Two days later I left Liberia and never went back.

26

Ernesto García Grajales, Universidad de Pachuca, Pachuca, Mexico, December 1996. In all humbleness, sir, I can say that I'm the only expert on the visceral realists in Mexico, and if pressed, the world. God willing, I plan to publish a book about them. Professor Reyes Arévalo has told me that the university press might bring it out. Of course, Professor Reyes Arévalo had never heard of the visceral realists. Deep down he would have preferred a monograph on the Mexican modernists or an annotated edition of Manuel Pérez Garabito, the Pachucan poet par excellence. But by dint of perseverance, I've managed to convince him that there's nothing wrong with studying certain aspects of our most fiercely modern poetry. And in the process, we'll bring Pachuca to the threshold of the twenty-first century. Yes, you could say I'm the foremost scholar in the field, the definitive authority, but that's not saying much. I'm probably the only person who cares. Hardly anyone even remembers the visceral realists anymore. Many of them are dead. Others have disappeared and no one knows what happened to them. But some are still active. Jacinto Requena, for example, is a film critic now and runs the Pachuca film society. He's the one who first got me interested in the group. María Font lives in Mexico City. She never married. She writes, but she doesn't publish. Ernesto San Epifanio died. Xóchitl García works for Mexico City newspaper magazines and Sunday supplements. I don't think she writes poetry anymore. Rafael Barrios disappeared in the United States. I don't know whether he's still around. Angélica Font recently published her second collection of poetry, only thirty pages long, not a bad book, in a very elegant edition. Luscious Skin died. Pancho Rodríguez died. Emma Méndez committed suicide. Moctezuma Rodríguez is involved in politics. I've heard that Felipe Müller is still in Barcelona, married and with a kid. He seems to be happy. Every so often his buddies over here publish some poem he's written. Ulises Lima still lives in Mexico City. I went to see him last break. A real spectacle. To tell you the truth, I was even a little scared at first. The entire time I was with him he called me Professor. But mano, I said to him, I'm younger than you, so why don't we call each other by our first names? Whatever you say, Professor, he replied. What a character. About Arturo Belano I know nothing. No, I never met Belano. Yes, several of them. I never met Müller or Pancho Rodríguez or Luscious Skin. Or Rafael Barrios either. Juan García Madero? No, the name doesn't ring a bell. He never belonged to the group. Of course I'm sure. Man, if I tell you so as the reigning expert on the subject, it's because that's the way it is. They were all so young. I have their magazines, their pamphlets, documents you can't find anyplace. There was a seventeen-year-old kid, but he wasn't called García Madero. Let's see… his name was Bustamante. He only published one poem in a mimeographed magazine that came out in Mexico City, no more than twenty copies of the first issue, and that was the only issue there ever was. And he wasn't Mexican, but Chilean, like Belano and Müller, the son of exiles. No, as far as I know this Bustamante doesn't write poetry anymore. But he belonged to the group. The Mexico City visceral realists. Yes, because there had already been another group of visceral realists, in the 1920s. The northern visceral realists. You didn't know that? Well, they existed. Although talk about undocumented. No, it wasn't a coincidence. More like an homage. A gesture. A response. Who knows. Anyway, these are labyrinths I prefer not to lose myself in. I limit myself to the material at hand and let readers and scholars draw their own conclusions. I think my little book will do well. Worst-case scenario, I'll be bringing Pachuca into the modern age.

Amadeo Salvatierra, Calle Venezuela, near the Palacio de la Inquisición, Mexico City, January 1976. Everyone forgot her, boys, except me, I said. Now that we're old and past hope maybe a few remember her, but back then everyone forgot her and then they started to forget themselves, which is what happens when you forget your friends. Except for me. Or that's how it seems to me now. I kept her magazine and I kept her memory alive. Possibly my life was suited to it. Like so many Mexicans, I too gave up poetry. Like so many thousands of Mexicans, I too turned my back on poetry. Like so many hundreds of thousands of Mexicans, I too, when the moment came, stopped writing and reading poetry. From then on, my life proceeded along the drabbest course you can imagine. I did everything, I did whatever I could. One day I found myself writing letters, incomprehensible documents under the arcades of the Plaza Santo Domingo. It was a job like any other, at least no worse than other jobs I'd had, but it didn't take me long to realize that I was going to be there forever, chained to my typewriter, pen, and blank sheets of paper. It isn't bad work. Sometimes I even laugh. I write everything from love letters to petitions, legal appeals, financial claims, pleas sent by the desperate to the prisons of the Republic. And it gives me time to talk to my colleagues, scribes as tenacious as me (we're an endangered species), or to read the latest marvels of our literature. Mexican poetry is hopeless: the other day I read that one of our most cultivated poets thought that the Pensil Florido

was a colored pencil, not a garden or a park full of flowers, even an oasis. Pensil also means dangling, hanging, suspended. Did you know that, boys, I said, did you know that, or have I put my foot in it? And the boys looked at each other and said yes, but in a way that might also have meant no. I had no news of Cesárea. One day, at a bar, I struck up a friendship with an old man from Sonora. The old man knew Hermosillo and Cananea and Nogales very well, and I asked him whether he had ever heard of Cesárea Tinajero. He said no. I don't know what I must have said to him, but he got the idea that I was talking about my wife or my sister or my daughter. When he said so, it occurred to me that really I had hardly known Cesárea. And now, boys, you tell me that Maples Arce talked to you about her. Or that List or Arqueles did, it doesn't matter. Who gave you my address? I said. List or Arqueles or Manuel, it doesn't matter. And the boys looked at me or maybe they didn't look at me, day had been dawning for a while now, waves of noise from Calle Venezuela were coming into the apartment, and at that moment I saw that one of the boys had fallen asleep sitting on the sofa, but with his back very straight, as if he were awake, and the other one had begun to leaf through Cesárea's magazine, but he seemed to be sleeping too. And then I said, boys, it looks as if day is here, it looks as if the sun has risen. And the one who was asleep opened his big mouth and said yes, Amadeo. The one who was awake, meanwhile, paid no attention to me, still leafing through the magazine, still with a half smile on his lips, as if he were dreaming of a girl just out of reach, while his eyes scanned the only poem by Cesárea Tinajero that existed in Mexico. My mind was spinning from fatigue and the alcohol I'd drunk and suddenly I got the idea that it was the one who was awake who'd spoken. And I said: are you a ventriloquist, boy? And the one who was asleep said no, Amadeo, or maybe he said negative, Amadeo, or maybe nel or nelson or nelazo, or maybe he said no sir or not likely or not a chance, or maybe he just said he wasn't. And the one who was awake looked at me, gripping the magazine as if he was afraid someone would take it from him, and then he looked away and kept reading, as if, I thought then, there was anything to read in Cesárea Tinajero's wretched magazine. I lowered my gaze and nodded. Don't be shy now, Amadeo, said one of them. I didn't want to look at them. But I did. And I saw two boys, one awake and the other asleep, and the one who was asleep said don't worry, Amadeo, we'll find Cesárea for you even if we have to look under every stone in the north. And I opened my eyes as wide as I could and looked at them and I said: I'm not worried, boys, don't do it for my sake. And the one who was asleep said: it's no trouble, Amadeo, it's a pleasure. And I insisted: don't do it for me. And the one who was asleep laughed or made a noise in his throat that could have been a laugh, a gurgle, or a purr, or maybe he was about to choke, and he said: we're not doing it for you, Amadeo, we're doing it for Mexico, for Latin America, for the Third World, for our girlfriends, because we feel like doing it. Were they joking? Weren't they joking? And then the one who was sleeping breathed in a very strange way, as if he were breathing with his bones, and he said: we're going to find Cesárea Tinajero and we're going to find the Complete Works of Cesárea Tinajero. And the truth is that then I felt a shiver and I looked at the one who was awake, who was still studying the only poem in the world by Cesárea Tinajero, and I said to him: I think something's wrong with your friend. And the one who was reading raised his eyes and looked at me as if I were behind a window or he were on the other side of a window, and said: relax, nothing's wrong. Goddamn psychotic boys! As if speaking in one's sleep were nothing! As if making promises in one's sleep were nothing! And then I looked at the walls of my front room, my books, my photographs, the stains on the ceiling, and then I looked at them and I saw them as if through a window, one of them with his eyes open and the other with his eyes shut, but both of them looking, looking out? looking in? I don't know, all I know is that their faces had turned pale, as if they were at the North Pole, and I told them so, and the one who was sleeping breathed noisily and said: it's more as if the North Pole had descended on Mexico City, Amadeo, that's what he said, and I asked: boys, are you cold? a rhetorical question, or a practical question, because if the answer was yes, I was determined to make them coffee right away, but ultimately it was really a rhetorical question, if they were cold all they had to do was move away from the window, and then I said: boys, is it worth it? is it worth it? is it really worth it? and the one who was asleep said Simonel. Then I got up (all my bones creaked) and went to the window by the dining room table and opened it, and then I went to what was, strictly speaking, the front room window, and opened it, and then I shuffled over to the switch and turned out the light.