Dissonance(s): Florencia Castellano’s Monitored Properties

Courtesy of Ugly Duckling Presse

Frustratingly enough, there are still so many claims that the male gaze cannot really be eluded, that there is literally no mundane space left for becoming of no interest, even invisible to it. However, if one is to tailor a personal invisibility to this male gaze, disentangling from mechanical reactions and the language that sustains them should be the first step. Florencia Castellano’s Monitored Properties (bilingual edition, translated from Spanish by Alexis Almeida) undertakes such a disentanglement, firstly by bringing out into open the hidden traces left by patriarchy, and its culture colonizing everything, and expecting its rewards once occupation gets naturalized and everyone is expected to act appropriately. It is the same patriarchy that yearns for the colonization of the outer space, an endeavor that is so painfully illustrated by the fate of one of the first beings catapulted into space, the dog Laika.

Castellano chooses the figure of the Argentine “gaucho”, of the sweaty, macho variety and tracks down his movements, his choreographies as a father, husband, imported cowboy, lover or a failed singer who looks up to Sinatra. It turns out that even in the most ordinary of his acts, there is an inner force imposed from outside by a white heteronormative culture that pledged to codify everything according to its own rules and deliver messages and rituals to its own liking — enduring cultural legacies that one can only conform to without any further questions.

History says:
man went searching for gold and water
on the verge of death he drank from a cactus
his tongue bled
he crossed mountains and oceans 
in herds like sheep 
he grazed
now he wants subsidized rooms 
collectible fathers
silver cars

These are imagined territories, still defying any endeavor to map them — unmonitored, decolonized spaces that spat out their patriarchs, leaving them on their own, wandering and wondering for new meanings, trapped in a constant ritual with one another despite being total strangers, even to themselves. It is the kind of background that forces each and every one of them to reconsider his own relational history, fastened as it is against narratives of otherness. Artifacts and tokens of cowboy culture are left/displayed all over the place as in a migrant museum of some sort while testimonies are brought to front only to speak on behalf of absences.

at the unstoppable pace
of new windshields
one by one fathers
bizarre droplets
on the foreheads of cowboys
apparent disappearance of the sacred oil!
no more patriarchs

At some point in time, the now (in)famous Wilhelm Reich stated that “Patriarchal society says ‘God’ when it really means actual paternal authority.” Florencia Castellano’s Monitored Properties is a sophisticated, yet perversive flight precisely under the radar of the patriarchal/paternal gaze and its constant surveillance mode, away from ideological constraints that promote the status quo, and complementary linguistic mechanisms of power. In the end, poetry is what seems to endure once “daddy” state-sanctioned languages and symbols are unraveled to the bone.

his whole body is an arrow
that perforates my private world
with the weight of years
the effort of immigrants
it’s a piece of chicken between the teeth
that detaches quickly
when toothpicks enter the universe
named after a car

Florencia Castellano is the author of Un ruiseñor completamente blanco and Relieves de dispersión. She was part of the editorial group of the magazines Quesquesé (1997–2001) and Ilusiones perdidas (2001), and helped organize the Latin American Poetry Festival “Salida al mar” from 2007–2009.

Alexis Almeida lives in Denver. Her poems, translations, essays, and interviews have appeared or are forthcoming in TYPO, Denver Quarterly, Aufgabe, Vinyl Poetry, Heavy Feather Review, and elsewhere.

Ugly Duckling Presse is a Brooklyn based nonprofit publisher for poetry, translation, experimental nonfiction, performance texts, and books by artists.

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