ana contra la totalidad social: cuatro apuntes metodológicos / ana versus the social totality: four methodological sketches

Valeria Román Marroquín
Translated by Noah Mazer


[Author’s note: At the time of writing, Peru is experiencing a profound political and social crisis. Peruvians, tired of historic inequality and the indifference of our political class, have risen in an insurgency. The Peruvian state has responded with violence and repression, killing 23 people in Ayacucho, Apurímac, Arequipa, Juní, and La Libertad. This number is climbing as the Armed Forces and National Police of Peru fire on the people with complete impunity.

This is state terrorism. This are the profoundly racist and classist policies the right applauds in the name of order and peace. The corporate press is complicit in this slaughter by keeping quiet about the just demands of the Peruvian people. The press criminalizes protest, calling us terrorists and justifying aggression against those who exercise their right to protest. It is clear that repression and death are the response of the Peruvian state to our peoples’ historic demands to refound and radically transform our country.

Today, political persecution is a latent reality in Peru. We are living under a dictatorship: Dina Boluarte governs illegitimately atop a pile of corpses, alongside a military junta and a Congress that clings to its precarious power. Their hands are covered in the blood of our fellow citizens, and there will be no forgiveness for them and no forgetting of the crimes they our committing against us. These are pivotal moments of tension in our country, in which artists cannot be indifferent as our country burns to the ground.

I refuse to write behind my country’s back. I refuse to ignore the blood that runs outrageously because of the greed of our elites. “ana c. buena” was published in 2021. I wrote it out of the conviction that poetry can shape reality. The kind of poetry that’s not afraid to show the seams of its political character. This selection of poems reflects an unjust reality that marks the lives of Peruvian women. This is the reality we want to change—the reality against which thousands of Peruvians are rebelling. Today, reactionaries and corrupt politicians hope to embed themselves in power by the force of bullets. But power flows from the people, and the people make history. Despite this dark moment for the country, our hope is strong that this will be the tipping point that opens the way to a brighter future. Like my fellow Arequipan Cesáreo “Chacho” Martínez once wrote, “We’re not giving up / we’re not giving up / and we’re not giving up / because we defend our life with our life.” We will triumph.  –VRM, 14/12/22]


actos de amor

los actos de amor
tienen efectos materiales, ana,
piensa sino en el curso de los acontecimientos,
en los acontecimientos mismos,
           piensa en la belleza
de los cuerpos culturados.
piensa en la constitución de los elementos
                       ahora acompañándote.
en la tierra que ocupas,
                        en la materia que constriñe
                                    por efecto de la historia:
lustrosa numerosidad
                        cuerpos consumidos
de características mujeriles
                        en nombre del orden
                                    y la satisfacción sacra
bajo estiércol / pisos terrosos uno tras otro
            se levantan a la luz de los siglos
                                    y parecen no dejar rastro 
           hasta la moderna cocina
                        que te sostiene.

ana, piensa en la labor que te sujeta:
moler ajíes,
                        picar cebollas,
            resolver el estómago que mengua
—los estómagos de otros—
            mantenerse espectro
al margen de la sobremesa,
           padecer y entregarse al sulfuro vegetal:
                        lágrimas sazonan efectivamente 10 000 kilos de encebollado.

los actos de amor tienen efectos materiales.
piensa en picar cebollas, ana:
            este es un acto de destrucción
                       ¿de qué / o quién?
            —excelente pregunta—
a través de los mecanismos de disciplina y entrega,
            sudando agreste
capa tras capa del objeto trozado,
                              desgajarse frente a la necesidad
            de ser un cuerpo a disposición:
tu carne también es hedionda
no apesta a otra cosa que no sea trabajo.
            he ahí la respuesta,
no podría ser más evidente.
            10 000 kilos de encebollado y coscorrón
jamás saciarán tu hambre
y sin embargo, esta comunión aparece bárbara
            mientras las ollas se siguen rascando
mientras tus manos se remojan en las bateas
                        del desprecio
            ¿para quién cortas cebollas tú?
            ¿pensaste alguna vez en
los límites en los que habitas?
            nunca tan marginal, siempre prescindible,
te encuentro ahora llorando
                        merced de tus modernos utensilios
—cuchillos, cucharones y cucharas /
                        machetes, cucharitas y tablones—

10 000 kilos de encebollado
                        no son 10 000 estómagos en potencia
            10 000 kilos de literatura
                        rancia / vaginal
espectros de la historia
            refregándose en el lavabo
nadie nunca pensó, ana
                        en esta tortuosa costumbre
de ser funcional y práctica
            para la doméstica doctrina
nadie nunca pensó
que la calidez del corazón,
                        que constituye al hogar
como el hogar
                                    y a los encebollados
                        como encebollados
            remonta transparente
contra las costillas de esta masa
                        inútil / fatigada

¿pensaste tú alguna vez en la fatiga?

los actos de amor
                                  tienen efectos materiales:
           mientras picas cebollas,
           no hay otro festín
           ni sobras del día anterior 
           que no se sirvan
           de tus entrañas

acts of love

acts of love
have material effects, ana,
just think about the course of events,
about events themselves,
            think about the beauty
of the urbane bodies.
think about the composition of the elements
                        accompanying you even now.
about the earth you occupy,
            about matter that constricts
                        by effect of history:
glossy numerousness
                        bodies consumed
(their womanly features)
                        in the name of order
                                    and sacred satisfaction
under manure / dirt floors one on top of another
            they pick themselves up in the light of the centuries
                                    and seem to leave no trace
            on the way to the modern kitchen
                        that sustains you.

ana, think about the labor that fastens you:
crushing peppers,
                        chopping onions,
            settling the shrinking stomach
—other peoples’ stomachs—
            staying a ghost
on the edge of the tablecloth
            enduring and surrendering to vegetable sulfur:
            tears will effectively season
                        10 000 kilos of encebollado
acts of love have material effects.
think about chopping onions, ana:
            that’s an act of destruction
                        of who / what?
            —excellent question—
through the mechanisms of discipline and dedication,
            sweating wild
layer after layer of the sliced object,
                        breaking yourself off facing the need
            to be a body at the ready:
your flesh reeks too
it stinks of nothing more than work.
            there’s the answer.
it couldn’t be more evident.

            10 000 kilos of encebollado and coscorrón
will never satisfy your hunger
and regardless this communion sounds lovely
            while you’re still living off scraps
while your hands soak in the trays
                        of scorn
           who are you cutting onions for?
            did you ever think
about the limits you inhabit?
            never so marginal, always expendable
i find you now crying
          mercy from your modern utensils
—knives, ladles, spoons /
            machetes, teaspoons, cutting boards—

10 000 kilos of encebollado
                        isn’t 10 000 budding stomachs
            10 000 kilos of literature
                        rank / vaginal
specters of history
            clattering in the sink

nobody ever thought, ana
                        about this devious custom
of being functional and practical
            for domestic doctrine
no one ever thought
            that the warmth of the heart
                        that constitutes the home
as the home
                    and encebollados
          as encebollados
    beats transparent
against this mass’s ribs
                        useless / exhausted
did you ever once think about exhaustion?
acts of love
                        have material effects
            as long as you chop onions,
            there’s no other party
            or yesterday’s leftovers
            that won’t be served
            out of your guts

horas del almuerzo

emplatada la beterraga en trozos y trozos
no tienes ni idea del tiempo alimentándote
            las horas transcurridas en el ollón
fuego alto reposa la hornilla predilecta
            las horas acumulándose en la cáscara
las horas drenándose bombeando sanguínea hacia
el pulgar índice medio la hoja del cuchillo
la superficie del piso laminado
            las horas rogando activamente
coordinación ojo-mano las horas repitiéndome
esta es la prueba definitiva que me pone
            la crianza mansa y ejemplar
con la que me arrojo del día al día
            y viceversa
las horas desencajándome la masa pensante
            la masa muscular: muslos que rebosan
en la misma ruta hacia los mercados repitiéndome
esta es la prueba definitiva
            que me otorga la escasez
            ojalá y las raíces estén frescas
            ojalá por ahora y sea suficiente
las horas que pasa un solo vegetal cultivándose
las manos que lo arrancan de la tierra
            la dureza del salario del jornal
las hernias brotando irreversibles del agro
            hacia la riqueza nacional hacia
            las horas del alba primer fragmento
de la rutina hacia las horas del almuerzo

emplatado no tienes ni idea de las distancias
            los intercambios los cruces los circuitos
perfectos cerrados
el tiempo masticándose
trozado no sabes lo que es eso y, aun así
no te fías de sus sabores
            me dices
a mí no me gustan las beterragas


when the beet is plated in slices and slices
you have no idea, the time spent feeding you
            the hours gone by at the stockpot
favorite burner resting on high flame
            the hours accumulating in the skin
the hours draining, pumping bloody toward
the thumb index middle the knife blade
the surface of the laminate floor
            the hours actively begging
hand-eye coordination the hours repeating to myself
this is the ultimate test put to me
by the placid, model nurturing
i hurl myself against each day
            and vice versa
the hours disjointing me the thinking mass
            muscle mass: thighs spilling over
on the same road to the markets repeating to myself
this is the ultimate test
            that scarcity puts to me
            with some luck the roots’ll be fresh
            with some luck it’ll be enough for now
the hours spent cultivating just one vegetable
the hands that yank it from the earth
            the hardness of the salary, of the daily wage
the hernias sprouting irreversible from the field
            toward national wealth toward
           the dawn hours first fragment
of routine, toward breakfast time
when it’s plated you have no idea, the distances
the exchanges the crossroads the circuits
perfect, closed
the time chewing
sliced, you don’t know what that is, and even still
you don’t trust its flavors
            you tell me
i don’t like beets

ana contra la totalidad social

aburrida de la tradición,
propongo una teoría capaz
            de cubrir hasta el mínimo
pliegue de la totalidad social:

no sentí el pesar de la historia
hasta que me sorprendió
hacia el umbral del descanso
            una segunda jornada laboral
extendida y sin bostezos /
a tajos mi salario se reduce:
remojar los garbanzos
            descongelar la res.

este es un hecho de la realidad.

expuestos al hervor
los granos rebalsan.
se agrupa la espuma.

a la luz
de estos acontecimientos,
la pura teoría
            quema con burla
mis dedos ampollados.

otro hecho de la pura realidad:

los garbanzos los aderezo 
            a fuego lento dejo
que agarren el sabor de todo lo demás
con orgullo en la mejor
            olla que podía heredar
—generaciones de mujeres
            con los dedos ampollados
por las estructuras metodológicas
de las disciplinas—

            replegadas las categorías,
mis garbanzos se posponen
en la totalidad social:
desechada en el gueto
—gueto rebalsado rebosado milenario /
            pliegue de longitudes visibles—
de la poesía                                      /de mujeres/
y los cuidados                                   /de mujeres/
me dicen
            a la luz de este proyecto
que no hay objeto más soso
que el objeto histérico de la historia
                        ¡queremos novedad!

            los tiempos son otros
            los estatutos son otros
y sin embargo,
la jornada sigue estirándose:
uno tras otro, rebalsando
hechos materiales de la realidad.
y sin embargo
            más bien más no
            por el contrario,
parece ser cierto que nadie
quiere escuchar a una mujer
            quejarse de los pilares de la teoría
mucho menos pensar en la belleza devastadora
            de un buen plato de garbanzos

ana versus the social totality

bored of tradition,
i propose a theory capable
            of covering down to the tiniest
crease in the social totality
i never felt the sorrow of history
until it snuck up on me
on the threshold of rest
            the day’s second shift
extended and yawnless /
my salary gets hacked away:
soak the garbanzos
            defrost the beef
this is a fact of reality.
exposed to a boil
beans burst
foam clumps together.
in light
of these happenings
pure theory
            mocks and burns
my blistered fingers.

another fact of pure reality:

i sauce the garbanzos
            on low flame
i let them soak up the other flavors
proud of the best
            pot i could inherit
—generations of women
            their fingers blistered
by the methodological structures
           of the disciplines—

           the categories withdrawn,
           my garbanzos hang back
in the social totality
junked in the ghetto
—burst, spilled over, thousand-year ghetto /
           crease of visible longitudes—

of               /women’s/              poetry
and           /women’s/               care work
they tell me
            in light of this project
there’s no blander object
than the hysterical object of history
                        we want novelty!

            it’s different times
            it’s different statutes
and even so,
the workday stretches on:
one after the other, spilling over
material facts of reality
and even so
            actually no,
            other way round,
it seems true that no one
wants to hear a woman
            complain about the pillars of theory
much less consider the devastating beauty
            of a perfectly good plate of garbanzos
burnt to a crisp


friega refriega los rastros del primer orín
de la jornada cargado de amoniaco la mierda
seca extendida a sus anchas y encuentra el brillo
el esplendor de la taza del inodoro. date cuenta,
se asiste a esta clase de experiencia una sola vez
si transcurren los años de adoctrinamiento
y madurez de forma justa de forma adecuada.
drena los pelos arrojados en la rejilla canija
de la ducha. friega refriega rasca pule el óxido
extendido sobre el cromo y descubre la belleza
de los baños coherentes pulcros hasta la siguiente
descarga el siguiente usuario. este momento es tuyo:
entre los vacíos del poder y la rutina estética
y la flexión coital y los deberes con la producción
y el orden de la bota el guante el estropajo este segundo
te pertenece a ti, solo a ti, ana. luego friega refriega
los rastros del agotamiento y no resientas este privilegio
de poseer un solo instante de satisfacción labrado
del hierro de tus puños el hierro de tus artefactos
el plástico de tus escobillones. friega refriega:
repetición y disciplina, caudillesa de la morada
oculta. friega y refriega hasta que en las superficies
cristalino reflejo a la vista y al tacto ni una mancha
se asome siquiera mirar el desgaste de tus manos
                                                    una y otra vez.


rub down scrub off the traces of the first piss
of the workday loaded with ammonia, shit
dry now streaked all around and find the gleam
the glory of the toilet bowl. now hear this
you’ll attend this class of experience only once
if the years of indoctrination and maturity go by
in a way that’s just, in a way that’s adequate.
drain the hair tossed into the frail strainer
in the shower. rub down scrub off scratch shine
the rust streaked over the chrome and discover
the beauty of consistent bathrooms clean until the next
discharge the next user. this moment is yours:
between the gaps of power and aesthetic routine
and coital bending and the duties of production
and the order of the boot the glove and steel wool
this second belongs to you, only you, ana. later
rub down scrub off the traces of exhaustion and don’t
resent this privilege of possessing a single second of satisfaction
wrought from the iron of your fists, the iron of your artifacts
the plastic of your push brooms. rub down scrub off:
repetition and discipline, mistress of the hidden abode.
rub down and scrub off until the surfaces are a crystal
reflection to the eye and and to the touch not one stain
peeps out to see your hands wasted
                                                                over and over again


Valeria Román Marroquín (Arequipa, 1999) studied Philosophy at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos and currently works as a translator and interpreter. She has published the full-length books feelback (2016), matrioska (2018), and a collaboration with photographer Herbert Mulanovich, triza la luz (2020). She is also the author of the chapbooks kriegzustand (2017) y angst (2018). She was awarded the José Watanabe Varas National Poetry Prize in 2017 and the Luces Prize for Best Poetry Book in the same year. Her most recent book is ana c. buena (Taller Editorial La Balanza, 2021), from which these poems are excerpted.

Noah Mazer (New York, 1997) is a translator and poet based in Mexico City. He keeps a translation blog at

Photo credit: Kawsachun News.

Consider supporting Protean Magazine on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!