locos amigos.

Quite suddenly, night life dawned on me.

I discovered it, a secret rose

Between one yellowing day and the next.

But, for someone newly arrived from the South,

From the region where nature reigns,

Full of fire and blizzards,

The city night seemed like a boat,

A kind of ship’s hold.

Doors would open and out of the dark

Light spat on us.

Men and women danced in shoes like shiny coffins

And glued themselves to one another,

Like limpets, amidst tobacco,

Rough wine, conversation,

The crude belly laugh of drunks.

At times, some woman, wallowing

In her pale emptiness, would turn on me

Her wasted eyes and mouth.

That’s where I spent my stormy adolescence –

Amidst bottles of wine, spilling

Their exploding rubies,

Flourishing their wild swords,

Their meaningless bravado.

And these friends I had –

Rojas Gimenez, lost in his own


A theoretical sailor, certifiably

Crazy, offering in the smoke

His wayward tenderness

In one drink after another,

Until he fell in stages

As if the wine itself

Had taken him further and further away from us!

My vulnerable brother, I learned

So much in your company,

I lost so much in the waywardness of your heart,

A broken box,

With no notion of where your tongue was going,

With no notion that you too were going to die,

You who could have taught things to the spring!

And later, like an apparition,

Keeping to his dark corner

During parties,

Joaquin Cifuentes arrived,

Freed from his chains, a ghostly friend

With his emphatic face in the rain,

His sharp defining hairline

Crossing a forehead open to pain.

He didn’t know how to laugh, my new friend;

And in the course of cruel ashy evenings,

I watched him destroy himself, Horseman of Death.

 – Pablo Neruda (translated by Alastair Reed, and some additions by Me)


Joaquin Cifuentes.



~ by Shashank Kumar on August 26, 2007.

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