Three poems of Juan Garrido Salgado

29 August 2019
Author :  


Juan Garrido Salgado immigrated to Australia from Chile in 1990, fleeing the regime that burned his poetry and imprisoned and tortured him for his political activism. He has published five books of poetry and his works has been widely translated. Juan has also translated works by a number of leading Australian poets into Spanish. He come back from In July 2019, Juan did a poetry tour to Nicaragua, Mexico and Cuba where he read from the new book When I was Clandestine published in Australia by Rochford Press and also he share the Spanish translations of aboriginal poets such Lionel Fogarty Ali Cobby-Echermann and Samuel Watson and Robbie Walker



Dialogue with Samuel Lafferte in Australia.


You're more than a shadow of me walking,

yours was the name I took

as a militant poet in Moscow.

Yes, I read verses in your name at Red Square

beside the tomb of Lenin,

drinking and talking we read Marx's Das Kapital.

To the woman who was in the dark homeland.

From the nearby Soviet bar at the School of KOMSOMOL,

where we read the verses of Roque Dalton and Sergei Yesenin.


After the return

we walked together into underground struggle

as twins childhood

as a fellow fighters

sharing the same prison and the same blood in the torture.


Shared notebooks and pencil

the sweet and sour kiss of the lost –

In the hours of rest necessary

gradually the verses were born

and since then I wonder

who these poems belong to

Samuel Lafferte or the other I am even today,

Juan Garrido-Salgado?






I remembered,

an encounter with Samuel Lafferte

when we read together for the first time

About Headaches by Roque Dalton.



In another part of the city

they were a pack of drunken poets

in a row at midnight, crying over a love poem by Pablo Neruda

in the gutters at the Alameda Avenue & Plaza Brazil.


While Samuel and I

attended a clandestine meeting

with young militants and crazy


and Samuel called for silence and read some of

Roque’s verses

Under capitalism our heads hurt

and our heads are ripped off.

In the revolutionary struggle the head is a time bomb

Then we all went out to paint the walls against the dictator.



Faust: and now, here I am what I am, and I don’t think I am something else


I think I’m writing

a poem about nothing, for no one.

I do not know whether I should start making a hole in the blank page

and dig, so that the verses will appear,

or burn the sun in that line that someone wrote

on the wall riddled with bullets, blood, and a corpse;

riddled with abandon and loss of everything.


In that bombed city

which appears from time to time while I’m reading with a coffee

or in the yawn of the news,

at dusk I start flying wrapped in the blanket

of a nightmare, of the days spent walking

in my broken shoes, worn from travelling but getting nowhere

without entering a doorway or looking through the window-frame of dawn.


Tonight, I found a place to sleep,

a piece of furniture dragged by the hurricane waters to this place.

The night is today, the night with nothing more to say,

I write this poem in a language

you do not understand, not a fucking sound, nor a fucking pronunciation,


I write without any reader,

not even for the blindness of Borges when I read this line:

When I write something, I have the feeling it pre-exists


* from a sketch of ‘My Faust’, Act II, Scene 5, in Selected Writing of Paul Valéry



When I was clandestine

Víctor Hugo Romo and Samuel on the visit they made to Nicanor Parra in 1979 … In the house of La Reina.


What I do want to make clear: I think Nicanor Parra should have won the Nobel.

It is cruel to make him wait so long; to his 103 is an antipoetic feat.

I have never been devoted to his poetry, but his irreverent verses delight me.

My verse is born by the nights of the ‘curfew.’

I come from the población and never went to University,

although I was part of the Scaffold Literary Workshop.

When I was clandestine I was sent to study at Komsomol University in


we walked through Red Square and with the solemnity of the militant saluted the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution as one greets a father.

When I fell into the hands of the CNI*, I had been clandestine for some time; but my luck was such that nobody suspected my international studies.

Otherwise I would’ve been charcoal

on the grill of the “House of Torture of the Borgoño.”

When I was clandestine I read poems by Vladimir Mayakovski

translated into the language of Violeta Parra; even if I tried to read his poems

on the edge of his bed in that room, when I whispered something intimate in the ear

of the interpreter at the house of Vladimir, so that we could take a siesta in the poet’s bed,

without her knowing that I too was a poet.

When I was clandestine my role in those days of return to the mother country, 1984

was to be an invisible or rather a ‘simple man’, such as Neruda’s Ode

that we dramatized there between 1978 and ’79.

Yes, the street theatre of that time was a little sun warming

the fear that fell in our lives on that long dark night.

When I was clandestine.



Literary Editor

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