Visit to the
It's 1976 and the Revolution has been defeated
but we've yet to find out.
We are 22, 23 years old.
Mario Santiago and I walk down a black and white street.
At the end of the street, in a neighborhood straight out of a fifties film, sits the house of Darío Galicia's parents.
It's the year 1976 and they've trepanned Darío Galicia's skull.
He's alive, the Revolution's been defeated, it's a nice day
in spite of storm clouds advancing slowly from the north, crossing the valley.
Darío receives us reclined on a divan.
But first we speak with his parents, two people getting on in years, Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel, who, from a green branch suspended in dreams, contemplate how the forest is burning.
And the mother looks at us and doesn't see us or sees things about us we don't even know.
It's 1976 and even though all the doors seem to be open,
in fact, if we paid attention, we'd be able to hear how one by one the doors are closing.
The doors: plates of metal, reinforced iron grills, one by one they go on closing in infinity's film.
But we're 22 or 23 years old and infinity doesn't scare us.
They've trepanned Darío Galicia's skull. Twice!
And one of the aneuryisms burst in the middle of the Dream.
His friends say he's lost his memory.
And so, Mario and I push our way through Mexican films from the forties
and arrive at thin hands resting on his knees in a gesture of placid waiting.
It's 1976 and it's Mexico and his friends say Darío has forgotten everything,
including his own homosexuality.
And Darío's father says that all bad things happen for a reason.
And outside it's raining buckets:
in the tenement's courtyard, rain sweeps the stairs
and hallways
and slips away through the faces of Tin Tan, Rescues, and Calambres,
which cloak, in semi-transparency, the year 1976.
And Darío begins to speak. He's touched.
He's happy we've come to visit him.
His voice like a bird's: shrill, a different voice,
as if they'd done something to his vocal chords.
His hair is growing back, but you can still see scars from the trepanation.
I'm doing well, he says.
Sometimes sleep is so monotonous.
Corners, unexplored regions, but from the same dream.
Naturally he hasn't forgotten that he's homosexual (we laugh),
just as he hasn't forgotten how to breathe.
I was on the verge of death, he says after pondering it a while.
For a moment we think he's going to cry.
But it isn't he who cries.
And it's not Mario or I.
Nevertheless somebody cries as darkness sets in with inaudible slowness.
And Darío says: the ultimate trip and he speaks of Vera who was with him in the hospital and of other faces that Mario and I don't know and that now he can't recognize either.
The black and white trip of forties and fifties films.
Pedro Infante and Tony Aguilar dressed like police
traveling through the infinite Mexican dusk on their motorbikes.
And someone cries but it isn't us.
If we listened carefully we'd be able to hear the slamming doors of history or destiny.
But we only listen to the hiccups of someone who's crying
And Mario starts reading poems.
He reads poems to Darío, Mario's voice so pleasant while outside the rain falls,
and Darío whispers that he loves the French poets.
Poets that only he and Mario and I know of.
Boys from the then unimaginable city of Paris with eyes bloodshot from suicide.
He loves them so much!
In the way I loved the streets of Mexico in 1968.
I was fifteen years old then and I'd just arrived.
I was a fifteen-year-old emigrant but the first thing they tell me, the streets of Mexico,
is that, there, we're all emigrants, emigrants of the Spirit.
Ah, the beautiful, the never over-considered, the terrible
Mexican streets hanging in the abyss
while the rest of the world's cities
are drowning in uniformity and silence.
And the boys, the brave homosexual boys stamped like phosphorescent saints for all these years,
from 1968 to 1976.
Like in a wormhole, the opening that appears where you least expect it,
the metaphysical grave of gay adolescents who face up --- bravest of all! --- to poetry and adversity.
But it's the year 1976, and Darío Galicia's head has the indelible marks of a trepanation.
It's the year before goodbyes,
that advances like an enormous drugged bird
through the dead-end streets of a neighborhood
frozen in time.
Like a river of black urine that circles Mexico's main artery,
river spoken of and navigated by Chapultepec's black rats,
river-word, the liquid ring of neighborhoods lost in time.
And even if Mario's voice and Darío's current voice,
shrill as a cartoon,
fill our adverse air with warmth,
I know that in the images we ponder with advance piety,
in the transparent icons of the Mexican passion,
lie crouching the great warning and the great pardon,
that unnamable thing, part of the dream, that many years later
we will call by various names meaning defeat.
The defeat of true poetry, which we write in blood.
And semen and sweat, says Darío.
And tears, says Mario.
Though none of us is crying.
--- From The Romantic Dogs
Roberto Bolaño
Laura Healy, Translator
©2008 New Directions
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