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Anonymous Biography

I’m a dark citizen
abandoned in the middle of the streets

by the knife without bread at noon,

homeless and withering away

like the steeple clocks,

with no other job except to wander among disguises.

I’m the relative in decline,
rooted in the taverns

and the complicity of thieves.

My voice shipwrecks on store windows.

and I’ve lost my sight in the newspapers.

But I have my feet firmly planted on the earth

and a pillow that flies through the hospitals

and rooms in the dark home that belongs to no one.

I’ve got a nice cell in the police stations

and I’m used to dancing in secret beneath the night

with my white shirt

and my tie stripped of its leaves.

I’m a dark citizen
misplaced by the world:

I pick up cigarette butts

and sing in the streetcars,

and I comb back my hair, valiantly,

to show my noble anonymous forehead

in the public bathrooms and circuses where I live.

I’m a dark citizen; I’m no one;
nothing distinguishes me from some other citizen;

I have grandmothers and relatives who’ve gone away

and a wide back digging

under the friendly walls of the beer halls.

I’m a wave among all the waves,
a wave that rises

at six in the morning because it can no longer

smell the dust in its house,

a wave, lifting itself, filled with joy,

toward the beaches

for an endless return to the center of things

where all the waves

push each other-

sterile and alone.

Because I am not worthy of my semen,
Lord, I’m nothing;

I’m in the middle of the streets

spinning like an organ grinder

with my worn, immovable shirt,

watching the tips of my shoes

in case someone wants to give me

a coin I don’t want,

even though no one has seen me go by

this afternoon or ever,

because I’m never anyone,

not even a dark citizen

brought back to life by hunger.

My voice has died in the store windows,
and my mouth is filled with surf, I’m drunk,

because I’m a wave among all the waves,

who comes to die on this sand of misery,

decently, with a flannel suit

and a blind tie

like the good man I was.

I was once a dark citizen,
Lord, don’t tell anyone,

and unemployed, that’s right!

So, this is where life ends up,

but remember after all:

I never asked for anything

because I had a white shirt.

In memory of Armando Rubio, who died in chile in 1980, at age 24. –Raymundo Rubio

Translation by Steven F. White, from Poets of Chile (1986), by permission of R. Rubio.


Armando Rubio


The Brooklyn Rail


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