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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