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La danza Interminable


Indio Gris




Indio answers
Sunday, February 3rd, 2002

Carmen Salamanca: Tell us a little about your life. What did your father do for a living when you were born? What memories do you have? At what age did you start school?

Miguel Oscar Menassa: Do you want me to tell you about the real drama in my life?

CS: Yes.

MOM: When I was the right age to go to school, at five years old in those times, they took me to José María Gutierrez school, which was a girls school, they took me in the morning and I escaped.

CS: Where to?

MOM: I escaped, I left the school because I didn't want to be in a girls school.

CS: But wasn't there a school for boys?

MOM: Yes, but the girls school was two hundred metres closer than the Almafuerte school, on top of it was called "Almafuerte", which was the boys school. I ran away from women. Afterwards I had to put up with them all my life and I had to support them all my life, for having run away. Cowardliness is always paid dearly.

CS: How old were you then?

MOM: Five. 

CS: And then, they must have sent you to another school, right?

MOM: They sent me immediately to Almafuerte School, the next day. If I hadn't gone to the Almafuerte's, I would never have known the  "zarzaparrilla" (bramble or blackberry bush), as they called it, which was a plant that had hollow branches. It could be lighted and smoked.

CS:  Smoked?

MOM: Yes.

CS: The "zarzaparrilla?

MOM: Yes, it was very easy, because we passed by a neighbour's house which was next to the school and we pulled out a branch of that plant and that was good to be smoked.

CS: So, Almafuerte school at five years old…

MOM: Now, thinking that I almost die of a pulmonary disease, it would have been better for me to have gone to the girls school, because I wouldn't have known the "zarzaparrilla".

CS: When did you start selling bijouterie? Why did you start working so young?

MOM: I went to jail for the first time when I was eight years old, for selling in the streets, I sold razor blades.

 CS: AT eight? And what happened? 

 MOM: the police came and kicked the stall I had because I hadn't given them money, I imagine. For sure, I must have told them "Fuck you", because I used to curse a lot when I was a child. And the policeman caught me, broke my stall and arrested me. They called my father, who was a man that believed in work, he was a worker and that was the reason why he didn't understand how they could put his son in jail for working. Then he went to the police station and made such a scandal that the commissioner told me: " Look, you seem to be reasonable, so tell your father to stop, if not we are going to arrest both of you". As the "turco" (Turkish origin) couldn't understand: "if the boy was working, if there are so many robbers, why do you pick at him? You are a bunch of corrupt people…" He said so many crass stupidities that the commissioner said to me: " with you things weren't too serious, but take your father away, if not…" What a laugh!

 CS: And afterwards, did this leave any trace in you in relation to work?

 MOM: I learnt that, even if the police doesn't let you, one has to work anyway, if not, how do you eat? That, even if your wife may not like you to succeed, you have to succeed because if you don't, afterwards you won't have any food. That, even if your friends may envy you because you earn money, you have to earn money because not earning money is bad. That, you must put up with the mixed feelings of people, if not, how can you live?

 CS: And did you go on selling little things?

 MOM: I sold during my whole life, don't you see that now I sell paintings?

 CS: Bijouterie.

 MOM: There, when they put me in jail at eight, I only sold razor blades, afterwards I dedicated myself to selling custom jewellery because I realised that women had something special, they were capable of spending money in useless things. You had to take commercial advantage of that. I dedicated myself to sell custom jewellery to women, who bought any worthless thing that you sold them: "How pretty, how pretty!" and they bought them. So, I earned ten more times than my mother, who worked as a nurse in the Pena hospital.

 I was a very religious child, I was an altar boy, I helped during masses, I was so perfect that I masturbated every day so as to have something to tell the priest, because I said to myself, "if you tell him nothing, what is his job then? So, I masturbated myself all day to be able to tell him. One of the priests started to hit me on the head with a fan while he asked me:

 - But, where do those who masturbate themselves everyday go?

 And he hit me on the head and I said to him:

 - To Don José's yard, and he repeated:

 -No, where do those who masturbate themselves every day go?

 - Well, sometimes I masturbate in the bathroom -I answered. An he hit me on the head because he wanted me to reply "to hell" and I didn't even think of it, how could I think of it?

 CS: You were stuck to reality: I go where they can't see me.

 MOM: To Don José's yard, I told him first, taking into account that I had denounced Don José, but well…

 It's a way of putting it, as old people like me who say a lot of bullshit do, I may say that I owe everything to the church. Of course because there I did my first things: I met the first girls, afterwards I met an engineer who said to me: "This question of the world is bullshit" and he delivered to me a rational explanation of the creation of the world. I had to learn with him, he was my teacher and he explained everything to me. And then, of course, how could I believe in God… I was thirteen years old when he delivered his explanation and right then, everything was over. I thought I had understood something and nothing, and it was over.

 CS: And what does "it was over" mean?

 MOM: That religion was over. I came to think a lot of nonsense. Not now, now I think that it is good. If communism produces rickets and capitalism produces AIDS, generalised infections and I don't know what else, to tell the truth, the Church is not so bad, it only produces disorders of the sexual identity. Compared to AIDS, cancer, famine and I kill you, I kill you,  I kill you, the Church, great. And the family, too, I think that family is something important. Because the world is groping in the dark, you may not realise, but it is going like my ass.

 CS: When did you write your first poem?

 MOM: At nine years old. It happened after masturbating, I said: " How empty I am".

 CS: You always say that since you were very young you had already read Marx, Freud…

 MOM: All sexual stuff, because my sister's friends were there and they were older than I. and they were pretty, they had such tits… Because I was  small, but I did understand that, I knew what tits were. And as they read a lot, they were intellectuals, they read Faulkner, they read Sartre, they read Marx, I decided to start reading, to have theme to talk about.

 CS: To pick them up.

 MOM: Said the way you say it, it was important, they were very cultured girls. Because talking to a cultured person is like picking up a chorus girl.

 CS: There are some photos where you are with some boys. Do you recall some "queer" friend from that time?

 MOM: It was very difficult in my neighbourhood to fall in love with women because right away the boys would pester whoever had a girlfriend, it was very difficult, they were male chauvinist. What did you ask me?

 CS: About the friends of those early times. 

 MOM: The neighbourhood is a great apprenticeship, do you know why? Because no one is a friend of no one else unless it's good for something, which is different in the more elevated classes, you can have friends who are good for nothing. In a poor neighbourhood that doesn't exist, you have to be good for something. And don't you think that they were all jerks. There was one who was good at conversation, one who was good at giving advice when things looked complicated, one who knew about women, there was one who understood about work, one who knew how to play football,  one who knew how to play dices… there were diverse people. There were people that were good for nothing, those people who were good for nothing were also made useful because they were the subjects of all our teasing. It was a way to make them useful because, or we had to throw them out of the neighbourhood, which was impossible to carry out because we weren't so powerful, or we made them useful. Then, the way to make them useful was to throw on them all the jokes of the world.

 CS: And you, what were you good at?

 MOM: I was the Miss, I liked to insult people very much. Then, not to kill me, they gave me that character as a personal matter, as if it were my personality. They said: "Keep away from the Miss", and I came and said: Hi, fuck you" and I was the only one who could say that in the bar, any other would get stabbed. As I was the Miss, a girl, I could do whatever I wanted, that meant, that I was allowed to do whatever I fancied. They already knew that I was going to be the poet. I wrote at thirteen years old, more or less when I entered the bar for the first time, it must have been about the same time. 

 CS: At thirteen years old?

 MOM: At thirteen years old. From eight to thirteen, I spent my time looking through the windows how they played billiards, and at thirteen, when I went into the billiard room, I already could beat several of them. Billiards is a very psychic game.

 CS: What does it mean that is very psychic?

 MOM: Yes, I couldn't beat Rafa and I couldn't beat him, I couldn't beat him. The boy had problems with girls. Then, one day when we were playing, I made up my mind: I started talking to him about girls and he became nervous and I beat him. I was the only time that I beat him. Then, whenever we played he said to me: "If you talk, I kill you". Afterwards we kept on playing because he was very good at it, I liked to play with him because with the people who play well, you learn. And he, after that time,  would say to me: "Well, I play, but if you say one word, I kill you". Good people.

 CS: And at that time you were thirteen years old.

 MOM: When I started to use long trousers. Yes, then.

 CS: And at that time, you went on going to the institute.

 MOM: Yes, like any good Christian's child.

 CS: And who were your teachers?

 MOM: Well, there was Don Segundo. Don Segundo was a man that at that time was about ninety years old. I, at least, listened to him attentively. He was the one who invented (at least the first time I heard it was from his mouth), when we asked for advice about girls, he told us: " A pussy hair pulls more than a hundred yokes of oxen". That was Don Segundo.

 CS: And when did you start reading Freud, Marx?

 MOM: William Faulkner, at twelve.

 CS: Horse gambit?

 MOM: No, stronger books such as Sartoris, Absalon, absalon, While I agonise, Savage Palm Trees, The mosquitoes, which is an easier work to read and they awarded him with the Nobel Prize for this. Sartre was read a lot in that time, the one who hadn't read Sartre was a jerk. It wasn't necessary to agree with him, I didn't agree with Sartre, he always seemed very French to me.

 CS: He had that small defect. There is a story you tell, later, when you were at the university.

 MOM: That was great, that's how it was at the Medicine School, when we were queuing to enrol at the secretariat, I had a book by Dylan Thomas who is a poet, I don't know if you know this, then one of the persons asked me what was the book about, "It is a police novel", I answered and he said to me: "That can't be, I read all police novels and I have never seen that one, it can't be".  I asked him: "Where do you live?", "downtown"- he said to me. "That is the reason" I answered him. What a laugh! That was my first day at the Medicine School.

 CS: You were quite a joker.

 MOM: Well, more or less, I was also revolutionary. That occurred the first time, the second time I was at the Medicine School, was a few months after having enrolled  in my first year. I had only attended the admittance course and a movement blew up between laic and free, because the Government wanted to open a free University, which was the private University. Argentina has a very important university tradition, while the University belonged to the State, several Nobel Prizes were professors of the Medicine School. Then, the second time  I was at the Medicine School, I was hanging from a balcony, a twenty-days strike, everyone fighting for the continuation of the laic university, because the only institution capable of implementing free education, that is to say private, was the Church, that is why it was said "in defence of the laic education". A crass stupidity because, as I told you before, I was a very religious person, I owed to the Church, my first masturbation, the first knowledge of the world… because it is not bad to think that there is a creator, if after one can develop a little.

 CS: Let's go back to your thirteen. You have already told us that you read Faulkner, and afterwards?

 MOM: More or less at that time, when I was fourteen, I read Freud. Do you know through what book I knew him? I have just realised when I'm telling you about it, that  Freud might have had an influence in my way of thinking in his book Psychoanalysis of the Masses and the Analysis of the Ego, a very tiny edition, in which that was the only text.

 CS: What did you think of it? What spurred your attention the most?

 MOM: That he could speak so clearly in 1921 about what was happening in my neighbourhood. That really impacted me. Later, the next year, it happened to me with Marx, "Look at this guy, how he explains in the year one what happens in the market now."

 CS: What was happening?

 MOM: That the relationships were asymmetric, there was always someone who made his living at someone else's expense. That love had nothing to do with work. Or you learnt about these things before you became fifteen or you went to jail or some place like that.

 CS: Does, what you learnt before, coincide with what you think now?

 MOM: That is like thinking that one comes fully made from his mother's womb. After 60 years, how can I think as I thought before?

 CS: What lasts from that?

 MOM: Do you want to know what really lasts from my neighbourhood? That women should never be said no.

 CS: Why?

 MOM: Because once you say no, they will never use you for anything else.

 CS: What vanished forever?

 MOM: My childhood.

 CS: Was it happy, was it a happy childhood?

 MOM: When I was a child? Yes, we were the only privileged, that is why I am a Peronist. Because I don't know if Perón did things well, but as I was a child and it was a government in which the only privileged were the children... We received presents, they treated you well at school, if your father beat you, you denounced him and he was put in jail. I don't know if one can live a happier childhood than the one the little Argentineans lived when Perón governed.

 CS: Any memory from your mother?

 MOM: I don't recall my mother crying, I recall her dancing, singing.

 CS: And your father? When did he arrive in Argentina?

 MOM: They came to Argentina from Lebanon, when my father was very young, the eldest brother who was a little older than him was 18 years old., he was around 10. Then my grandfather, who seemed to be a very cultured person, had to go downtown Buenos Aires I don't know for what motive and got lost, and then he started asking for directions in French, in Arabic, in English, in Russian and nobody understood him. A man gave him alms thinking that the  "Turco" (Turkish) was asking for alms and the turco felt so offended that he gathered his family and took them away and my father's eldest brother said: no, I'm not leaving, ? I stay here. My father returned with his father, but when he was thirteen, he forged his documents and travelled back to Argentina with his brother.

 The first job he got, he left as soon as he got it. His brother got him a job with an umbrella manufacturer, and his first chore was to carry two umbrellas to I don't know whose house, and it began to rain very hard and the turco  didn't understand such cruelties, he was from a very wealthy family, then he couldn't understand why having two umbrellas in the package, he had to get wet, if he was his mother and father's son. So he took and used one of the umbrellas and he quitted, that's why later he became an autonomous worker.


 Adolescent fisherman of enamoured old women
great fisherman of truffle
of girls happy as the sun
of some sure winner to gamble the soul.
I, the great hunter
the great handler of solitary nets
of nets for solitude
of special nets
to hunt
shy hearts.
Tired of seeing people die
so many people
an afternoon in summer
I placed my silent nets
in the public parks
in the public streets
in the public bathrooms.
Afterwards I said to myself
time is necessary
I advised myself
to have a black coffee
every morning.
I advised myself to sit
I told a woman
to sit by my side.
Your fresh ass
I said to her
on the fresh ground.
We kissed each other with a grandiose kiss of love.
She told me about her ways of entertaining solitude.
Showing her legs or moving them
according to the cold or to our customs,
sitting by a man's side
and allowing ourselves to be touched
until we felt the need of becoming mothers.
Sometimes, it's understood,
we sell pearls to crazy men,
lost in the sun.
Oriental pearls
white pearls of love
pieces of pearls, placed
generally on our belly
pearls, in the end, in the form of two-string necklaces
to strangle in a better way
she told me
violent pearls.

June 8th, 1977


Truly, today I'll confess everything for the first time.
I was born in a neighbourhood.
                                                     "I grew up in its sidewalks,
one day I soared up flying, dreaming to succeed".
Today I cannot go back nor poor, nor defeated.

I have on my desk some photos,
papers and poems. My luck is cast.

I played more or less games of marbles
I won with some, I lost with others.

I never climbed a tree.
I felt vertigo in the hammock and in the toboggan.
I played very well the monte and the troy
and I played hop-scotch with Negra and Lita.
They touched me and sometimes I touched them.

Each time I opened my eyes
I realised that for me, there was no future.
I was too thin,
I always looked in the face and smiled.

Afterwards billiards came.
I propped up my hand firmly on the cloth,
as with women, with no contemplation.
I let the cigarette burn my mouth,
I pretended to be distracted and looked at my rivals.
my way of walking was sublime. I almost always won.
when I played billiards I was irresistible. 

I smoked Fontanares (a brand of black tobacco cigarettes)
and daydreamt with a wealthy old woman,
I wanted to see the sea,
I would have given my life for a day by the sea.

I remember everything in full sunlight,
the sun in my ears, inside my shirt,
under my arms, between my legs, my feet full of sun.

A woman called me old man and cleaned up my snot.

Afterwards they didn't believe me, they wanted to see the proofs.
I have on my desk some photos, a machine, the votive lamp,
papers and poems. My luck is cast.

The tango, I danced it more or less,
with some women I could,
with some others I couldn't.
But I had a gaze,
a sadness in my gaze and I wrote poems.


Practise French in Madrid
Tel. 91 542 42 85. From 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

June 10th, 1977

When it was necessary to grow up and discipline oneself
I grew up and I put nostalgia in my gaze.
Discipline comes on its own.

I learnt to look sideways
to provoke catastrophes and to rejuvenate.
They gave me a diploma.

Some persons come to ask me about growth and discipline.
I tell them that I already put away my diploma
in the desk drawer where I keep,
the photos of the dead.

I decided then, to have more courage,
to practise a violent sport.
To go back to the boxing gloves. To be a successful person.

I wrote some poems about that.

My cunning gaze of the past
remained forgotten in my face.
From the past,
                           I was left with the cadence.

I kept taking away the sun from my head, the foolish illusions.

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June 13th, 1977

Give me your bread and my joy was to be your bread
Give me your milk and my joy was to give you my semen.
Give me your blood and we had children.
Give me your thought and I thought you.
Give me your soul and I told you about my dreams.
Give me your bread, your freedom, your thought
and I dedicated my poems to you.

Give me your milk love, give me your milk
and my joy was to give you my flesh and my blood
and I told you my dreams.
Give me your pleasure and I asked you for your freedom.
Give me your freedom and I asked you about pleasure.
Give me your being, your own being, the true one
and I stood on four legs.

Give your ego, that one which is good for nothing to you.
Then I told you, my love, give me everything back,
I can't.

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