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From INTERNAL WAR / Volodia Teitelboim Translated from the Spanish by Gregory Rabassa SEPTEMBER DIALOGUE The poet had come to the end of the road. He went down the Avenida La Paz. But, according to the Junta, the Internal War was just beginning. The strange cortege halted. Although the tune was distantly familiar, he couldn't quite make it out. Music had never been his forte. It came to him weak at first, then powerful. Because he was hearing everything, as never before, in a way that might have come from hypertrophy. He could still hear through dead ears. He could still see through dead eyes. But with new conditions, with a different intensity and a different clarity. He could hear what had been inaudible to him before. He could see what had been invisible to him when he was alive. He could penetrate walls, eliminate distance. It was like a long-distance lens and an amplifier turned up to X power. That's where he saw her. Her. Esperanza. Yes, her name was Esperanza a Pesar de Todo, "hope in spite of everything," the way other women might be named Pilar Pérez de Arce or Jimena Alvarez de Toledo, or Ana Hidalgo de Cisneros. Combinations of surnames, different amalgams of lineage. Hers was a dynasty of poor people. He knew her parents, Raimundo and Margarita. He'd met them in Lota precisely when the mother was awaiting the birth of the one who would be this woman and from her, always ready to turn a good face toward bad times, must have come the wild idea, which he had celebrated with a shout, of baptizing her with that name. But now he could see that her face didn't look good. There was a shadow of panic, running away, eyes flying even though her feet were walking on the ground. The poet spoke to her suddenly and she shuddered. In order to give her confidence and take away her fright, he said to her: I knew you before you were born. And just look at me now, talking to you after I'm dead. I died the day before yesterday. He thought, afterward, with regret, that those words would scare her even more; but she didn't seem surprised. Tell me, what are you doing in that house across the way? Aren't you coming to my funeral? he reproached her, a bit offended. He turned around as if to hear her better and then he noticed why that whole voiceless dialogue of imperceptible sound seemed natural to her. It was like her own atmosphere, air where the dead floated and swam. What are you doing there, Esperanza a Pesar de Todo? I've come for someone. For whom? For your mother, your father? No, for him. Like almost The Missouri Review · 209 everybody I began looking for him two weeks ago. Yes, two weeks ago I got the coup de grace too. But I held off for twelve days and their twelve or twenty-four nights. Twelve days with their twenty-four nights, she repeated like a distant echo, from the moment they called me on the phone. I was the only one who had a phone in the settlement. Lots of times, almost always, they'd be messages for other people. But this time it was about Roque. Did I know him? I don't think so. But you knew his father, the poet who died in Pisagua during the time of González Videla's concentration camp. When the curfew was lifted on Thursday I went out to look for him. First I went to the National Stadium. My mother told me that I had been born from a night of love after the concentration camp at the National Stadium, when you recited a poem she remembered. But which I don't want to remember. Why not? The name of the poem? "The People Call Him Gabriel." Almost as if we said "the people call him César Augusto." Don't the people call him Pinocchio? No. Pinocchio has what they call a conscience. Every time he tells a lie his nose grows longer. And this...


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