This song was written and sung in cell number 198 of Valparaíso’s former prison, that is to say, on the top floor of the main building, which was higher than the walls that surrounded it. This had several advantages for the prisoner, for if they perched on a stool to peer through the skylight, they could enjoy the company of a good part of the city during their hours of confinement.
My privilege was twofold, because as only an adopted son of the port city, I was fortunate to share that sad human space with a great expert of the local geography: Antonio Suzarte, who taught me to love Valparaiso with a love that still beats in my heart after nearly forty years of exile.
From that cell, he pointed out places whose names had already reached my ears via the mouths of poets and singers: Cerro Barón, Cerro Mariposa, Caleta Portales. He guided my gaze to the distant Miraflores Alto hill, located in the neighbouring city of Viña del Mar, from whence Graciela Navarro would come to visit me with her warm gaiety, helping me to get through those times of hardship with joy and hope.
Published on: 22 June 2015
a wounded port, behind some hills,
a long asphalt road that cuts the breath,
timid lights, afterwards a silence.
Boats stuck together in the background,
a staircase and a slow shoe,
the lifts winding to the top,
in the centre a child with an outstretched hand.
Then a sad ocean
that extends through life,
in the background a giant, open neck,
the Valparaíso horizon.
All soaked inside
by a heart that was desolate,
a man goes to a bar,
an opaque fire and a fog.
How many aching questions?
On each corner a dead seagull.
Hunger in the streets, hunger of the days.
The winds blow away, thorns return.
In the midst of it all I see
the inhabitant haggardly walking,
the fisherman who sails out to sea,
the resident of the sleeping hills,
the passer-by who steps on the night,
the deep night of Valparaíso.
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