Tag Archives: extract from a novel set in Latin america

Hotel Nacional

The Hotel Nacional,
glamorous epitome of the Jazz Age
now a faded dowager in
her declining years;
riddled with labyrinthine corridors
arteries where no lifeblood flows;
Room 4-2-6 where Dexter Stevenson
a contemporary of John Steinbeck’s
who disputed the authorship of “Cannery Row”
claiming a similar manuscript and title
lodged in Paris in ’39,now long ago;
Room 3-1-5 where Steinhoffer,
distinguished doctor of medicine
originally from Klagenfurt
glowers in exile and
cannot return home due to
some administrative requirement
that he be detained and questioned
about his work at Dachau in 1944;
Elsewhere,black and white
portraitures annotate mildewed walls
fading to a natural sepia,
there the one with Cary Grant
and Marlene Dietrich
on their way to Rio,
or was it Havana?
and there,sailor-hatted,bare chested
the great Hemingway himself,
though he never deigned
to shake Dexter Stevenson’s hand;
And in the rundown lobby,
a receptionist stares into space.

Maria Alvarez :Scenes from an Undistinguished Life

Maria Alvarez embroidered her
life with meticulous detail,
consistent in her affectations
she accumulated the outward
appearance of savoir-faire;
her aspirations,unfulfilled
and unfulfillable,lent their
careless trajectory to her life;
whenever vicissitudes threatened,
a laconic smile and something
of hubris at the corner of the mouth
would sustain her amid the disillusionment;
such was the order of her life
until the careless trajectory
of a point three-two bullet
bisected her spouse’s slumbering frame,
setting her free from the borrowed melancholy
in which she had sought refuge
from joy,uncertainty and herself.

Maria Alvarez : ( The Spanish version )

(Translated by Marlena Abadcastello of
the Cervantes Institute,Manchester)

Maria Alvarez bordo su vida
con cuidadosas puntadas;
constante en su afectacion
acummulo la aparencia
externa del savoir-faire;
sus aspiraciones nunca cumplidas
y sin poder cumplirse,prestaron
una trayectoria indiferente a su vida;
cuando la amenazaban vicisitudes.
Una sonrise laconica y algo de
orgullo en el recoveco de su boca
la sostenian en medio de toda su desilusion:
asi transcurria su vida
hasta que la trayectoria indiferente
de una punto tres du dos balas
disecciono en dos su cuerpo durmiente de esposa,
liberandola de su melancolia prestada
en la cual habia buscado refugio
de la alegria,inseguridad y de si misma.


Whatever Happened To That Novel I Was Writing ?

What did happen to that novel
that I was supposed to be writing ?
You know earnestly like Vargas Llosa
or maybe Orwell or even CJ Sansom ;
Where has it gone and what shall
ever become of it ?
That novel of mine that child
of my intellectual loins ?
The one due to be set in South America ,
that mystery centred around the enigma
of a photograph ?
a cast of characters waiting forever
in a quasi-existential limbo for
a completion, an ending of the narrative
which now no longer appears capable
of dramatic resolution ?
A coup d’etat based on the
catastrophic events of a precursor 9/11 ,
the eleventh of September in Chile 1973 ;
an amalgam of malignant conspiracies
involving foreign corporate interests
and venal power seeking indigenous demagogues ;
the torture the suffering the chaos ,
pretence ,lies ,bloodshed and betrayals ,
and here am I their author,
Progenitor in Excelsis
who has abandoned that particular project ;
it is all now nothing more
than a boarded up store front
over which a faded sign swings in the breeze
like a prisoner on the gallows.

One of the Disappeared

Of all your dreams now toppled like

ancient Babylon into the sand ,

there is one that you embrace

with a certain ambiguity ;

a necklace of capillaries circled

by the intimate knife that sheds

your life’s delusions in a

welter of sacrificial blood ;

the Purple raiment unresponsive

to your gasping Salve Mia

the unerring blade elicits

the evocation of a name

heretofore denied by your own

discarded testimony ;

In vain your acquired hypocrisy

seeks a reprieve before

the primal scream

brings you face to face

with your own denouement .


winter dawn
a patch of clouds
blossom a bare tree

holding on
with what she left behind
winter moon

winter rain
the urge to feel
the newborn

full moon
winter’s stillness
in a soap bubble

uphill walking
she takes me into
winter clouds

winter deepens . . .
lungi shivering on
the beggar’s face

on the rock . . .
the descent of water ends
winter’s loneliness

winter twilight
homing mynahs
over my backstroke

Dialogue with Seneca

We wager needlessly against fate ,

we weary ourselves making provision

for the approach of a storm that

we cannot weather nor have the scope to survive ;

We plead vainly , striving to make our voice

heard in the void and all its nothingness ;

What we must do then ,

is endure , is strive ,

for enduring and striving are necessary ;

without them there is no living ,

with them there is life ,

and life is hard

and then we die .

Scenes From A Domestic Incident

His arm moves

like a windshield wiper in a downpour ,

cutting and cutting and cutting

cutting all across a wooden doll face ;

sobbing and crying and crying

crying in the corner ,

two young children cowering from the rage ;

blinded by tears choking with emotions

he watches his own hand

redden to crimson ,

he sees a wooden doll figure

crash before his feet ;

a repetitive percussion beat

breaks down the door ,

he remains frozen in a snapshot

of swirling blue and red ;

slowly slowly he turns to wave ,

his expression rendered


by the bullets.

Revolution as Installation Art

replete with camouflage fatigues,
bandana and stylishly angled beret,
his smile clenching a half-smoked cigarillo,
cradling the Kalashnikov AK-47 and
gazing toward some indeterminate future
with a much rehearsed irrepressible optimism;
Outside of this photograph’s repetitive parameters,
the true Chimera,
one leg shorter than the other,
the single oft-patched shirt,
the ragged trousers and
the absence of philanthropy,
the languid stare of a coca addict,
whose lachrymose reminiscences
are recanted to order
for a few Centavos,
a touristic gesture
the Guardian readers.

The Courier

Seeking to meet the Price set by others ,
Dolores Pacheco evaded the gaze of
Immigration and Customs Officials and
made her way to the airport hotel;
where in room one-one-seven
the envelope and suitcase were waiting,
two hundred and fifty thousand in
small denominated non-sequentially numbered bills,
tangible proof of her and
her confederates’ unassuageable greed;
down payment on that Hacienda
her father could never afford
and that German luxury automobile
which should always have been hers,
and now would surely be ,
were it not for the protruding
silencer of a hidden assassin’s gun ;
the sudden crimson stain on her
Italian haut-couture chemise ,
alerted her to her own imminent demise,
and the thudding pneumatic coughs
giving rise to temporary distraction
next door from the televised soccer game;
Another price had been met,
another contract fulfilled .

The Disappearance of Eduardo Gomez

In the year of the death of Eduardo Gomez,
he abandoned those routines and metaphors
to which others had become accustomed:
absconding without paying
he left his life vacant.
The Patrones,crippled intellects,stranded
on the axis of meaning mused over
his debts at the baccarat table
and considered them inauspicious;
Perhaps it was all a ploy,
simply that,an elegant trompe l’oeil,
an adjective that describes deceit
but cannot apprehend it;
without “corpus” there can be
no “habeas” and without the
corporeality of Eduardo Gomez there
is only the year of his death and
the strangely mute “vacancy” sign
spluttering neon pink.