Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Worm

Roberto Bolano's Romantic Dogs comes out in November and there is a list of planned publications including his novels and essays here. The poem below, called The Worm is copied from there too.

Let us give thanks for our poverty, said the guy dressed in rags.
I saw him with my own eyes: drifting through a town of houses in ruin,
built of brick and mortar, between United States and Mexico.
Let us give thanks for our violence, he said, even if it’s futile
like a ghost, even if it leads to nothing,
just as these roads lead nowhere.
I saw him with my own eyes: gesturing over a rosy background
that resisted the black, ah, twilight on the border,
glimpsed and lost forever.
Twilights that enveloped Lisa’s father
at the beginning of the fifties.
Twilights that gave witness to Mario Santiago,
up and down, frozen stiff, in the backseat
of a contrabandist’s car. Twilights
of infinite white and infinite black.

I saw him with my own eyes: he looked like a worm with a straw hat
and an assassin’s glare
and he traveled through the towns of northern Mexico
as if wandering lost, evicted from the mind,
evicted from the grand dream, the dream of all,
and his words were, madre mía, terrifying.

He looked like a worm with a straw hat,
white clothes
and an assassin’s glare.
And he traveled like a fool
through the towns of northern Mexico
without daring to yield,
without choosing
to go down to the D.F.
I saw him with my own eyes
coming and going
with traveling vendors and drunks,
shouting his promises through streets
lined with adobes.
He looked like a white worm
with a Bali between his lips
or an unfiltered Delicados.
And he traveled, from one side to the other
of dreams,
just like an earthworm,
dragging his desperation,
devouring it.

A white worm with a straw hat
under the northern Mexican sun,
in soils watered with blood and the mendacious words
of the frontier, the gateway to the Body seen by Sam Peckinpah,
the gateway to the evicted Mind, the pure little
whip, and the damned white worm was right there,
with his straw hat and cigarette hanging
from his lower lip, and he had the same assassin’s
glare, as always.

I saw him and told him I have three lumps on my head
and science can no longer do a thing for me.
I saw him and told him get out of my tracks, you blowhard,
poetry is braver than anyone,
the soils watered with blood can jerk me off, the evicted Mind
hardly rattles my senses.
From these nightmares I’ll retain only
these poor houses,
these wind-swept streets
and not your assassin’s glare.

He looked like a white worm with his straw hat
and handgun under his shirt
and he never stopped talking to himself or with whomever
about a village
at least two- or three-thousand years old,
up there in the north, next to the border
with the United States,
a place that still existed,
only forty houses,
two cantinas,
and a grocery store to speak of,
a town of vigilantes and assassins
like he himself,
adobe houses and cement patios
where one’s eyes were forever hitched
to the horizon
(that flesh-colored horizon
like a dying man’s back).
And what did they hope to see appear there? I asked.
The wind and dust, maybe.
A minimal dream
but one on which they staked
all their stubbornness, all their will.
He looked like a white worm with a straw hat and a Delicados
hanging from his lower lip.
He looked like a twenty-two year-old Chilean walking into Café la Habana
and checking out a blonde girl
seated in the back,
in the evicted Mind.
They looked like the midnight walks
of Mario Santiago.
In the evicted Mind.
In the enchanted mirrors.
In the hurricane of Mexico City.
The severed fingers were growing back
with surprising speed.
Severed fingers,
in the air of Mexico City.

Roberto Bolano

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