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Callaloo 23.3 (2000) 1076-1079



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Mambrú Did Not Go To War

Aída Cartagena Portalatín


No, there isn't, and never was a more deplorable caste

Mambrú went off to war
What pain, what pain, what sorrow.
Mambrú went off to war
Don't know when he'll be back.
Oh, do, re mi; oh do, re fa.
Don't know when he'll be back.

--Nursery Rhyme

I'm among the broken-up. You are broken up. He is broken up. We are broken up. We are all broken up. But your fissure is not like ours. You lost your balance before you got to the top, and, powerless to counteract the force of gravity, you rolled downhill. Your falls multiplied themselves dizzily like in the Physics theory of the inclined plane, which you understood well enough to get excellent grades in school but appalling results in real life. In your place, I would have remained silent about it all. Not even with a noose around my neck, on the verge of being hanged, would I have uttered a single word, but you believe in a conscience, and though not quite repenting of the things you've done, you love to vomit out your affairs to one and all. You speak about yourself. It doesn't offend you to spill things out. You want to be listened to. We're finally listening.

You go on and on and on. Talking. Talking Talking. Talking until its very neverendingness tires me out, and without stopping I let out a scream, a halt, leaving those still alive to consume themselves in rectifying their intimacies until time immemorial, amen, and to think this is the Boulevard St. Michel, from numbers 27 to 31. I let my eyes fall on the newspaper vending machine and read the France Soir headlines: Black Crusade. African Liberation. These are not front-page headlines; Black Africa has been wishing and struggling for its freedom for decades. I gaze at another headline: The Secret Life of Cats. That business about cats on roofs meowing erotic nonsense is such a hackneyed theme it can't rouse my curiosity. I laugh a mocking, negative laugh that infuriates a guy walking along the same sidewalk, close to me. This is the Boulevard St. Michel in the Latin Quarter of Paris, in the year nineteen hundred and . . . something. I'm sorry about that guy, I would like to offer him an explanation, and while I try to locate him, glancing up and down the street, I sense upon me a band of male and female teenagers going by, squeezing each other. Male or female. Female or [End Page 1076] male. I can't identify them by gender, it's impossible to tell them apart, because they wear the same outfits. As they walk they push me against a restaurant window. Behind the glass I read: today's special 10.50 francs. I can't believe they want so much money, very soon I'll go hungry again, I won't have anything to eat, I'll roam the low neighborhoods, I'll sleep on park or boulevard benches, or on the angles formed by the walls and buttresses of St. Severin. I think of so many things at once, even of those coffins at the Louvre Metro exit across from Pont Neuf which made such an impression on me. To die, what a dammed thing it is to die. People have no right to die in Paris. I think of my life and that of Lilá. She repeated it to me three days ago: you have to find yourself another room before the whole thing blows up, I don't want to compromise you. But now I am waiting for the bus, I'm looking out for the number 21, the one that climbed from the University City up Glacière-Berthóllet-Claude Bernard and at the end of Gay Lussac, entered St. Michel, going on across the Seine to Chatelet, to the Opera and ending its run at St...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6512
Print ISSN
0161-2492
Pages
pp. 1076-1079
Launched on MUSE
2000-08-01
Open Access
No
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