I Am My Favorite Poet (PDF)

Translation, Travis Sorensen
I hereby confirm a truism that continues to be true: it is hard to write in any language, regardless of where you are or what your particular vocation is. The difficulty is the same whether the writing instrument is a pencil, a finger in the sand, a laptop, or a ballpoint pen. A diehard romantic sentiment suggests that poetic writing may favor certain areas of reality over others; areas where the muses might feel better (happy, even totally satisfied) or come easily, without having been summoned. In this ideal context advantageous elements are present: place of birth, the smell of certain trees, the echoes of childhood reflected in the color of the sky, better neighbors, the moisture of choice downpours that always happen the same way, sounds in the street that resemble only what they are, certain winds with their sharpness and clouds of dust, etc., along with so many other, not always necessary things. Ascesis and onomastics: the process of naming everything all over again.

In a certain sense, the appearance of words in their best order – when poetry feels most like itself – can be favored by a virtualizable reality (a spurious mix of the virtual and the virtuous), which always waits, crouched down, anticipating these actions, even before carrying them out. Poetry exists first as a promise of itself, and the excuse of propitiatory elements perhaps has real value applicable to literary life. García Márquez stated bluntly: “The importance of the place where one writes is one of the unsolvable mysteries of literary creation”. Another person from another time and place, whose name I could come up with if necessary, told me that in his “new” country (the “old” one being that of his birth) it was impossible for him to write because the smells and tastes were different. Could that be possible?

In my case, the context, whether geographical, sentimental, or culinary, is neutral. The empty page (bull’s eye of the solitary) is the only region to be inhabited, the only cause for crisis. It is clause and effect in its tentativeness, the first thing you see, the tranquil path of a chimera in disuse where feelings stand out in instant development, images that don’t get to the dark room, Polaroid photos that increase the emotional scene painted by language. It is a sea of circumstances, an ocean awaiting the writer’s whim. It is a white target. The empty page’s splendid emptiness promotes the great risk, not all that goes on outside of it, such as the sense of touch, the earthly smells, or the effects of the local landscape. All of that matters little, and less and less each time. It is the page, devoid of any facilitating conditions, this invisible shore of salvation, which one must reach and build a shelter upon in which to dwell. It becomes home inhabited exclusively by the poet.


On the page, the depiction of the archival file is agreed upon. It is a project of attitude: life based on what is lived, what is lively. The page makes current the need to synchronize your watch with that of the past, because it is perhaps there, among the unforeseeable mountain of brownish-gray photographs of people whose faces I barely recognize and whose names I have almost forgotten, where wasted time, impossible to recover, is buried. As Kafka stated: “With our eyes open we walk through a dream – ourselves only a ghost of a vanished age.” With their black didactics loaded with indecipherable and whimsical codes, time and space end up being free from explanation and, therefore, from interpretation. The catharsis of memory will, from that moment on, live according to the melody of small details rescued from dissolution, from the wordless pauses inserted in the middle of events. Now all you have to do is look back in order to know what lies ahead and continue on with a lifestyle that is similar – due to opposition – to none other, but which words make possible.

In this way, the information from/about what is real, exhibited by intimacy, includes opinions and keeping tabs on feelings as a form of enabling a kind of access that you have not taken into account before. It constitutes a successful exodus toward a point of departure in permanent travel mode. The plotted chart of the inverted origin is the goal. It is there, within reach, even though continually moving: it exists in a flight of continual permanence. Not in vain, the amendments to probability (what can always be even if it does not exist) are somewhat greater than those of reason established and justified (in its performance) by logical-linear prerogatives. But this is not the only reason in play. There exists another, a parallel one: co-reason.[1] It is the heart with reason. In all of this, without exception, there is a disposition toward an ideal wandering that lacks an objective but overflows with subjectivity. It is a matter of writing in order to ensure long-term salvation or to die less in the attempt. It is in these moments that cannot be postponed that silence completes its phrases, when solitude in a low flight path has nothing more to say to the untimely absence of language. Time asks itself melodic questions, though we should understand it in its aphonia.

Am I still the same person? Exile suffers from Alzheimer’s. It is composed of observations that conscience desires to visit but cannot manage to remember, and of stories interspersed by time, precisely when the past, always too distant, is the only possible exception. The discovery of the reality to be inhabited ignores the foreign-resident status of the host turned guest: comforted by its echo, the voice parries with the same words adapted to another language. The recognition and overcoming of anything that is, or may still be, lacks a cause because it can have all causes. But the soul, which has recovered its validity, does not strive anxiously to discover the map of its itineraries, or to smooth out the irregularities of the landscape that surrounds it (or one could say the irregularities in the expression). It refers to go outside language to better observe how it looks, as if it were itself. It has more than enough motives. Its images, which need be seen by nothing or no one, go on vacation; they are no longer the preparative whim of something unexplainable. It is the sudden shift from glance to vision, the transition of all that has happened to whatever could yet occur. It is the journey of no return to a different state of mind. It is a metaphysic (not cultural) alternative that resides in the impossible in order to make it less probable.

The variants that have arrived at this place of trans-territorialization (not always without setting out to do just this) take charge of occupying the main page precisely at those times when days find their honorable golden age outside the nucleus without feeling like intruders in their permanence. Words put into circulation, worlds recently created, where the previous reality functions next to the newly arrived reality about which not all, but at the same time not a little, has been said. They activate presences and meanings without knowing what footprint is being sought, or if there is one in which to enter and relocate all one is (and believes to know). This is so even now, when the things that are known want to learn in order to continue being more interesting, or at least as interesting as each and every other thing. Acting on ulterior motives, the words feel entertained, even happy, with their new similarity between, as well as outside, of themselves, telling the tale of a pending euphoria, of a reserve – that of the words themselves – on the margin of purpose. Their appearances do not deceive: they are themselves.

Therefore, according to what has been said, can someone think differently by being in another geographic location that in reality is “another”? Or because such a person inhabits surroundings as inhospitable as they are unexpected that articulate other fictions in the use of language? Does one write better or worse, or does writing lose its future and exactness for having changed from one place to another, leaving under siege the identity created by origin? This type of question was always outside of my raw materials of writing. In Uruguay, a country where poetry has been systematically scorned and poorly read, I wrote poetry. Wandering about in a state of existence that was just better than no existence at all (because the years in Uruguay between 1973 and 1982 made it thus), I felt like Gary Cooper waiting for the bad guys in High Noon. It was actually even worse in my case because I am no hero and do not wear a cowboy hat. I lived in the Guinness Book of World Records of Lost Hours. Syntax and solipsism. And what a paradox (Uruguayan): in the solitude of silence, words still came forth with the desire to save themselves. I continue to insist on the same thing in the United States, where the tradition of rupture and prophecy in great American poetry is on its way to extinction, and where the poets celebrate the triumphalism of the common place and of the poor word that speaks because it doesn’t know how to sing. And I continue to insist on this, no matter how insignificant it may be or how true it might be that US readers of poetry existed in a past that was perhaps superior and, what’s worse, in English.

Removed from the catharsis of confession, from the avatar with the appearance of fact and reproaches, I enter the Paleolithic future of imagination dressed in silken clothing in order to look like the day after tomorrow. I see myself in the mirror extending forward, and the mirror is transparent to the eye. There, in the now that has been moved forward in response to the imperfect tense in the process of being erased, there arises a conditional tense. This tense originated in the reality that became a referent of the poet that I am still (though I am not quite sure if this occurred by chance or causality), and it can even be seen as an uncertain future of the same being that used to be another (almost the same but partly different). It entails nothing less than correctly positioning one’s gaze and knowing how to see what always emerges identically. Does Ecclesiastes speak the truth in stating that there is nothing new under the sun? I appeal to Alexander Dumas to synthesize a similar story: “My imagination, confronted with reality, resembles a man who, visiting the ruins of an old building, must walk over the rubble, follow the passageways, bend down to go through doorways, so as to reconstruct an approximate picture of the original building when it was full of life, when joy filled it with laughter and song, or when it echoed with sobs of sorrow”.

Between the customary paradoxes of imagination and the ruins of life moving toward a place they have never been before, words do everything in their power to become poetry. They build their vertical apartheid. They are rhythm and caesura. Their names dream in prosody. The reader does not count that if extant, will not be celebrated; or, if not extant, will go unpunished. Just as was the case before there were mammoths or fire (and on the walls of Altamira Cave there are wild boars), people write poetry today for two reasons: because they have something to say and because they want to talk to themselves. There – space against time – the poet can hear her/himself as never before. Poetry is nothing more than a sacred task assuring the survival of the immediate today. Words no longer make predictions about the past.

Just as is the case with a lonely person who goes in a church because there is nowhere else to go, I enter language to pray and hope that the miracle of feeling closer to myself when I am me will come to pass. And until now, with explainable exceptions, the miracle has come to pass. I write in order to recognize myself better than I do in the mirror, in order to feel that I continue to be my favorite poet. It is the flattery of the hunter who has fired into the air, knowing that beasts walk along the ground. It is the shotgun blast without cause, the hired guns who shoot themselves in the foot, the reason for lyric falconry. Poetry is a hunting lodge, a kind of sorcery that comes without instructions on how it is to be used. It is the happy conscience of one who inopportunely celebrates his favorite mistake, his untimely swim against the current, while hearing, just as happens to me almost daily, the musical score of a robust brown river named the Brazos, which was born translated. In my version, Texas is a long river, a liquid highway on its way to the sea, even if it is hard to love its lack of wonder. Reality learned to live on the third shore.

In the soft and not always indulgent (or accessible) realm of the imaginary river flow, language sways fervently, wavering back and forth as if seeking to save itself in the first verse (mine) that it finds. It feels disdain for the banality in vogue. It prefers to escape the rituals of the style and worship of the ephemeral that define the present day, our day. Words act as if to sanctify diction, as if they were seeking to arrive at the region of a specific sound texture which, when it wishes, can be foreign. They are alliterations and homophonies, now safe and sound: the obedient metaphor erases the error of what is utilitarian. And that is also what writing is about, to save language and carry it to the perfect hut of him who has yet to build it but who, nonetheless, already lives there.

Writing poetry with language as an exclusive example is, therefore, to think differently: it forces one to go beyond evidence, move as if it were nothing – and through nothing – from the body to the soul and vice versa. It means finding among the tempest of penitent sounds, the constant rumor, a geometry of innumerable zigzags. It means discovering an indivisible territory in all that might resemble a breath of life or death, responding with the original voice to the echo within. In any event, life is an incomplete response in which things happen and events both large and small stand out.

The question of whom I write for is immediately superseded by another, which is obstinate and surely without answer: why do I write? The only serious answer would be because I cannot stop doing so. In that tautology crossed by an untold spell, and at the same time by a wound that has multiple causes, I am the victim of seduction. Narcissus swims so that he won’t have to look at himself. In the solitude of his swimming, the return will always be toward a place with words, where the vision is one and unanimous. In the end, the reader is a partial referent, a derivation that avoids being defined. It is better not to do it. Writing poetry, whether here or in Andorra, Morocco, or Burma, is to round out the synthesis of one’s being. It is the irreparable expiration that brushes up completely against the absolute, making it new again, and again unrecognizable.

I use writing as a metaphysical emergency exit, or as the off-hours arrival at a meta física (physical goal). When it so desires, the body is the rider of the soul. If it comes, I am always there. I follow its gallop. It matters little at this point (the point being as tall as the top of a sequoia) who can decipher my exaggerated discoveries, or the immovable round of a solitude disturbed by silent screams. What does it matter if there are only two or three thousand readers, or if no one reads it and there is no longer anyone there to invite language? We change owners and even avatars that abandon us. I am, rather, like the child in the Jewish fable who walked through the streets crying: “I have a great answer; who has a question to ask me?”

One question has paid attention to me. I live apart in this country that has given me residency (in the United States I dis-unite) and I write, as I used to do before in other places. I go out, I go to bars, I shop at the supermarket, I pay taxes, I call a seven-digit phone number (wrong number, responds a computer), I look out the window when the rain has ceased to be the only thing possible (there is a world out there), I prepare garlic shrimp and pasta with capers, I inquire about the flavors, I hear identical sounds, I breathe, I scratch my back, and I drink water like everyone else. Sometimes I see snow fall, and I see it at other times as well.

I am the same person, one who writes, one who casts his lot with an anachronistic act: writing poetry and continuing to do so when the written word is suffering its worst crisis in the great markets of ideology, an ill-fated metamorphosis. It suffers agony in order to be more beautiful. But it is an ironic victory; I do not know how to do anything else. All the alternatives have failed: I tried changing my diet and my schedule, running 10 miles a day, getting married, not going for walks, having children, changing residences and my bicycle and my wife and my French cologne, taking a siesta, eating fewer oranges, and many, many other things. But poetry has kept coming back, even without readers or editors, and without being asked. There was never an unnecessary what for, much less a why. Why? Today the island is definitive and I no longer want to stop being my (often) almost happy Robinson Crusoe. The lone island is also an archipelago: the South and East of a world that remains distinct as long as the definitions do not begin.


The metonymic tremor and the accelerated closeness of being, only allow themselves to be interrupted by their future as it travels in written form in all directions. Linguistic actions, acts of language, have ceased to be incompletely vain. In the act of breathing and in the generous silence of invisibility in disuse, I am the person who sees himself delayed in his patient drip-drop of writing. As an accomplice, as a creator and antagonist of an impossibility, I depart from the announced hour in order to satisfy the unusual complaints and fissures of desire, in order to write from and within a language in which I preserve images of always and of almost never, because in these images I recognize myself and feel like the main protagonist. I am not always the same person, but I am moving toward him. I have the same self-help that can be had by an earthworm or a beetle seeking a path of return. It is part of the penance: we love all that was and which cannot be replaced by what is. It is the dictionary of life open to the letter z.

Poetic writing, a territory and an inhabitant laid bare, is, furthermore, the only discipline that I practice constantly. Even though I teach literature (to earn a salary, not to gain readers), I consider language as something more than an instrument of communication, something of greater importance than a mere coincidence of grammatical rules. I could live without diphthongs or diereses (but not without the ñ). Pedro Salinas was right when he said from his exile in the United States in a letter written to his wife: “Today, in my opinion, the language is the best memory of my country, and since I study it and explain it, it turns out that, without wanting it to be so, without desiring to remember, I am remembering it at all hours.”
I also remember the memorable passage from the movie Eternity and a Day, when the dying poet reflects: “Why have I lived my life in exile? Why is it that the only moments when I returned were those rare times when I was still granted the favor of speaking in my language? My own language. When I could still recover lost words or retrieve forgotten words from the silence.” With its kaleidoscopic destiny and its cross-dressing appearances, one’s native language (whether it is to teach or to continue learning) is a source of interruptions, onslaughts, and detours. As such, the effect of speech on the page is a driver of absurdities more than it is an intermediary of usefulness. It is the great epiphanic machine that responds through questioning in order to find questions, if there are any. That is where I go to quench my thirst. It is the art that conserves heartbeats. It spares metonymies and metas nimias (trivial goals). It is the show-business of the language and of transcendence.

Each reunion with words, then, ends with optimism. It is not the optimism of one who believes in the images and offerings of the outside world and who confuses a passing truce with happiness, but rather the optimism of one who celebrates the ability of words to conceal themselves and allow themselves to be mistreated, before and after dealing with the language. In its perseverance (which seeks neither excuses nor reasons), language has permitted me to delve deeper into anonymity, into purposes scarcely disturbed before: solipsism and trans-territorialization. In other words (which are also these): here, in the United States, I do not exist completely, and for that reason I can remain as a dispensable piece that decided to live outside of the puzzle. The present no longer hears complaints. What purpose would it serve? I have more time to read; I engage in encyclopedic tourism in the place nearest the backyard.

To pass the time I look at hibiscus plants, cardinals (non-religious birds), and yellow butterflies. Each volume of sight and of existence is an ascesis, another incomprehensible reason to justify my having left Uruguay. Uselessness, satisfied, scatters ancestral virtues. The exchange that is achieved in addition is one that has an improbable image: since I do not speak (because outside there is no one and I pretend that I cannot hear), I write. I am the ventriloquist of an aphonia. I only exist in the torrential language dedicated to residing in scribbled-on pages. The words enjoy the chosen exile and the anchorite celebrates the inexistence of all other things. The problem posed by the reception of words has not disturbed my slumber. Why not continue to celebrate the self-satisfaction of the most minimal part of the invisible world? Why stop doing it?

I came here to find different birds, with a silence in no way similar to those from before, and trees that I must rename. And then there are these new mornings, beautiful to the point of confirming their beauty, which put memories up against the firing squad wall, a vivid contrast to a time that has grown old and which is crumbling, no longer with the possibility of returning to the night of birth, to the native plan from which no one knows his destiny. I have learned to exercise the happy mastery of unnecessary moments. All of Greece from its best past enters through the window of my house, a progressive Greece ushered in by the trill of cardinals and robins, by the sensation of coming to know for the first time all that was not known. The survival instinct is tied to the desire of wanting to love what is found adrift by one’s gaze: clarity that comes all at once, an invisible wind, a wind that never learned to be any other way. Perhaps the abundance of light and clarity emitted by this place is associated with the possibility of illumination (a la Rimbaud?), with the freedom of understanding that comes from wanting to understand or imagine what thought wants.


Imagination is the agora, the house and seed of written speech, the goddess of the house, the only cannon of the absolute day that is today, where every once in a while astonishment shows its face, with its transparent melancholy that someday plans to have extraordinary character and belong to the realistic world. Faced with this dilemma, I look to see what and how much I will never be able to know. It is unadorned wonder (thaumasia) in the presence of harmony. Therefore, on a daily basis I feel like the apprentice of a conjecture occurring in an ugly place that does not reach the extent of being infernal, such as this place, where at times I bring myself modestly to say, in plural with the old Greek masters: “We love knowledge, we love learning, but above all we love life.”

Building a literary work on the outskirts of attachment to one’s birthplace, and accepting the mirages of changing moods, means giving form to the elusive biographical sketch of an exiled man. It is this same man who has gone out to look at himself in the world when no one can see him, and in fact he is not there. From the crevasses of silence, at the precise moment when he begins to speak, to “see” what he is saying (the sense is visual), from the fissured remains of his untranslatable future, poetic writing intensifies the dissolution of limits, those which were before and all those that will come after, whether it be eventually or immediately. There is no return and it is much too late to start rewinding. Furthermore, my inability to practice confessional poetry is absolute. This is the life that has been my lot to live, and I accept it. Preserving it here (on the page as a lair for the soul) is a form of adapting the work of poetry to the accidental continuity of life. There is no other beginning: the beginning of the unreal is the offshoot of self-satisfaction, of the intermediary and its creator. It is a utopian task: to succeed in getting the ancientness of the language to arrive with enthusiasm at the day after tomorrow, which is already today.

In the desert -the incomplete desert of the present– the only certain and predictable thing is the image of the thirsty man reflected in the turbulent water of a mirage. Poetry doubts the things upon which it rests its sight, though it does not doubt sight. In the complicity of the eye, the word seeks it greatest exactness. What profound faith. There is no resolution: the person who writes is the statement of her/his own representation, the best of the innumerable consequences. That is who I am, and in the language I likewise awake. Several things started while the world was looking elsewhere. This kind of platonic randomness, rarely a happy one, has placed me, by the imposition of perseverance, in a place of complete inexistence, both social and literary, though not textual. As Paul Valéry has stated: “Fear of ridicule, terror of banality; being pointed out, not being noticed – two abysses”.

I write more than before – that is to say, I still write – and I perceive the nostalgia for a supposed reader, a divine hypothesis, as another abominable simulation of reason, though this reason is not always correct. And it scarcely has before it an entertaining nothingness from which there emerge whirlwinds of resigned silence accompanying the visibility of a language arranged by the intimacy of its mission. This depends but little on the randomness of thought and much on the moods of imagination, of the language’s monologues, where it has not been determined what images or ideas have the greatest importance. In this friendly verification of existence that always ends up doing whatever it feels like (differentiating infamy from faith and happiness), there remain to be deciphered vestiges of masks, the past remaining in a spiral, a totem that cannot be supplanted by consecrated memory and of whose importance it exhibits the first late signs.


In my comings and goings, I have gone from being che man[2] to a shaman, without ever having ceased to belong to a patriotic abstraction that includes all the identities and attributions of reality. In spite of trans-territorialization, one retains the desire to preserve their birthplace in language, to prolong the duration (that chronological scam) of a very early stage where life, about to be forgotten, is the only documental piece of evidence on which to make an accounting. It is poorly trained time that returns to its perpetual present with the force of a geyser. Therefore, in order to continue prowling around the customs of language, it is merely a question of meeting the task, of not moving away more than is necessary from the preferred words when they are better surrounded by themselves.

So then, what are the limits of living and writing in a country where another language is spoken? There are many, and at the same time there are none. Should I write poetry thinking about an immediate reader, as if I lived in Madrid, Bogotá, Laredo with narco-dealers as polite neighbors, or on the Montevideo street where I was born and the other where I lived for even longer, or in a town in Bolivia surrounded by alpacas, mountains, and Bolivians? What for? I do not live there, but rather in a place in Texas that you can’t find on some maps. Nothingness lacks signs of identity, and as a metaphysical and spiritual life-preserver it is impossible for me to imagine something different (nor do I want to) from a page written at the demand of existence, along with all the other blank pages that will come without avenging anything, as surely they will come. Let it be thus in these conditions of absolute isolation and of excessive barren land. In Greek, the word to define this status outside of identification is “xenitis”: a stranger in any place, a foreigner even on the line of the horizon. But I am not alone.


In these cosmopolitan surroundings, with the fumes of universal metropolises (I have one neighbor who is Chinese, another who is Hindu and, between both of them, nothingness, and farther down a Nigerian practicing voodoo), where English is the obligatory language (when you are out on the street). I think, I love, I dream, I doubt, I say and no, I promise, and I write in Spanish. It is that other me without distance that is my only country. It is the liturgy of one’s being within the self that the disdain of days has not been able to overthrow. Like a conquistador devoured by Indians (Solís was not alone), I allow proparoxytones to come in so that silence or the language of others get choked off. I cannot do anything else, nor do I know how. Surely the ideal thing would be for my readers and me to live in identical thought, for us to speak the same language, for us to share the instant dream of similitude, for poetry to have the same social status as sports, for people to yell “Goal!” each time they found a metaphor or adjective well used. Nevertheless, for a long time now the ideal and I have not coincided. The last time it happened I was not yet writing and the world did not know how to read.
In any event, I must continue in these mundane tasks of filling the page: destiny is written and writing is destiny. It is an angel as exchange. The private war against time is also one against the oblivion that promotes transitory and perishable things: it is in favor of what is beautiful – the ideal impossibility of loveliness – and which has no memory. I take as my own the prayer of the Navajos: “With beauty above me, may I walk. With beauty below me, may I walk. With beauty all around me, may I walk. In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk. In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk. It is finished in beauty.”

In this epiphanic stance, the happy dimension of beauty distrusts its inexact size as well as the excessive memory of its past performances. Before they were a sonnet, but now they must make sound however they can. They are words that have been taken from the world and that do not belong to any particular technique. They are words at war with what the author’s universe lacks in order to be complete. Sufficient for the rhythm are its uninhabited chords, the excesses of a lone being who is alone. Between words that make a sound, the auditory objective of desire allows itself to be caught nearby and reciprocally, though it can never be reached (an interrupted hunt): either desire moves too quickly or its object is too halted.

It is in this breach that I find myself and I get on (as a burro resisting its weary trot) my best image, which is not psychotic but rather neurotic. I do not substitute; I avoid. (As the Viennese professor stated: “Neurosis does not deny reality, it merely tries to ignore it; psychosis denies reality and tries to substitute something else for it.”) I remain at the point of friction, nerves on end: I avoid the paradigm and the complaint. The blame does not lie with the origin or its circumstances. There is neither flagellation nor heroic implantation. The desire, illegal but legitimate, is also insatiable (including in the superficiality of its atypical movements). I owe myself to it, to its closing phase in process, to its round-trip fetishism, to the nomadism that has not forgotten from whence it came. I would like to be another person in order to be this one, the earlier one and the next one, the same ones without a difference (but the method of continuing to be one’s self does not always prevail). One carries his birth to a point where no one can know of it. In this way, destiny is appropriated and its notion will never be an obstacle to representing the experience to the extent possible. Sooner or later the reconfiguration will come.

Many people look to the future, but in my case the present has been the main goal and the exclusive distraction. It is not that the future has little importance, but the present has been the protective space, preventing the past to come in. My only predictions were about what could happen today, starting now, in order to demonstrate in this way that oblivion is not resolved so quickly, nor does language want to take anything for granted. Just as a piece of music unable to overcome the theme, poetry, feeling symbolically advanced, becomes what it can still be in order to have, in this way, something in common with the rest of the world. This tangibility is the result of a challenge that of resisting even if there is no reason to do it. Habemus poeta (We have a poet). Poetry, which has turned into resurrection without the need of special effects in order for this to occur, deals with the in-no-way-minor erudition of emotion.

Ever since I came to Texas I’ve been asking myself what I am doing here. I lived in Amherst, Massachusetts, for a period that for me was too long. The snow and the desolation, mixed with tedium (a fatal combination), were a ubiquitous and daily presence in my life. How can one live that way? Can anyone? Robert Frost was able to do it, but he was not Uruguayan. Between the arctic air and the lack of a fireplace, my life moved between barbarous solitude and the bar. I lived between the penultimate drink and the next one. Alcohol ruins worlds, but it can also save them. It depends. I have never seen sad people in a bar. My poetry owes more to Johnnie Walker and Jack Daniels than it does to Walt Whitman and Wallace Stevens. Be as it were, with the feeling of neglect weighing upon me, and with the smell of whisky on my soul, I lived with a desire to leave, to depart as soon as possible.

In that overrated Massachusetts town, I walked daily past the house of Emily Dickinson, the museum of the lone ghost, and I heard the same exact rumor of nothing, an otherworld silence, not interrupted by my indifferent steps. In the library of Amherst College, I would sit nearly every afternoon on an ugly, worn-out sofa which was, according to what I was told, the place where Robert Frost used to sit and read. I never liked Frost’s poetry. It contains a disinterest in illogical universality, in timeless incomprehensibility, as if the only important thing in the world were the American reality, with its landscapes and locutions.

I arrived in Texas one day without having planned to do so (actually the plane landed late at night, the night before the beginning of the cruelest month). I should have thought it out better. Tired of the grayness, of the snow and cold, I was seduced by the first shining sun. Before that, Texas for me was an abstraction. That was until I came and saw a cowboy that reminded me of Robert Ryan in the opening scenes of The Wild Bunch. A cowboy is not an abstraction. Quite the opposite. That is perhaps the most unacceptable part of this long season in Texan territory where the odd days, as opposed to the even ones, seem to be the main existence. How does one live in a place without abstractions, where metaphysics has been annihilated in the same way as the bison and pro-independence Texans? In order to survive, which is not easy, I seek and search for that metaphysics in books, in the written life that continues to be somewhere else, a life that does not judge equally all that is at hand but which nonetheless writes. Houston, we have a poem.

Without my realizing it, life began a short time ago. Time from before fades, time right now comes less and less, and, notwithstanding, all that it knows is how to be on top of me without proposing a good plan. I frequently arise in the morning asking myself to what extent my new life has depended on randomness, on those moments of truth which all together are not sufficient to begin a new method, but rather at the most a criterion, though without any guarantee it last or turn out well. In this life dedicated exclusively to poetry, the search for happiness has done whatever it pleases, or any other thing that can help it to live by this happiness, by the rewards it promises. I have learned to live in an invisibility that protects me and exempts me from the idea that everything is of the same interest and worth. This is not the case. The past is constantly reborn, freed from oblivion, and all of it very much above the question of origins. Furthermore, what sense does it make to worry about reality as an objective if nothing happens here except for nothingness in slow motion?

In this shifting steadiness that has become a synonym for life and childhood in reverse, I often wonder from where the language came that expresses all that has been turned into poetry by the will and the randomness of signs. From where, since what prevails here is inexistence? Every now and again, time has a personal problem about which no one knows, time that claims to be a direct descendent of nothingness. Every now and then silence raises its voice. Could it be that language speaks because I came here to learn something? Could that be why I came? Located in the nucleus of a learning process that highlights the validity of a past that does not know how to repeat itself, this language, with its truths that no longer depend on anyone, prevents one from ignoring the feelings of attachment. What would life do if faced with such a situation? Without seeking such a situation, the former South has found this other South with its accompanying beauty in between.

It would seem that life has reserved for words this dance initiated without effort. For the moment, I only aspire to one day be one of my possible images, the one that is surely already marching ahead, or the one unable to free itself from the rear-view mirror. My epitaph could coincide with the end of The Great Gatsby: “And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Meanwhile, I am obliged to imagine what remains alive because it cannot be completely dead. Ithaca gave me the journey, the prolongation of expectations. The Odyssey has meant being able to know such things.

Ithaca is always on my mind, and there are days when destiny coincides with the place where I came to be. From here, immortality, due to fatigue, looks closer, or at least its existence seems less improbable. Could the world be this tedious for the gods sentenced to exile on Earth? The Texan agora is an exclusive discovery of chance, because, after all, exile is not kryptonite. On its traveling alter, many things come face to face and rise to the surface, because only there, under such conditions – on the edge of both waste and ruin – do the necessary words begin to exist. They are words surrounded and protected by frenzied wannabe cowgirls, those who adapt their bodies to needs of the gazes which they seek and which are rewarded with that Puritan exhibitionism that at a certain point can change intentions. The privileged areas of the language found a reason to pay attention to reality. They came to hibernate in reverse and in a state of nostalgia where, paradoxically, nothing from the past can remain under lock and key. This is not insignificant. There they hope that something of greater importance than the past will arrive, and they do so with a topless faith, a faith that has brought itself to change the decor and the rules of the game. That which dissipates does not disappear completely.

Then, of what importance is it now to be able to respond or not to the questions that Professor Hart (University of London) put to me so many years ago: “To what point is the Hispanic mode of writing conditioned by the created expectations, magic realism, gangs, barrios, and rural character of New Mexico and Texas?” I do not know. I doubt in order not to have to know, or to say it. I would hardly dare to say that a multicultural threat and the wretched melting pot lie in wait, no matter how much Robinson refuses to leave his Spanish-speaking island. He will die there before death as well as before language, with its diphthongs, diereses, and whispers. There is hope.

I did not decide to write in Spanish, but this language (or the pearly shadow of the Arcipreste de Hita entering through the window) has followed me, as futurity, anachronism, and will of authenticity. It has done this for me. It is also a way of recovering a marginalized but not lost childhood, and liberating the language from its utilitarian prison and from instant gratification. Removed as I am from the native setting of the Spanish language (thus hearing it less), I can reconstruct it, help to restore its native privacy. That is what I want. I feel up to it. I add prosodies and lapses of syntax. What high-flown reciprocal language! There are no litotes, but there are hypotyposes and, fortunately or unfortunately, much uninformed epimone in order to hear in this sonorous stew the yearned-for presence, the beginning of the cosmic spheres applied to the earthly forms. These linguistic features concern me.

I remember others who were in a similar situation. Petrarch appropriated Italian in a French province. Robert Browning and Ezra Pound caused short circuits in the English language while living in Italy. Certain others (and this is not an exhaustive list) did something similar: José Martí in New York; William Henry Hudson in Argentina. This is understandable. Language splits in two. Or, more precisely, it becomes encrypted. It only has literary value. While the new language fulfills the tasks of the everyday, the old one breaks forth, exorcized, with the scent of the brand new. In speech it meets up with something grammatical and universally earthbound that resides therein, where the improbable has ceased to be insignificant.


There is joy in the vocabulary which arrives after having lost its anxiousness due to the basic, and until then unnamable, silence. Not in vain, poetry is the simple ritual of seeking an objective. From out of nowhere burgeons forth time yet to be inhabited, time that is not a loss of time, which is not lost in time. In its timeless zeal, imagination (an imagination that can be present all the time, and also which has been for some time) goes out on the town and is a workaholic at its partying in order to continue being active.

When I use English as a resource in daily life (orality has an agenda), Spanish remains as a remover of trivialities and of all this entails. I cease to speak Spanish it in order to write it. It exists as a mirror image of he who halfway wants to be a complete image, and sometimes is. In this scraping toward the expanded edges, toward the acceptance of impurities, I enter into the Spanish portion by another way. I do this in order to understand how much it has affected me, and so that my body has something to say. A row of names cuts my body off at the pass. It will be necessary to return to the sources of thought, which are those of language. Among the incomplete ruins can be seen the luminosity of what has not been said, not even in the following phrase: an indescribability that makes real its exact beauty.


There, justified, is the reason for writing and of wanting to continue doing so. The demand of language is one of inspiration and haziness, of a precipice in the making whose reward must certify the risk accumulated in writing: a summa between lines of all those who knew how to be quiet at the appropriate time. I still have something to say, all that others have left to me. It is the remnant of a tradition pursued from back to front, which even in its depleted endings manages to dress in new clothes. That is where I am, and where I want, after now, to stay.


In this universalization of difference and anonymity, in this accumulation of the diaspora and the margin, I live and I write, which is the same thing. Nomadism in quarantine cannot go beyond the surroundings of the future. Therefore, awake in the living ruins of language, I demand the definitive conversion of exile, whether it be joyfully and in favor of its cause, or for reasons no longer very rational. What more could I ask of the will of the poet who has not finished leaving, or arriving, or being completely here?

[1] Translator’s note: There is a play on words here in the original Spanish whose meaning does not translate. It says co-razón, which, while it means “co-reason,” is also meant to be read as it would be without the hyphen, corazón, which means “heart.”

[2] Translator’s note: In River Plate Spanish che is a used to address people informally or to get their attention. “Man” is borrowed from English.