Interview with Chilean Roberto Rivera-Reyes, Poet…Exile

10498633_1441501232781280_5072100052802350176_oLast night I was indeed privileged to meet, finally, and interview several members of the Spanish and Latin American Poet’s group.  They have formed and gather here in the London area.  We met at Union House near Holborn Station for the launch of a new volume on Allende…you see it was his death on September 11, 1973, that brought so many worlds to a screeching halt.  I intend to spend some time on each and every one of these amazing people as the days go by for us at Vortex.

Roberto, especially, as with his compatriot Eduard Embry, seemed deeply touched by the subject at hand; the coup by Pinochet in their beloved homeland.  Neither have been home since it happened.

Rivera-Reyes described the scene that day in a soft voice but one filled with gentle passion and emotion:  we could not have escaped, he said, had it not been for the local priests and nuns who spirited us away and hid us at their greatest peril.  In the end, only one embassy in Valparaiso opened its doors to us…that of Colombia.  The local police looked the other way just for a few hours that one morning.  When the doors to the Colombian embassy swung open, many, many people ran inside to safety.  But the most dramatic thing was hundreds of people began to drop from the surrounding trees where they had been hiding…and so it went.  A Chilean exile in London for so many decades yet his spoken word carries the lilt of Chile as does his poetry.

Then Roberto read one of his poems, which I will put here in English as well as Spanish. Forgive me, I am unable to provide the appropriate grammar marks for the Spanish…


Largest water fowl in South America, the Black-Necked Swan

Largest water fowl in South America, the Black-Necked Swan

From Dawn Hunters and Other Poems

Black-Necked Swan

(searching for prisoners who are not found)

Cold is the dawn

with no moon,

my love,

with no light to light you,

without its eyes

to pursue you.

Dark is the night

with no moon,

my love,

sailing alone

through black ripples

searching for blood that was spilt.

This cup of blood

must be found,

my love,

crucible to consume

the substance of the dead

abed in unbounded waters

of All Saint’s Lake

The moonless night,

my love,

hung on the question-mark

of your black-swan neck

a rosary of requests

woven of briar rose brambles

from tangles on milky volcanoes,

that had suckled a child now gone.

Heavy breasts

press to innocent mouths

and their lips longing.

Let desire in the blood

drink from eyes



dripped from inside you

a white drop of hope

rolling away

in a desperate flight

and seeking

Thick and deep

is the dark water,

my love,

where souls disappear,

stars fall

and fade in the night.

That’s why they say

that All Saint’s Lake

now has a fathomless

floor of lost faces.


Cisne del Cuello Negro

(En busca de los prisoneros que no aparecen)

Fria es la aurora

sin la luna

amada mia,

sin la luz

que te ilumine,

sin sus ojos

que te sigan.

Oscura es la noche

sin la luna

amada mia,

cuando se va sola

entre la negra espuma

buscando la sangre vertida.

Hay que encontrar

esa copa de sangre

amada mia,

el crisol de los hornos profundos,

para derretir la sustancia de los muertos,

que yacen en estas aguas sin horizontes

del Lago de Todos los Santos.

La noche sin luna

amada mia,

ato a tu cuello de cisne

una pre3gunta desgarradora.

Es un rosario de mandas

hecho de espinas rosas

que cuelga de tu cuello enlutado,

y se enredo en tus volcanes lacteos.

que amamantan al nino ausente.

Los pechos fructiferos

buscan la boca inocente

con sus labios de fuego.

Que les beba de sus ojos

un deseo de sangre

con la fuerza del hambre.

Y como en un sueno nocturno,

de tus entranas se bdesprendio

una gota alba,

de espera,

que roda

en un desesperado acto de fuga

y de busqueda.

Espesa y profunda

es el agua oscura

amada mia,

alli donde el alma desaparece,

donde van a caer las estrellas

que se disipan en la noche.

Por eso dicen

que el Lago de Todos los Santos

ya no tiene fondo

de tantas miradas ocultas.

Roberto on the right.

Roberto on the right.









Editor’s Recommendation:

The War You Don’t See, by John Pilger.