La Casa de Poesia (Argentina)

Te voy a echar, si sigues haciendo tu mierda ! (I’m going to throw you out, if you keep up this bullshit)

Alison is curled up behind the art deco lamp. I try not to look at Alison. The night burns my eyelids. The port of Buenos Aires spreads out, unconscious, in the darkness. My fingers try to cling to the white wall. The plaster remains stuck under my nails in my fall. I see a black bird. The silhouette of a bird, its wings, its impatient fuselage ruffling my greasy locks.

The light goes out at Alison’s. It takes me ten minutes to get up. I wipe the dirt off my red boxers, stagger, throw up somewhere. Where? A dirty street lamp shakes in the wind. It seems to me that one throws dust in my face. Two boys push me while running. Death haunts me. I rush out of my drunken state. I advance by holding my face.

The flies think I am one of them, they sting my cheeks. Or maybe there are no flies, maybe it is the hail that falls on the black city.

An American with a tattoo from arm to head is sitting on the pier. He is smoking something, I can’t see what from where I am. I sit down a few meters away from him, on the sand. He takes a quick look at me, as if to decide if I am a stray dog or not. Then he takes a plastic bag out of his pocket, a thin and translucent bag like a ghost’s hand. And shoves it over his face.

A million candles seem to burn on the ocean. In the distance, I see a boat catching fire. But it is surely the brown clouds of the Argentinian night that frighten me.

The punk has disappeared when I turn around. I vomit in a sand hole. As if to punish myself for having soiled the beach, I feel bloated. My stomach hurts horribly. I get up, and step on a piece of glass. I start to scream, but nobody hears me.

A silhouette of a woman with her hand in her visor, her thick long black hair blowing in the wind, dazzles my field of vision. I sigh, I want to get as far away as possible from the ghosts of Buenos Aires. But the Argentine night sucks me in as if through a huge straw.

The wind blows, rebellious, stronger and stronger. My black eyes widen. The woman has come towards me. I massage my bruised foot, lick the blood from it. She crosses me and I see a ray of sunlight in the mist.

Las estrellas comienzan a girar, cada vez más rápido (the stars begin to turn, faster and faster). I lie down on the sand. The clouds move as fast as my thoughts. I look up and see a white building cutting through the fog. I remember my fight with Noz and I spit an indistinct liquid on the ground.

An hour later, I have put my thoughts in order. I have nowhere to sleep tonight. I announced to my parents that I wanted to be a poet. I had a fight with the husband of the woman I love. My face is unshaven, I look like a demon haunted by gin. The backflow of blood goes to my temple. The Casa Rosada, the palace of the Argentinean presidency, sparkles in the early morning. A purple streetcar almost runs me over. An old woman gives me a sorry look through the opaque window. The stars still spit their unholy light on my bent body.

There is a procession singing, this time they are not ghosts. I pick up a can of Coca Cola from a garbage can, there is a brownish liquid left. I moisten my lips with it and I face the wind, bursting with laughter. The sun starts to wave its rays on the Catholics who parade. A little girl in a tulle dress tries to beg for coins from the priest who is walking a little proudly at the head of the procession, but the look on that fool’s face melts into the horizon.

I kick a deflated football. The little girl picks it up, surprised. Her brown curls are shiny. She has a pretty grey look. I smile at her, signal her to throw the ball to me, unfortunately she runs away. The sudestada is a wind that comes from the southeast, cold and wet. I mop my temples, I walk by jumping to the right, to the left. Tonight I still do not go home.

I am the loneliest poet in Argentina; the woman I love with all my soul married a donkey who beat me up. I wrote the most beautiful verses to conquer her but she never read anything. I mentally recite El amenazado, by Jorge Luis Borges, passing the saliva on my lips.

Estar contigo o no estar contigo es la medida de mi tiempo.
Ya el cántaro se quiebra sobre la fuente, ya el hombre se
levanta a la voz del ave, ya se han oscurecido los que miran
por las ventanas, pero la sombra no ha traído la paz.
Es, ya lo sé, el amor: la ansiedad y el alivio de oír tu voz,
the hope and the memory, the ho
la espera y la memoria, el horror de vivir en lo sucesivo.

(To be with you or not to be with you is the measure of my time.

Already the jug breaks on the fountain, already the man with the voice of the bird rises…

and those who look by the windows have sunk in the darkness,

but the shadow did not bring peace.

This, I know, is love: the anxiety and relief of hearing your voice,

the waiting and the remembering, the horror of living in the afterlife.

I pick up the deflated balloon again and throw it into the lap of the night. I hear a loud noise, I turn around and go back in search of adventure. A limousine passes me at that moment. I hear a noise of horn. The guy inside in a black suit, dressed like a mayor, thin and dry, throws me a hot-dog that I grab wholeheartedly. I bite into the hot sausage, tear the meat with a sad sucking sound.

My heart is black, I have lost the love of the woman of my life. The bells of the nearest church begin to ring, then fly over my head. I shake my fist at the wind. With the hot dog wrapper in my pocket, I continue my slow journey through the Argentinean capital. The Metropolitan Police of Buenos Aires, perched on horses, stare at me like polo players. I turn away from their glances, accelerate my step on the pink pavements.

Puerto Madero and its business buildings are in sight. A sliding door opens, a man in a tie comes out, his face drenched in sweat. The lights start to go out, the day will not be long in coming. I pick up a peso on the wet ground. A white Ford Ranger passes me, inside a bride holds a bouquet of violets and roses. She smiles at me, I think of Alison whom I will never marry again. The sky brings down on me a light breeze I smile thinking that my destiny is elsewhere than in happiness.

The businessmen march like dominoes, towards the Atlantic Ocean. It is sure, they will find their wives tonight, while I will write verses for the icy wind. One day, when I have amassed enough of the music of existence, Alison will hear my name hastily spoken at a party. She will hold a stemmed glass, elegantly dressed in a black cross dress, on her husband’s arm, her lace stockings tapering, tired from the wedding, and she will hear the worn syllables of my name uttered and she will look down. She’ll remember that last night I tried to seduce her and she’ll bite her lip, but I’ll already be far away, I’ll be clinging to a real desk, the night will have vomited me, wandering will no longer be my only bedside table, I’ll be writing with a real fountain pen at a real table for real readers.

With the crisis, the unemployment rate has exploded in the city. The eyes of citizens who have lost their jobs are glassy. Clouds inhabit their conscience, their soul is lost in the depths of lacking. On the Diagonal Norte, European stores start to open. I spit in front of a sewer. A beggar calls out to me in lunfardo (local slang). I don’t care what he thinks. I rub my face. I start to run, out of breath. I pass the Colón Theater along Corrientes Avenue.

A coffee has been left on a balcony on the second floor of a building. I grab the hot cup, which has the inscription « Los Angeles dreams » on it and put my lips to it. A couple is dancing the tango on an advertising screen in front of me. I grit my teeth, thinking of what has become of Argentina, that great country that is no longer a haven for poets of my ilk.

The Casa de Poesia is open. I slump down on one of the velvet armchairs, take out a browned sheet of paper from my jacket pocket. The ghost of the poet Evaristo Carriego caresses my eyelashes. I reread the few lines I wrote while contemplating Alison, find myself bad and throw the paper on the floor. A street sweeper gives me the stink eye, so I pick up the paper. La Casa has become my asylum lately. I don’t talk to the other poets, but I enjoy these quiet moments when I can think about my next play or poem.

The 4700 volumes of the Casa’s library come into view. I open one at random, a collection of Alejandra Pizarnik’s works. I close it, squint and decide to sleep instead of writing. I’ll have plenty of time to invent the next masterpiece of Argentine poetry when I open my eyes again, when my morbid reality jumps back in my face, when I remember the fight with Noz, Alison’s pitying look, the deserted streets of my poor capital. For the moment, the morning strangles me, I am alone in the Casa de Poesia, only a sweeper accompanies my breaths with the jerks of his furry instrument. I fall asleep, piano music buzzes in my ears. Maybe I am dead, maybe not, who knows?

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