Peace Corps Writers
Readings from the 40 + 1 (page 3)
Readings from the 40 + 1

page 1
The Communist

page 2
Living Right in Antofagasta

page 3
La Vida Antofagastina 1968
How I became a poet

page 4
Meeting Neruda

      La Vida Antofagastina 1968
           How I became a poet

    When his check comes
    John pays everybody,
    buys a big box of noodles
    to live on for the month
    and is broke.
    “Nothing but noodles?”
    “I get invited out a lot,” he says.
    Brad, Lucho, Juan Carlos & I
    move in over the warehouse.
    We have no water.
    I walk to the bar next door
    & order a bucket of water.
    The bartender gives me one,
    but he doesn’t like it,
    so we economize, wash up
    over the sink,
    let the water down the open drain
    into the bucket underneath
    — you have to watch your feet —
    use that to flush the toilet.
    The landlord wants us to pay the bill.
    He comes every night and says,
    “For life, three things are needed
    First, air is needed.
    Second, water.”
    He never says what the third is.
    We don’t like him; his name is Felix.
    Someone we do like
    comes by from Bolivia
    with a bag of coca.
    We hear it makes your mouth numb,
    we never get around to chewing any
    we like our mouths
    the way they are I guess.
    I go to the movies and bring
    back a supply
    of fleas for the cat.
    He’s a kitten.
    We name him Strangler
    but it’s not funny, so
    we change the name to Mauricio
    (Paloma’s idea)
    Not funny either, but
    he keeps it, Paloma's only three.
    Now the toilet paper’s on strike;
    we meet a sailor
    who gives us some German toilet paper.
    “No wonder they started two wars,”
    Brad says, and we go out
    for a newspaper. Now the cat
    brings in a supply of fleas for me,
    and a friend through the skylight
    to eat all the tuna fish.
    I throw his friend out;
    the fleas refuse to leave.
    I pick up a bike at the office,
    we have nothing to do,
    so we wonder can we ride it down the stairs.
    “You’d go right through the wall,”
    Juan Carlos figures out.
    We picture that for a while —
    head through the splintered wall . . .
    We don’t do it.
    We do go out for some wine
    & those cigars with the chunks of wood in them;
    sometimes the smoke won’t draw at all,
    I investigate
    & always find wood,
    little pieces of wood.
    John gets the local Luckies,
    the kind the customs agent smelled.
    He said it wasn’t tobacco.
    He didn’t know what it was, oh well,
    we smoke them anyway
    & drink the wine and talk.
    The next day Ruth
    gives me her old
    typewriter and I’m
    a poet. I already
    have a table.

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