Moriré en Valparaíso

Moriré en Valparaíso
Mi nuevo libro con prólogo de Roberto Ampuero

sábado, 8 de noviembre de 2008

A Plum Falls (English version, Spanish to appear Sunday)

In “One of the Lives,” the poet W.S. Merwin (1927) narrates from an iron cot in an old stone farm house, “shivering with fever though wrapped in everything around the house.” The doctor prepares his “unctuous needle.” Nature beckons beyond the window. In his delirium, the poet detects a sound. A plum falls to the forest floor.

It takes 365 days for a plum tree to prepare and ripen its fruit. More than 3 million seconds. It takes less than a tenth of second for a plum to fall.

In “One of the Lives,” the feverish Merwin ponders the golden thread that connects our lives:

“If I had not met the red-haired boy whose father/ had broken a leg parachuting into Provence to join the resistance in the final stage of the war/ and so had been killed there as the Germans were moving north/ out of Italy”


“If I had written anything else at the top/ of the examination form where it said/ college of your choice”


“if the questions that day had been put differently”


“if a young woman in Kittanning/ had not taught my father to drive at the age of twenty/so that he got the job with the pastor of the big church/ in Pittsburgh where my mother was working and if/ my mother had not lost both parents when she was a child/so that she had to go to her grandmother’s in Pittsburgh"

If just one of those events hadn’t occurred. Just one. Our poet would not have been in that iron cot. He would not have heard the plum fall.

Back to Valparaiso. City of miracles. City of plums that fall. Too many times we walk right by. There is that characteristic “tug” of the funicular in Concepción Hill. I first felt that tug on a January eve in 1993. I rode it 2 days ago and the exact same tug was still there. There is the pony-tailed school girl jumping rope in the Guimera Passage Way. The boys on Bernardo Vera Street chasing after the soccer ball that escaped down the hill, again. There is the donkey parked every other day next to the sign that says, “Reserved for the CEO of the stock exchange.” Simple miracles.
Plums that fall.

And just like W.S. Merwin, each of us has a story that brought us here. Stories of parents and dead relatives we never knew; stories of love consummated and shattered; stories of things mundane, forgotten, trivial. “If I had turned right that day and not left.”

But you didn’t. You made it to Valparaiso. You made it here.

And it was in Valparaiso that your humble columnist broke into tears five nights ago. And it wasn’t, as you might imagine, when a man took to the stage in Chicago’s Grant Park. No. It was several moments later. When I heard the cracked voice of another one of my heroes, Georgia Congressman John Lewis, the same John Lewis who, at 15, at been pummeled by an angry mob as he marched through Montgomery, Alabama, at the side of HIS hero, Martin Luther King. Upon hearing John Lewis say, “Yes, we can,” I wept.

And I read, for perhaps the hundredth time, the words of W.S. Merwin. And I knew that, for one still moment, I had wakened, “hearing plums fall in the small hours, thinking I knew where I was as I heard them fall.”

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