| [Editor's Note: On 11 September 1973, a military
coup in Chile overthrew the government of Salvador Allende, ending nearly
150 years of democratic rule. Tens of thousands of Chileans were killed
in the coup itself, including Victor Jara, a popular musician publicly
executed by the junta. In the years immediately following the coup, more
than 100,000 Chileans were tortured, disappeared, arrested, or forced
into exile. Each year, to commemorate the coup and the democratic aspirations
it sought to crush, Jamaican poet Andrew Salkey would write a poem for
Chile. When civilian government was finally restored, Salkey wrote one
last poem for Chile and Victor Jara. The Boston Review presents
this poem to mark the twentieth anniversary of the 1973 coup.]
After the War on the Land
In Memory of Victor Jara
Should you ask me where I come from, I must talk
with broken things,
with fairly painful utensils,
with great beasts turned to dust as often as not
and my afflicted heart.
-- Pablo Neruda
The skin of sand and gravel in the cities and countryside
shivered, because it had been, for far too long, pierced
by the quick chainsaw slashes of juddering Sherman tanks,
by the vulturous generals in mufti and a secret police
in snugly-fitting disguises, with a northern licence to act;
and so they all did, as the republic retched in disgust.
The hunched workers and spavined peasants duly endured
their grapnel shoulder-yokes and staggering fatigue,
until their lives were caught on snags of dread and despair.
Where were the blossoms of expected rosy times and ideals?
Where, the halcyon nest of hush that soothes spiky anguish?
Where, the salvation signs across the prophetic Andean sky?
Now that the years of trampling and butchery have withdrawn
their highly polished jackboots and accurate meat-hooks,
and the new vote has cut the abundant waste of citizens,
the cannas and marigolds will blaze, street by street,
and branch and brandish freedom, fiercely, Victor,
all the way down the ribbon of your southern landscape.
-- Andrew Salkey