The Timid Investigators: An Homage to Roberto Bolaño


First Person

Illustration by Hache Holguin.

We’re out this week, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2012 while we’re away. We hope you enjoy—and have a happy New Year!

Then Maria came in and I said do you want café or café con leche, and then Bebe came in and I said do you want a café con leche or a mescal. Maria said she wanted a mescal with a fat worm and then Bebe said she wanted a clear tequila, then Maria said Verlaine is a better poet than Rimbaud who turned Verlaine from anapest to pederast, then Luiz came in with a kitchen knife and started cutting his dick right in front of us, but when Maria, who came from Xochimilco and whose father was a tram conductor and whose mother had run a small brothel in Taxco before she saw the light of Jesus and married and had Maria and several other Brats as Maria called them, and Maria said stop cutting that huge magnificent dick of yours or at least don’t do it here in the kitchen, and Luiz said he was going to start a magazine and publish only nuns and queers. Fuck you, I said, fuck you, chinga tu madre! Then two guys I didn’t know came in high from pot and giggling like tweens, Maria said hello Paco, hello Paquito. They were the twins from Guadalajara and wrote for a magazine called Anal Retention and they were stars in the poetry world faction that sided with Quevedo against Gongora and said they would stomp anyone who read that pussy Quevedo, but they were frail and I could not imagine their stomping a sleeping cockroach drunk on pulque, then I said, Hey! Twins, you want a café solo or a café con leche or a diet Coke or a zero Coke or maybe a Fanta lite, or maybe an Aztec cola but just then Maria took me by the arm and said come with me, I have to tell you something. And we went to the bedroom where a young woman was sleeping off the night before and Maria said don’t mind her, that’s just Silvina, she’s blind and gives handjobs for five pesos, and an extra five if you come on her face. She must make a lot of money I said. She does, she’s rich and owns property in Pedregal and in Chapingo but nobody knows so don’t tell, anyway I wanted you to know I don’t love you and that I will never sleep with you no matter what you do so don’t write any poems for me because that won’t work the way it did when you fucked my sister, Leche de Amor—I never fucked her I said. Yes you did she said, Carlota el Camino told me and Leche de Amor told her. I saw bright lights flash in the window, then the slam of a car door, then two huge guys the size of shipyards barged in pistols in hand. “Where is that faggot Noche de Azul?” one said, spitting out a plank of a toothpick cut from plywood.

“Where is that Quevedo faggot?” the one with the flat nose said; “We have a little present for him,” the other with a flatter nose said.

“Who’s looking?” I asked.

“The Gongora twins,” they answered with flames.

“I see,” I said. “Where are your flowers, the dead ones you rob from the graves of orphans? Where are the moist pennies you steal from your mother’s bra?”

They pretended to cry. And I said, real poets do not cry, they write poems to make others cry.

They were insulted they said and would never forgive the insult or the faggot who engineered it and I would pay with my dick they said and brandishing knives long like swords they inched toward me but I leaped out the window and landed on Octavio Rima as he was pissing against the wall. I always knew you loved me he said shaking the last drops off his smallish dick before tucking it away in his pants, really filthy chinos like they had never been washed and he said who’s got time for laundry when poetry must be rescued from the dens of faggots without talent and who shit on Catullus and Wallace Stevens. He was getting started on the New York School whoever they were and imitated their verses:

The milk
On the Table
Of emptiness
With a lump
Of Sugar
& two shots of café Pico.

I told him that the Gongora Brothers were after me and that I had no time for his parodies because actually I could see the brothers hanging out the widow and the one with the flatter nose took out his stringy thing and starting raining down on us with his piss. God! That smelled like garlic and mouse shit boiled in goat milk and I ran off just in time not to get drenched but got stopped ten feet away by Leche de Amor, who hoisted a broken umbrella over our heads and said, Don’t believe my sister, she loves you and wants so much to fuck you, learning from me what a limp fuck you truly are.

Oh! Mexico! I sang. Oh! Leche de Amor with your love of café con sangre de bachelor penguins and of disgusting sex on piss-soaked mattress. Oh! Obsidian night of the soul and of trucks spilling the fat of book grease along the Carretera Toluca on the way to Tira al Pichon. Oh! Mexico and its oblong shadows of teeth and its back streets with lampposts of hanging men and goats. Oh! Fat churros boiled in motor oil and powdered with fine Chinese chalk; sombreros packed with dog shit and nails.

We got into Lope de Luna’s parked car—a ’68 blue Chevy with faux-leopard-skin seats and souped-up engine—and sped off, Octavio and Leche de Amor and me, with the Gongora Brothers in such close pursuit I could read Vallejo’s poems in their headlights. Octavio turned off his lamps and made a dramatic swerve down a dark earthen road, not that I could see the road or anything ahead, only a slice of moon and a few boring clouds above. What a thing, thinking that the last thing to see were the boring fat clouds and a ten-cent slice of shitty moon, and to be crashing in a lunatic car with a poet with a worm for a dick and a woman who liked it limp, like Neruda’s rhymes. Octavio finally flashed on his brights and ahead we saw the Gongora Brothers waiting for us with shotguns and square balloons. I had just enough time to sing out “adios muchachos, compañeros de mi vida” before the car veered off down a ravine and into a forest of magueys and frightened boulders.

When I woke, I found Octavio Rima with his severed head in his lap and Leche de Amour with a thin glass shard through her chest, I myself was no bargain or sight for sore eyes, with my front teeth on my lap like little chicklets with bloody roots. I thought: Let me write one more poem, one more poem that I will dedicate to Rios Juliano, the mad Joycean from Madrid, the one who fishes sonnets and sombreros from his window. Adios!

Frederic Tuten is the author of five novels, notably The Adventures of Mao on the Long March and Tintin in the New World. His book of interrelated short stories, Self Portraits: Fictions, was published in 2010. He lives in New York.