N  a  p a  l  m     H  e  a  l  t  h     S  p  a  :     R  e  p  o  r  t     2  0  0  7






City of Glass

                   For Pablo Neruda  and Matilde Urrutia

                   La Chascona, Santiago de Chile


The poet’s house was a city of glass:

cranberry glass, milk glass, carnival glass,

red and green goblets row after row,

black luster of wine in bottles,

ships in bottles, zoo of bottles,

rooster, horse, monkey, fish,

heartbeat of clocks tapping against crystal,

windows illuminated by the white Andes,

observatory of glass over Santiago.


When the poet died,

they brought his coffin to the city of glass.

There was no door: the door was a thousand daggers,

beyond the door an ancient world in ruins,

glass now arrowheads, axes, pottery shards, dust.

There were no windows: fingers of air

reached for glass like a missing lover’s face.

There was no zoo: the bottles were half-moons

and quarter-moons, horse and monkey 

eviscerated with every clock, with every lamp.

Bootprints spun in a lunatic tango across the floor.


The poet’s widow said,  We will not sweep the glass.

His wake is here. Reporters, photographers,

intellectuals, ambassadors stepped across the glass

cracking like a frozen lake, and soldiers too,

who sacked the city of glass,

returned to speak for their general,

three days of official mourning

announced at the end of the third day.


In Chile, a river of glass bubbled, cooled,

hardened, and rose in sheets, only to crash and rise again.

One day, years later, the soldiers wheeled around

to find themselves in a city of glass.

Their rifles turned to carnival glass;

bullets dissolved, glittering, in their hands.

From the poet’s zoo they heard monkeys cry;

from the poet’s observatory they heard

poem after poem like a call to prayer.

The general’s tongue burned with slivers

invisible to the eye. The general’s tongue

was the color of cranberry glass.





General Pinochet at the Bookstore

                   Santiago, Chile, July 2004


The general's limo parked at the corner of San Diego street

and his bodyguards escorted him to the bookstore

called La Oportunidad, so he could browse

for rare works of history.


There were no bloody fingerprints left on the pages.

No books turned to ash at his touch.

He did not track the soil of mass graves on his shoes,

nor did his eyes glow red with a demon's heat.


Worse: His hands were scrubbed, and his eyes were blue,

and the dementia that raged in his head like a demon,

making the general's trial impossible, had disappeared.


Desaparecido: like thousands dead but not dead,

as the crowd reminded the general,

gathered outside the bookstore to jeer

when he scurried away with his bodyguards,

so much smaller in person.



[both poems reprinted from The Republic of Poetry (W.W. Norton, October 2006

with permission of the author]