Poetry Wednesday – Roberto Bolaño



(© cccb/kosmopolis)

After finishing 2666, there was a void in my life.  I miss the delightful confusion, the magnificent prose, and all the references I do not get.  It is clear that there needs to be more Bolaño in my life, so I went searching for some of his poetry.  It’s difficult to find and this poem Godzilla en México is the only poem I could find.


Atiende esto, hijo mío: las bombas caían
sobre la ciudad de México
pero nadie se daba cuenta.
El aire llevó el veneno a través
de las calles y las ventanas abiertas.
Tú acababas de comer y veías en la tele
los dibujos animados.
Yo leía en la habitación de al lado
cuando supe que íbamos a morir.
Pese al mareo y las náuseas me arrastré
hasta el comedor y te encontré en el suelo.
Nos abrazamos. Me preguntaste qué pasaba
y yo no dije que estábamos en el programa de la muerte
sino que íbamos a iniciar un viaje,
uno más, juntos, y que no tuvieras miedo.
Al marcharse, la muerte ni siquiera
nos cerró los ojos.
¿Qué somos?, me preguntaste una semana o un año después,
¿hormigas, abejas, cifras equivocadas
en la gran sopa podrida del azar?
Somos seres humanos, hijo mío, casi pájaros,
Héroes públicos y secretos.



Listen carefully, my son: bombs were falling
over Mexico City
but no one even noticed.
The air carried poison through
the streets and open windows.
You’d just finished eating and were watching
cartoons on TV.
I was reading in the bedroom next door
when I realized we were going to die.
Despite the dizziness and nausea I dragged myself
to the kitchen and found you on the floor.
We hugged. You asked what was happening
and I didn’t tell you we were on death’s program
but instead that we were going on a journey,
one more, together, and that you shouldn’t be afraid.
When it left, death didn’t even
close our eyes.
What are we? you asked a week or year later,
ants, bees, wrong numbers
in the big rotten soup of chance?
We’re human beings, my son, almost birds,
public heroes and secrets.

It’s been compared to “The Road,” a strange post-apocalyptic poem that is deceptively simple.  It begins as simple narrative, but the last five lines really got to me.  I love the line, especially “We’re human beings, my son, almost birds,” it’s just beautiful.

What do you think fellow 2666 readers?  Does this fill that void at all?  If you haven’t read Bolaño before, are you intrigued by this poem?

8 thoughts on “Poetry Wednesday – Roberto Bolaño

  1. I’m sure you’ve probably heard of “The Romantic Dogs,” a small collection of Bolano’s poetry that was released by New Directions last year. I highly recommend picking it up. He always considered himself a poet first and only wrote fiction to pay the bills.

  2. As you know, I have been struggling with 2666… I actually like this bit of poetry a lot more than what I’ve been reading there! I think the writing is so much stronger and so much more evocative – I wish 2666 had been written more like this!

  3. Lu – Thank you. I’ve been trying to find his poetry and will look for a copy of “The Romantic Dogs” (Thanks, Daniel). I picked up a copy of “By Night In Chile” from the library as I wait for a used copy of “The Savage Detectives” to arrive in the mail:)

  4. I think this is one of the best poems in Romantic Dogs. Frankly, I didn’t like the poetry that much — it’s very cryptic (but then, I don’t really “get” poetry). I find Bolano’s prose to be much more poetic; it’s those sudden beautiful phrases that lift a reader out or carry her along.

  5. I’m with Isabella. I find his prose more poetic than his poetry. I skimmed through Romantic Dogs in the bookstore and read through some of them. They didn’t captivate me as his prose did. I love poetry but there’s something unnatural with Bolaño’s poetry. That said, I’ll probably still get my own copy of Romantic Dogs once I’ve read every one of his novels, lol. Love him so much. When I have a favourite, I’ll read everything by them! 😀

  6. I’m currently reading Bolano’s novel, “Distant Star” and am blown away by its power and mystery.

    The poem you posted is potent too…moving and true to his humanity, his poetic vision that wrapped its arms around his political considerations. He was a Latin American with universal significance!

  7. I´m a German, reading Bolaño too, and your blog article helped me by writing something in reading now “Rayuela” of Cortàzar. There´s a good blog about Bolaño in German http://wilde-leser.de. If you don´t speak German, what I suppose, have a look there anyway. A good online ressource of his Poems is found here:


    If you should like to visit me, The Buecherblogger, the Bookblogger, just go to


    The five lines, I´ve been as much impressed of as you! I quote them here:


    Thanks and have a good day,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s