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The Dreamer

Roberto Bolaño (1953-2003)

Here are sixteen poems from Roberto Bolaño’s collection entitled Tres. The poetic fragments have no titles, but they are striking in their variety and suggestiveness.

31. I dreamt that Earth was finished. And the only 
human being to contemplate the end was Franz 
Kafka. In heaven, the Titans were fighting to the 
death. From a wrought-iron seat in Central Park, 
Kafka was watching the world burn.

32. I dreamt I was dreaming and I came home 
too late. In my bed I found Mário de Sá-Carneiro 
sleeping with my first love. When I uncovered them 
I found they were dead and, biting my lips till they 
bled, I went back to the streets.

33. I dreamt that Anacreon was building his castle 
on the top of a barren hill and then destroying it. 
 
34. I dreamt I was a really old Latin American 
detective. I lived in New York and Mark Twain 
was hiring me to save the life of someone without 
a face. “It’s going to be a damn tough case, Mr. 
Twain,” I told him.

35. I dreamt I was falling in love with Alice Sheldon. 
She didn’t want me. So I tried getting myself killed 
on three continents. Years passed. Finally, when I 
was really old, she appeared on the other end of the 
promenade in New York and with signals (like the 
ones they use on aircraft carriers to help the pilots 
land) she told me she’d always loved me.

36. I dreamt I was 69ing with Anaïs Nin on an 
enormous basaltic flagstone.

37. I dreamt I was fucking Carson McCullers in a 
dim-lit room in the spring of 1981. And we both felt 
irrationally happy.

38. I dreamt I was back at my old high school 
and Alphonse Daudet was my French teacher. 
Something imperceptible made us realize we were 
dreaming. Daudet kept looking out the window 
and smoking Tartarin’s pipe

39. I dreamt I kept sleeping while my classmates 
tried to liberate Robert Desnos from the Terezín 
concentration camp. When I woke a voice was 
telling me to get moving. “Quick, Bolaño, quick, 
there’s no time to lose.” When I got there, all I 
found was an old detective picking through the 
smoking ruins of the attack.

40. I dreamt that a storm of phantom numbers was 
the only thing left of human beings three billion 
years after Earth ceased to exist.

41. I dreamt I was dreaming and in the dream 
tunnels I found Roque Dalton’s dream: the dream 
of the brave ones who died for a fucking chimera.

42. I dreamt I was 18 and saw my best friend at 
the time, who was also 18, making love to Walt 
Whitman. They did it in an armchair, contemplating 
the stormy Civitavecchia sunset.

43. I dreamt I was a prisoner and Boethius was 
my cellmate. “look, Bolaño,” he said, extending 
his hand and his pen in the shadows: 
“they’re not trembling! they’re not 
trembling!” (after a while, 
he added in a calm voice: “but they’ll tremble when 
they recognize that bastard Theodoric.”)

44. I dreamt I was translating the Marquis de Sade 
with axe blows. I’d gone crazy and was living in the 
woods.

45. I dreamt that Pascal was talking about fear with 
crystal clear words at a tavern in Civitavecchia: 
Miracles don’t convert, they condemn, he said.

46. I dreamt I was an old Latin American detective 
and a mysterious Foundation hired me to find the 
death certificates of the Flying Spics. I was traveling 
all around the world: hospitals, battlefields, pulque 
bars, abandoned schools.

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