The Part About the Poets

Roberto Bolaño

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One night, as he was drafting the poems about UFOs containing beautiful alien women who fucked in new ways, he got a call from someone he at first couldn’t identify. A very frantic, almost disturbed voice with a heavy accent said it’s all a lie, it’s all a con, not as if this were the start of a conversation but as if they’d been talking for half an hour. What do you want? he asked, who is this? Is that Alejandro Jiménez? asked the voice. Speaking. Well, then, you motherfucker, how are you? said the voice. It sounded as if it came from a bright, damp, distant, booming place, thought Alejandro. Who is this? he asked. Dieter Klaas? At the other end of the line he heard a laugh and then a kind of bulging splash, the sound of amusement park water rides and of hotel pools at night, indoor hotel pools overheated under bright fluorescent lights in forgotten cinderblock hotels moldering like bunkers. That’s right, said Klaas. You have not forgotten me then. No, said Alejandro. Are you calling me from the john? At this Klaas laughed again, a laugh like the thud of a pigeon against a sliding door, and said that of the sixty-one poets interviewed by Andy Fetch in Sixty Morning Talks, none had acknowledged the influence of Paul-Jean Toulet’s Contrerimes or the sonnets of José-Maria de Herédia, with their stolid yet immemorial martial scenes, to say nothing of the Vie des chambres of the fantastical Belgian Georges Rodenbach, as if these poets might be so many fronds in the rat-infested palms of Monterrey, or perhaps, he said, in the rays of a dying sun, or a box of Raisinettes, and Alejandro turned to the soundless television Lea was watching across the room, where a cartoon mouse was wielding an enormous wooden mallet, the kind of mallet, Alejandro thought, that would take many trees to produce, but that seemed in the cartoon to have been whittled down from a single redwood. What do you want me to do? he asked Klaas. Write a letter to the editor, Klaas said, it will sound better coming from you, from me they would dismiss it as the ramblings of an old crank, but you’re young, they’ll take notice of that. I gave up writing letters, Alejandro said, you know this, and he was thinking of Arturo, who would always say with a desultory ruthlessness that a letter was a poet’s feeblest utterance, which was true, which had turned out to be true. Then Alejandro heard the sound of the indoor pool again, louder than ever this time. We’re all losing our minds, he thought. Klaas? Are you still there? No one answered.


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