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A duel in the Andes

I was asked to adjudicate a duel in the Andes, the invitation came in a dream—I could not refuse.

It was held in a village and my hotel was all in wood like a Swiss chalet, and there was más cerveza on the dresser—in which the peasants washed their hair.

That’s poetic—indeed, because this was a poetic duel; with words not swords. Chile is a sheathed blade that seeks an invisible scabbard—and when she meets Antarctica, the white continent will bleed red; and that is weapon enough for our purposes.

I saw a corazón on the horizon and when it split in two the Andes were bathed in red, a glacier shifted and the French mountaineers were buried in an avalanche—there were no survivors. This is the hazard of poetry—when two poets meet, continents shift.

In the red corner, a compañero—Neruda; on the black-and-red, Don Miguel (Serrano)—diplomats both, but today it would be real, not platitudes for the nations, but oro alquimico. I held them back with a cordón dorado, yet they strained at verbal leash. I thought, whose blood will be a-thule (blue in Spanish, I believe)?

Neruda’s shot went right through the heart—death by verbal stiletto, a gaucho would be proud; and yet it was a draw that Serrano won—by losing; it’s an old trick, familiar to Christ—and Hitler.


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