmost part in you.

And Polonius was not only the dead dog before he was dead, but also the good kissing carrion because he represents the body—sniff—the putrefied body—in the lobby of the castle, with flies flying around him, and the worms of life ready to devour his flesh that smells, piu, worse than the skull of Yorick.  Warm meat, fattening meat, eat, maggots, eat.  Oh, how weary, stale, flat and unprofitable seems to me all the uses of this world.  That it should come to this—but two month old, not so much, not two—that he was so loving to my mother—and now he is a ghost—a ghost with no groins to reckon his loins.  Perturbed spirit, rest inside the body of this asskissing carrion—who was, in life, a prating knave.  


Alas, poor Yorick, in this distracted globe, where the table of my memory is set to lament the grief of death.  These teeth are the only memories left of those flashes of merriment that were wont to set the table on a roar.  No one now to mock your own grinnings—except the ghost—with its shattered shadow—posing frontal to your skull—not mocking it—but setting it aglow.  Fie on it, ah, fie—that it should come to this—from Hyperion to a Satyr—to a shadow of a dream—the glass of fashion and the mould of form—turned into a twisted stump of petrified bone by disgusted, unwanted worms of gluttony—fie on it, ah, fie—that it should come to this—things rank and gross in nature possess it merely—what a noble mind is here overthrown—the shadow of a dream—shattered to smithereens—twig-twig—to shattered fortune and dreams—that it should come to this—but two months old, not so, not so much, not so, the funeral ovens baking the wedding cake with a candle flame—perturbed spirit—rest in peace—in this distracted globe while to my shame I see the imminent death of 20,000 men that for a ducat or a trifle of luck go to their graves like beds.  Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth to dust, the dust is earth, of earth we make our own lump sums and our grinnings to reckon our groans—and that’s the end—imperious Caesar dead, dead and turned to clay.  




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