Poems from “Blackbird”

Translated from Spanish by Lucian Mattison


Before opting, before whichever road, the current scrapes
the sound of rocks, light, leaf litter. The wind, neither northerly nor
southerly, clears life on an indefinite point, dry thistles
on clay. Man creates a city in his mind,
offers his exhaustion, the rainwater, electricity which
snakes through cables.
Later defeats the evidence, graduates from forgetfulness and what’s left
are the ruins where wheat encroaches, wild. The rat finds
refuge beneath those glumes, wakes, bites, they threaten him,
he dresses in dirt and the grass stretches as if it would want to see
the panorama and its origin.

Extensive real estate is created in offices dressed like
grass and underbrush. The lines point one way
(distinct from those of a child’s drawing) until they end up making
a house, a building or a sales department. The
office recreates that reality like a recurring dream
in the mind of a blackbird, it makes it break into a cold sweat, flutter
unnecessarily, before the alarm clock and the tie that
wrings his neck. The alarm clock returns to direct him to those
expanses; He doesn’t sing, but calculates a budget delimited by
the language of offices.

Is it possible to harbor a hope in time? Every
corner has been ransacked and what’s left are the stoplights which fall and
skip town. Or could it be that a slumped darkness is still
our blackbird trying to hum its trill? Tragic is the
tongue before those empty altars. A ditty remains that

C’est le vent qui decide
Si les feuilles seront
A terre avant les nids

(It’s the wind that decides
if the leaves shall fall
to ground before the nests).

The tenant will never say this is hunger, my legs
hurt, I have dirty hands. Neither, this place isn’t
for me, nor this is not my war. His miracle consists of cutting
a slice of cheese or multiplying the days of bread. Tea
with breakfast, crackers with dinner. For his birthday, a shirt
tailored to his slimness. He walks, asks for borrowed books,
beer with lime and salt, shoes stuck to his feet, he hobnobs
with the garbage man until he becomes real. To love is
an extra cost and not mutual.
The blackbird nests in his mind, they observe: there’s no myth, nor
symbol, only street. The nest is complete.


The cops took my grandfather’s car
and returned it after six months
but nothing happened to him
My mother went to a protest after some days
an uncle rescued her from the crowd
but nothing happened to her
My dad was a third-class merchant pilot
he knew that they had dumped bodies in the sea
but nothing happened to him
A friend unearthed books from his house
trapped for almost twenty years in humidity
and nothing happened to them
We were lucky little Jeanne
and I thought differently
a drizzle like the one from that night at the bar
the Special Forces closing the high school
we sat with the kids in the plaza
they were hungry cold they had nowhere to go
we played charades guessing movies
little by little they came closer
a whale with crustaceans on its back
rhyming sounds in that density
how and where do they sleep I asked myself
why do they beach on deserted shores
and the girls who disappeared to prostitute themselves
and the other who was violated by her father
the girl beaten by her mother
the one who lived in a park by my house
or the punk who was born to live in and out of the hospital
those who never had a childhood being put to work
my best student committed suicide
she wrote poems grand plays
she finished before everyone
I never entered her world
the forty-four-hour workweek excuse doesn’t suffice
that afternoon Jeanne I broke down and cried thinking it could have been me
and if I want myself to remember her name I can’t
and if I want to be someone else I can’t
and if I wanted to be an exemplary man
I only remember that morning in Peñalolén
the blackbirds pecking at seeds
clouds of tear gas
plowing the city.


In the story of the lady in the moon, there is only one ending: to live out her nights as a captive, over and over, as if some necessary penance, as if a sorrow to see a woman paper-thin against the lesser light.

Natural History

contrary to popular belief
—florists included—
tulips are not native to Holland, but to Anatolia instead.