BY Cecilia Vicuña in Features | 31 AUG 22
Featured in
Issue 229

‘Silence is in ruins’

A poem by Cecilia Vicuña

BY Cecilia Vicuña in Features | 31 AUG 22

Silence is in ruins.


Catastrophes are always about to happen.


It’s only possible to be alive until the unknown happens.

The Easter Islanders sway their hips, but Easter’s already dead.


The grass wonders whether to sprout or not


God is all gods.

God is sacred and pagan.

God absolutely lacks a name.


I don’t believe in the crystalline. Purity is not my thing.

My pores scratch away to end my endless virginity.


The mud is a place full of birds. I belong to the hot clay.

In my burnt ochre breast everything withers away.

I have aye-shaped eyes, and other no-shaped body parts.


Some men are so warm that even in old age they’re babes in arms.


Now that my vagina has been sacrificed, I can go on baring

my earthen story. In no time, I made the heavens rise with my gaze.


I grew up looking at what’s dead and trying to revive it,

    to recreate the garden and happiness.

I lived apart from others in my unknown vegetation. I’m a green human,

because of indefinable nature, which is mostly green.


The future holds a place called “the divine house.”

A place for seagulls to fly, a place of silence and veneration.

The cult of broom will emerge, the cult of the solar flower,

    and north and south will be joined in my garden’s seeds.

The entire earth is a garden. I only need to recall

that which will be extinguished at the first perfume of dawn.


Though I travel, I can’t make peace with motors.

I delight seeing my human script running like a snake on Altamira’s walls.

Every night, handfuls of electric medusas fall from the Southern Cross,

    and turn into leaves for me to write.

Poets hail from the world’s south.


There are books that are itinerant drawings.

They have wheels between one page and another

that carry them everywhere.


Writing is arduous,

like praying in a thousand languages

or calling for help in Japanese.

My memories are tired, and some have gone into the mist.


Memory and imagination exist to copulate with the universe.


Yellow Water

I was like a Yamura goddess offering my soul to the sky.

The wind filled me and I let myself be carried nearly naked.

Everything was yellow and noon stretched out.

The odyssey signalled that everything was to be given away

especially love, because no one could be without love.

There would be no flowers on earth if they were not, for some,

absolutely necessary.

The atmosphere could fall

if there were no mystics on earth,

nothing would keep it in the air.

Truth is, it’s really heavy.

Even the sea could leave the surface

if no one looked upon it.

Eyes hold it in place and without them

it would grow hopelessly choppy

and the earth could not defend itself

because if no one loved it,

fertility and existence

would be consumed in empty space.


Dreams are electric; sometimes I wake up electrocuted

by the savage hit to the Matto Grosso jungles.


Some herbs are prohibitive because they cause visions;

with others, it’s enough to smell them to fly off or disappear.

The natives keep them so hidden they’ve gotten lost,

but it doesn’t matter because later they won’t be necessary.

Meanwhile, they chew to confound the ethnologists.

“It sure seems you’re on top of it all.”

Every time I stand up, from beneath me

exotic items and extinguished planets emerge.

My brothers and sisters read the terror and their fingernails calcify.

For weekends, we have a helicopter king

who slaps us magnanimously

with the consecrated wand of hatred wielded by those in power.


I no longer expect everything to turn golden.

I no longer expect anything.

Love will not come to them.

After all

the only thing left

is poison.


When you and I inhabit the divine house

the scent will be magnificent

and we will never exchange a word

to preserve the virginal silence.

– 11–16 January 1967

Silence is in ruins’ first appeared in frieze issue 229 as part of the festschrift ‘I Am Green: An homage to Cecilia Vicuña, alongside The Sound and Feel of Cecilia Vicuña’s Art,Cecilia Vicuña’s Poetry Challenges ‘Authoritarian Monolingualism’ and ‘‘A Form of Praying’: The Performances of Cecilia Vicuña.

Hyundai Commission: Cecilia Vicuña’ will be on view in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern, London from 11 October 2022 to 16 April 2023.

Cecilia Vicuña is a poet, artist, filmmaker and activist.