Testimony of Circumstances

Rodrigo Lira

                                                                           An attempt to architexturize a vicious structure
                                                                           attempting the eventual ethic-aesthetics of an
                                                                           epic-epidermatic poetics

                                                                           third degree game
                                                                           (Cf. “Born to Win,” James/Jongeward,
                                                                           Fondo Educativo Interamericano, S.A.,
                                                                           Reading, Mass., 1975, page 32)


This piece is dedicated
               to Mr. NAVARRETE, Clerk of the 2nd Criminal Court of Minor
Transactional Analyst, and member of the Chilean
               Writers Society

               to the owner of a printing press in Recoleta, corner of Santos
               Dumont, and to the memory of his son-in-law CLAUDIO
               MARÍN* (twenty-two caliber)

               to Dr. ARÍSTIDES ROJAS LADRÓN DE GUEVARA, translator of a
               book by Hugh Prather published by CUATRO VIENTOS, and to
               the memory of his then Mother-in-Law, VIOLETA PARRA* (pistol
               in a tent)

               to Dr. ARMANDO ROA, author of an infamous, defamatory brochure
               on MOTHER CANNABIS, a venerable Treatise on PSYCHIATRY and
               other books

               to the NAMES of the BRAVE SOLDIERS who have been CHILE’s
                                                                     BRASSIÈRE and are tattooed on our

to the cause of PEACE, JUSTICE, and FREEDOM

to Daddy Treasury, of which we are All pampered kids

to MOTHER EARTH              (Pacha Mamma)
MOTHER NIGHT                   (Mutter Nacht)

And to the pan where we all fry together, and You or Your Lordship will never know Who holds the handle



      If we consider earth
not humus, or uncooked pottery
or dry mud, or clay
if we consider EARTH
this ball tracing ellipses around
that star we call Sun
                           ellipses that, when the sun itself moves
              at an incredible speed
within that sort of rugby ball we call
              Galaxy, and in turn
              drifts farther away from its origin
                           tracing in air
a spiral whose shape is somewhat difficult to imagine
you may ask
      if residing somewhere else is currently a possibility
and, even when a citizen from the sister Republic of Peru
insists on having traveled to one of Jupiter’s
moons, declaring it without an inch of doubt 
               habitable and inhabited
you could insist, without neglecting the APOLLO XII and its cosmonautic relatives
that, however sad it may seem
               for most of us
               for the time being
               the answer      is      no.

And since we reside here
      because we were born here
      without any prior choice
      apparently, oh human siblings
      maybe, just maybe deserving such a thing
      and, some of us, and I would say
                              the majority
                                                       without any choice of place either
on this spherical surface      on this round flat earth
      on which to reside      live or survive or sub-live
but you can choose      if you really want
      to embark on any trip, as a stowaway or passenger
to anywhere             even to the afterlife
      you can choose      to abandon this residence
                                    even for a brief period
because the Hindus may have
been right, that we are born
                                          on this shitty earth.

                                         Every single one of us
                                   lives survives and sub-lives in our own way
                                   and, even when you don’t live as you’d like
                                   as you do would or should
                                         you live      survive      sub-live
                                                                                              here you reside
                                   meanwhile time passes separating you from death
                                   an event you will also experience here
                                   (even if you aim for heaven in body and soul)

                                   and this residence of yours here
                                                                               is full of vital circumstances
                                                                               varied and variable
                                                                               incredible and banal
                                                                               merely circumstantial

                                   and others more relevant
                                   more connected to your core
                                   those that vigorously ring
                                                                            your bells.

      Running the risk of disqualification under the vague charge of individualism, since the world ends slightly beyond the reach of my skin and
      begging forgiveness for my probable autistic egocentrism and my impulse to tell the truth the only truth nothing but the truth and, if possible, a bit more than a bit of the truth—which is considerably different from the whole truth, but amounts to a bit more than the hundred-and-fifty verse maximum for entries in the Youth Poetry Contest that “inspired” this preamble

                                                                                                    here are my truths

      I would like to show something
of certain noninfectioned, noninfected phrasongs
of certain expectanxiousness and honestuttering injurideas
—noncaved or with cavitieafflicted concavities
                                                   but regardless, nonvexing
of certain open pit operlyrications,
impeacefuling—ananesthetized—scribbling to my written screams
from this side of the shadows,
      season diseason inferno, coldialects, pseudospring
verafreeze, stallion, wheel, cross

      But for now, only
                              Several Clarifications, a colon:

 (1st WARNING)

            I warn 
            that I’m not a psycho
            they call me “loco” but those who call me “loco”
            are also called “loco”
            just like people say “buddy”
            —sometimes people call me “buddy”
            and a real buddy of mine calls me “stranger.”

                  But, I warn You and Your Lordship
            that, truly,
                        I am not CRAZY
            despite labels
            vulgarly referred to as diagnostics
            that distinguished specialists
            have applied to my case
            moistening the glue of labels
            with plastic sponges
                  their hands gloved in latex

—talcum powder while fitting on latex gloves
—denatured alcohol on plastic sponges
—the immaculate white of priest-like aprons
—liquid or conductor jelly on my temples or skull
      (whether EEG or EST

            that I’m not even that much more neurotic
            than the average of my contemporaries
            that I have a good prognosis
                  that I haven’t been lobotomized yet they haven’t given me a
            that my computer still works, and enough
            to write this
            without misspellings, without spelling
                  or punctuation errors,
                  (this part ends with a coma,) (,),


I do confess though
                     that sometimes I have to clench my brain with both hands
                     that sometimes Great Thoughts and Solutions
                     begin to boil
                     accumulating pressurized steam in my head
                     swaying me into a bubble bath
                     —hydrotherapy, they call it—                                               
                     or something along those lines

          and other times
                     the world loses color
                     it becomes something like street pavement
                     someone paves my world
                     and everything is a path or a highway or a road
                           but never a destination
                     and I’ll die waiting to arrive somewhere
                     two steps back for every step forward
                     seeing it all gray gray
                     not feeling joy or happiness
                     and the sun causes well-known
                     visual distortions on hot pavement
                     and even when the sun sets
                     sometimes the pavement heats up
                     this doesn’t necessarily mean
                           it’s hot outside
                     the world
                           is like gravel covered in cement
                           in drying cement
                           and the cold can become dreadful.

And therefore, I confess
                     that in a sustained and continuous
                     and, despite all else,
                     thus far non-declining way
                     I will proceed to practice acupuncture
                     with small needles made of rice paper
                     if possible                    Smoking brand, elaborated
                                                            with the utmost standards of hygiene
                                                            by Miquel y Costas & Miquel, S.A.,
                                                            in Barcelona

easy and legal to find at laughable prices around here
—the guy with French papers no longer visits these latitudes—
                        or inhale joints
                        rolled in any kind of paper
                        sometimes bible paper, even
                              from Bible pages or books published by Aguilar
                        printed on that paper
                        —regardless, I have a pipe around here somewhere—

But it is imperative to acknowledge that weed
                                                            comes from cannabis plants
                                    and that cannabis plants are not ANDROGYNOUS
and what works for this kind of acupuncture
with a hit or a drag, or a pipe
is the inflorescence of the FEMALES
                                                                 the Buds
                                                          miniature poplar trees, cypresses, or laurels
                                                   tiny chromatically parsimonious Christmas trees
                                                   only brown tones, greenish-brown, shades of green
                and, instead of those stupid metallically colored glass balls
                      exceptionally fragile
                      ovules—fertilized or, if possible unfertilized—seeds,
                      rich with lipids: birds love
                      them, and they leave
                      ugly stains on the parquet
                      if accidently stepped on
covered in a delicate vegetable and resinous material
that those involved in its consumption denominate
                      affectionately covering
                      the clustered seeds
in the inflorescence
                                  of the plant
                                                      of the female sex

temperamental females, possessive and jealous
perfectly capable of complicating your life
      with human females
—those entities called WOMEN
—What woman would get involved with a stoner?
asked the actuary.
—the bearded strict and vigorous mister actuary,
writer and retired stoner:
                                             consider that
                                             thanks to those small plants
                                             you run the risk
                                             of having the pleasure
                                             of meeting gentlemen actuaries
                                             almost always clean shaven
                                             —exceptions always exist.

      So that women
      —or at least according to this mister actuary—
      and justice, also a woman
      justice that isn’t blind rather nearsighted
                   that suffers myopia and astigmatism and cataracts
      justice that isn’t deaf, just a bit hard of hearing
      justice that isn’t mute at all,
                   that recites a discourse
                   full of sound and fury
                   with a cold shoulder
                   and you begin to think
                                                that despite
the lung-filled time wasted
on this sustained, long, lively
romance with the cannabinican female
the kind you don’t throw away overnight
perhaps this thing is a love song or maybe
      you and I
      who love each other so
      should just break up
            or in any event
            we can’t go on like this:

the relationship can’t continue at an amateur level
one either becomes a professional or a FARSE
risking alcoholism or Optalidon addiction
(1st Clarification)

And here, I clarify
      that it truly happened like this
because at the best moments
of the aforementioned romance
time has recovered
a bourrée durée
—a pastoral becoming, in case You or Your Lordship don’t speak French—

repeatedly offering 
a world where not everything is gray
sometimes everything is alright, just o. kay
and nothing else compares to life, all rye
and of course grays subsist
between black and white
but secundum Mondrian white black and middle grays
are not colors:
      the others are, the real
      colors, all the others
      and I can see them, and the things that sustain them
                                         —I’m not colorblind—
      and I can see people
      and their clothes and their skin
                        their eyes and hair
      and I understand and comprehend them (generally)
      or at least, somehow
                        I get them,
                                    enclosing them in any kind of net
      with parameters and coordinates, finally.

      Anyway, I do what I can
      and despite occasional encounters
      which are strange and brief
      since they (generally) don’t
they don’t go out or don’t make it easy to take them out
of their small worlds of bearable tones
      somewhat pastel, somewhat grayish
            or more like television colors
            of color TV or not
            or agfacolor, technicolor, kodacolor, or whatever
of frankly plumbic tones
      black blacks
      with purplish bruise tones
      nescafé coffee-brown or blood stains
      —these also exist.

      But this karma is beginning to last too long
      “stoner” karma to friends, and some of you
      weed smoker karma to them, and some of you

I’m different
less crazy and more NUTTY
a guy written printed or stained with different ink
and they ask me more and more frequently
                        if I’m a foreigner
            because somehow
            they sense that I see
            that I have learned to see things in another way, I
can sometimes see structures and colors
                                          the green in moss and police uniforms
                                          the pink in twilight and roses
                                          in lips, in glans
                                          the red in Coca Cola, the red in the Soviet flag
                                          the red in the North American Chilean
                                          British French flag the red stripes in the
                                          North American flag the red in Pepsi Cola
                                          the primary blue that sometimes outlines white stars
                                          the dark blue and light blue in Pepsi Cola
                                          the navy blue emblems
                                          in the Gendarmerie Corps of Chile
                                          the light blue in the vans
                                          used to transport the arrested or accused
      and the electric blue in miniscule lights
      flashes, commercials that unexpectedly appear before my eyes, for an instant
      in the air      clear,      luminous,      small
                                           —this may be the strangest thing that happens to me.
The thing is that aside from the colors
      I see other less sensitive aspects
      of reality, less sensorial, in case it was misunderstood
      —nothing too esoteric either
      don’t over interpret what I say
      nothing you couldn’t include in a conference
      though lengthy
      on these structures and herbs
      maybe with diagrams, if You or Your Lordship like
      if for whatever reason why
      You or Your Lordship try to understand how I perceive
                   without blinders, which never fit me well
indeed I developed the remarkable skill necessary
to gradually remove them
                   until I was left alone, only with two pairs of
                   photochromatic glasses, prescription -1 -1
                   fit at the Military Hospital ophthalmology lab.

However, since I always preferred
      short stories and songs and hymns
      and comics and lullabies too
      I ended up memorizing a large portion of this material
      —a certain Mr. León Felipe, Spaniard by the way
      claims to know every short story
      I clarify that I only know a good chunk
      but instead can provide a hefty repertoire
      of cruel jokes
      and that I’ve chewed more than a few stews, my muse 
                            having been completely versatile in style for a while.

But you can’t just see the motorcycle
or study disassemble and consider it
to start the motor and drive off
motorcycles cars and worlds
      usually have owners
      and everyone’s freedom is a serious issue
      they can do terrible things
      with their freedom
      and with anyone’s too.

But I don’t blame cobblestone streets
when I trip—at least not always—
      or the steering wheel or the brakes
when I crash again.
The fact is my soul limps
I don’t know how to drive, don’t have a chauffeur’s I.D.
driver’s license or
any kind of motorized vehicle.

So sometimes it’s necessary or preferable to move
as little as possible to avoid stumbling and crashing
since there is always or almost or almost the refuge
of utopian but possible futures—but possible!
enjoying the air’s infinite capabilities over my bed
to tolerate beautiful and giant castles
      that fly out my window
      along with the smoke and CO2;
      anyway, Don Nicanor
      Mr. Parra wrote in I don’t remember which antipoetic opuscule,
      “brilliant ideas come to mind,”
      and as long as no one proves the contrary
      I warn      confess      clarify
      that mine are many more and more beautiful
      —notice my rhymes.

But since my legs still work
I try to go out every now and then, and thus
you can see me around
bumping into the poles of reality
and I see stars and make stars seen
generally by looking away
as there is usually so much to see
behind below forward up
but I have no one next to me
with whom to walk towards the horizon
looking out over the horizon
like at the end of a spaghetti western
or looking at the church door
the outside light after sacraments and rituals;
and in the absence of nipples earlobes lips etcetera
cabañas filter cigarettes are good enough,
since deficient affection accumulates anxiety
stress, for those who know—
I continue working on my slow suicide
of a homicide smoker who smokes in public
      and in closed premises
—in vain, the whole world, or almost, smokes and smokes
and smoking waits for whatever the hell
the’re waiting for—if they’re waiting for anything—

meanwhile, such anxiety is always
on the edge of turning into anguish
into Angst, for the pedants and cultured,
into existential waiting which is neither apples nor oranges
nor cider ni chicha ni limoná, alleviated
with a swig of Coca Cola (“things go better”)
and “it’s the real thing” but its spark won’t ever set a prairie on fire
or provoke any holocaust
so we must fence off anxiety
or lyticise it (?) with ANXIOLYTICS
of which I can’t name any brands: no laboratory
will pay or give me discounts

and on another front
drawing defensive lines
with chlorpromazine pills
—cee pee zee, for novices—
to prevent the Nameless from landing
—those who upon settling in
can only be expelled
through epileptic electric or insulin-induced convulsions
producing more sleep than necessary
with many dreams that seem to undo some knots
in my nerves, uncover my plexus, diminish
the bioelectric insomniac activities of my two nervous systems

so as to not burst      or scream
or strip in public
to not wander around crying
      or sweating blood
which could be very hygienic
      people don’t like to hear crying
and I can cry quite intensely
which would upset the neighbors
thy neighbor, more distant than near
because really, once again really there is
no one by my side
to accompany me on walks
or do some other things.

          Should I say that Aphrodite has a grudge against me
          or that I offer an easy target for Cupid
          or that the latter monster ran out of my arrows
          or that he’s a bad shot when it comes to girls
          my doubtful indecisive reluctant
                longed-for dream lovers?

          Or should I say grandpa God destined me to solitude
          which isn’t bad if you know how to use it
          along with a lot of other things
          many indisputably favorable
          beautiful and gracious
                (Cf. “Gracias a la vida” by Violeta Parra)?

                Or should I say the moment just hasn’t arrived?
Hope is not always the last thing lost
and seldom is it lost definitively.

Do I need to clarify
that this is no song preceded by love poems?
But as for hope                        there is little to subtract
                                                    add the division
                                                    multiply it
                                                    et moi c’est un autre
                                                    and I is another
                                                    another in cursive
                                                    with these bastards, italics
                                                    for others not in cursive
                                                    (I think I already said so)
                                                    and a loner as well
                                                    or therefore
                                                    and I write and read
and write and almost never watch television
                                                                                but from time to time
I read the news
                        —horrible experience, when you can
                        decode those messages
                        surrendering to those massages
for I am a lonely bachelor who writes
about bachelorhood and other topics and themes
a bachelor, and not too far off from
justifying the use of a
modified description
with the word /confirmed/ preceding “bachelor”
and the subsequent suspicions of meriting
other expressions and words
such as several that begin with the letter ef
and meanwhile I write while
my friends continue going crazy reproducing and committing suicide
                                    investing in the good business of marriage 
                                    settling down tumbling overboard getting wasted
                        and their dreams become
                                    more and more Sabatian
                                    suffering more and more sometimes writing as well
                                    sometimes not realizing what anything is
                                    sometimes Nothing or almost nothing
                                    and one writes—I write.

      But I must warn that
I am not a young poet
though you could say I’m still young
and the supra mentioned actuary referred to me as “son”
—and he was only one year older than Jesus on the cross—

      (even though a young girl
      called me a “dirty geezer”
      when I tried to find out what she was doing
      out that late, on that corner).

      Because what I write, the texts like or almost like this one
      are not poems
unless poem is not written only with the /p/ of profound
      with the /p/ of pristine, of pure, of platinum petal
                        is written also with the /p/ of prostitute
                        of pregnant prostitute, of propagating prostitute: puta madre . . . !
                        of frigid prostitute, of sterile prostitute (son of a bitch)
                        of difficult prostitute of horny prostitute of child prostitute
                        young lady miss or misses prostitute
                        —often persuaded—
with the /p/ of “pistol” more than a few poems have been written

      what about the /p/ of a hundred Zen Poles to the head
      —suck that Koan, damn it 
and the /p/ of a Punch in the ass or the solar Plexus
      or a Palm slapping a friend’s cheek
      or the butt of a flirtatious girl
      or the Pile of dirt next to an open grave?

even though, at least here, in Santiago de Chile
gravediggers use ladders more than shovels
since no Earth is left, only Tombs
niches of concrete in the General Cemetery
or has no one died on you lately?
      or if they did
have you not fulfilled your Duties
to the Deceased bidding farewell at the Graveyard?

or have you not even gone on a walk
or a date or to study
at the Cemetery?
      —excellent surroundings for all this;
and besides, cremation has become popular
and at that depth
      the fuchsia looks like a chorus girl, a stripper, or a showgirl.

      I warn, oh! that I’m not a poor poet either
the Muses have not blessed me
with somber poverty
of a tattered or waxy dark suit
with a torn collar and cuffs
and thin unattractive outdated ties
      because the muses or the fairies or the devil
      have determined that my beloved parents
      make it their duty to support me
                                                at quite a
      modest, decent, and adequate standard of living within
      the limits of their non-exorbitant pension funds.

Therefore, I am not a poor poet
although sometimes I walk around looking at
food, hungry, without a cent in my pocket
although I failed to take from that whorehouse
on San Camilo near Santa Isabel
a girl from Chillán who was new on the scene
                                                since I had no money 
                                                and not being Catholic
                                                I didn’t think to rescue
                                                an image of the Holy Virgin
                                                venerated next to the safe box
or take out a notebook
since I had no money
or buy new books
and because I know about poverty, which is no pose,
I fear and respect it so as to gargle and warble
the word
or trumpetly describe its gargoyles
my voice resonating upon reading the subsequent Ode
—the audience usually gets excited:
                                                bad conscience
                                                in the audience?
But fundamentally
because I’m not a poet            unless being a poet
                                                      is being a clown
                                                      that is being a spectrum
                                                      —a healthy but ghostly spectrum,
                                                      a tormented soul, a spirit

                                                      that is being an inappropriate misfit
                                                      not unappealing, with an extensive lexicon
                                                      correct diction and syntax
                                                      in his slow speech
                                                      and excellent exam scores
                                                      periodically required
                                                      to enter the University
                                                  —sorry, to enroll
                                                      at least when
                                                      evaluating the illicit degrees
                                                      of verbal aptitude or
                                                      one’s mother tongue

that is being simply someone
with an absent gaze
one of those people who suddenly dies a tragic death
                                    surprising no one
and that hardly anyone hears of
and for now survives
with an intimidating smile
and with a barely insinuated sadness
or some profound and hidden true kindness?
gently moves a few simple souls

that is being
      an itinerant pedestrian
      whose path is interrupted by
      menacing gangs of sleepwalkers
all and every one of them sound asleep
                                    dreaming the same dream
      doing their best to look like a poster
      humming songs by Lucho Barrios or Peter Frampton
      or trying to sing stale chauvinisattas, off key
or even, once in a while
for disciples determined
to follow in my footsteps
those I leave or draw
while on the lookout for
some guru or true Master
able to fix some leaks in the Spirit.

And meanwhile I write, but
now that it is completely clear
that I’m no poet
      must I clarify
      that I’m not a young Established Treasure
      Representative of the New Literary Generation?
      —you can find several of those around
      don’t think these entities don’t exist in flesh and blood.

      But I must set the record straight
that I hope that, come hell or high water
even in the eventual case that I begin writing seriously
                                                                        or serially
no one ever consecrates me
so that you would have to voluntarily fast
to adequately assimilate my production
and I also hope no gullible friend
poorly versed in the needs and activities of the mester literárico
will consider me some sort of
                                    Chilean Literary Prodigy
I only hope you listen to me from time to time
when I have something to say—it doesn’t always happen—
I hope you perhaps 
glance over 
a piece of paper, printed, mimeographed, typed
                            photocopied or hand-written
                                        because I have
                                                write,                           from time to time.

      In any case I warn
that I do not have a great future ahead
that I might
pack everything and leave
this gathering of phenomena
where I am like a fly in a spiderweb
stuck there after the spider
was hit with a broom and sprayed with insecticide
even though people who really commit suicide
      reserve their plans
      with a near-religious silence
      so they say they say.

      I have warned that I’m not a poet
and finally proclaim that although a bald spot
is already aiming for my skull
I have plenty of hair in my armpits and on my pubis
      and on my face and on my chest and around my belly

and hair is said to
like nails
keep growing for some time
after you die unless
you insult the mother of a guy packing
a flamethrower, or
prior collusions with photographer friends
      a warning to freelance graphic reporters
      and a filmmaker with materials
      I stand once and for all
      with my legs open and
a pair of rubber pants, sealed at the bottom for fishing
which I still keep
filled like a hot water bottle
but not with hot water, rather with gasoline
over the flame of liberty
located, if You or Your Lordship are not aware,
on the terrace of a stone hill
which the indigenous native aborigines
have denominated for centuries “Huelén.”

            but I do warn
            I have no hairs on my tongue


Take the rest
      to the chest;
take the words
      as absurd coolness.

translated from the Spanish by Rodrigo Olavarría and Thomas Rothe