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Callaloo 23.3 (2000) 987-994

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Ángela Hernández Núñez

I recall how Felipe Alfonso, obsessed as he was with his possible inexistence, would at times forget his own name. Day after day I watched him immerse himself in minutia that would not have warranted his attention before, extracting from it forced reliefs with the sole instrument he had mastered: words. I appreciate the anguish he felt about arranging each daily event in poetic coordinates that could conjure his voluble discourse and connect his inner world to immediate materialities.

It wasn't unusual for him to break into a poem, improvised on the spot, while we waited for the coffee to cool down a bit. Pedro Nicio once commented amidst laughter: "How does that coffee taste, with that burst of words?" Felipe Alfonso would reply to the joke, while adding in a parenthetical monologue: the Other still persists in my creation.

This hallucination of concrete simplicity covered the first stage, subsequent to his release from jail.

He created with the flame of a match, with the dust on the book page, with the ant squashed under his foot, with the neighbors' verbal guerrilla wars and the stupor of a dizzy lizard in a breach under the zinc eaves. He declaimed the wax in his ear, his sandals, the hoarseness of the old Chinese man who lived in the rear of the rooming house, the bodily précis compelled by the cold, the clear traces that linger after a child's run, the purport of my glances, and the span of nails.

His crisis of originality was most original.

I think of Dinorah and her brown eyes, of Dinorah and her forty kilometers of kindness just to come to me. She disapproves of what I did. It was a temerity born of my miseries. But she understands. She arrives, smiles and chats, avoiding events, not urging me to do anything specific. I watch the ceiling, painted an impure white, her eyes diluting. I pick up the telephone and return to Dinorah. I need her glances in my thoughts, her certainty in my stomach, the tranquil vivacity that she instills in things, and above all, her faith in my aptitude for writing. What sensations do I awaken in her? Could she be depressed? Does she cry or vacillate? I return to the newspaper. My attention is called to a Latin American poetry, short story, and essay contest.

She will bring me paper. But what if she doesn't return? She'll come. She will not deprive herself of reading in me the joy her presence brings. Her perseverance wins over my sentimental compulsions. She will return for her own good. I made sure the others never learned the facts about me. To those other fresh and pretty girls I am a mystery of simplicity, starving for philosophy, who half-closes his eyes to be enigmatic. [End Page 987]

It is different with Dinorah. I avoided living with her, but it is not possible to detach myself from her allure. Her foolproof intelligence, her determination to find solutions to problems that would crush me, the glances that disentangled the soul--they are all irresistible. She possesses the lightness of a butterfly's step and the daring of a self-taught electrician. She states her opinion with as much nonchalance in an academic setting as at the Manganagua Youth Association. She has mastered mathematics and cooking, and gives them equal importance.

Her harmonious contradictions are perturbing. She tells me that, like all poets, I am enraptured by simple common sense, and laughs at me when I speak to her of my fear of her brightness and assuredness.

She is too much woman for you, Pedro Nicio tells me.

It will please her to see me write again.

Rosa would be an excellent subject matter. A prostitute since she was sixteen, raped at fifteen by her stepfather, stabbed at twenty by a pimp, she possesses an imaginative power with more redemptive strength than any religion.

A tender subject could be the children who live in the sewers by the...


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