January 1975

I saw a woman disappeared today. I don’t know what she did or why she did it; I was going out to lunch with one of my friends, a would-be university classmate named Pedro. We were talking about the library near our house, wondering how long it would be closed, when men in helmets ran into the store. I fixated on those helmets; I couldn’t help but think, “What do they think is going to fall on their heads?”

It’s been more than a year. I should know better by now.

The woman in the café seemed to know they were there for her. When they dragged her outside, her body was limp. It was like she was already dead. I didn’t even see her face because she was facing away from me when they came in. How do you mourn someone you can’t even remember?

We don’t know what happens to them. Rumors fly, rumors from my school friends that I don’t want to believe and rumors from the junta that I know I can’t. I’m afraid all the time now. I’ve always loved poetry more than politics, but mamá has never been shy about what she thinks. Any of our neighbors could turn on us, and our street is so choked with fear that I almost believe they could. My friends, too, are all students, intellectuals, which is a dirty word these days.

And then there’s another thought, one that sneaks in when I’m trying to sleep over the sound of the silence that comes from us all holding our breaths, waiting for a car, or a helicopter, or gunshots. A thought that says: Clara, you’re a student too. You read Marx; you argued about him with your friends in the plaza. You could be a subversive, and if you’re a subversive you’re not Chilean and you’re not human and they can come drag you away in a restaurant. They could. They could come for you.

Ayudo a mamá con los quehaceres

y voy a comprar pan.
Cepillo mis dientes,
arreglo me pelo,
y duermo como una balsa en el mar.
Y trato, trato, trato
de no pensar, de no mirar
el estado de las calles, el terror
y la oscuridad surgiendo,
como una mariposa terrible
desde su capullo.

1 thought on “January 1975

  1. ssvolk says:

    Beautiful and frightful poem, Clara, gracias. Did anyone do anything when they dragged that poor woman out? Probably not – I think we all feel very helpless now. Even my parents, so pleased with the removal of Allende, have become more reserved in their praise of the military, more questioning of what Pinochet has in mind. The economy seems to be in such a sorry state now, I see friends I knew from the colegio out on the streets selling gum and cigarettes. “Jaime,” I say, “qué hubo?” And he just turns and pretends he doesn’t know me.

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