Over here, solvent skyline. A virgin
in white, on a hill. Simple.

How cities seed. Every South American
epicenter, but usually a man,

a cross. An extended release tab of guilt.
My neighbor, in the elevator: how boring

the martyred man. And, for that matter,
the elevator. I will remember this

for the rest of my life: ascent, descent,
the opening and closing of levels: yawn.


Share with me your yellowed paper book,
the gasp of a panorama, a just-peeled orange.

A solid replacement for falling in
over my head. This happens each time

like big wash-strokes of paint, adding
dimension to a landscape already too large

to bear, especially as my youth melts
from my body, and the filthiest and most

secret places in the city melt to meet the world,
I pay and I pay and I pay for trespasses of men

from my two countries and their bickering—still
I come back: Santiago eaten down to the root—

blame transubstantiation, or the women
who taught us all to dance first and talk later,

but never blame the poem. Not the first time,
nor after the poet dies and decomposes themself.


Santiago, with tortured stalls and markets
of lightbulbs. Stuck sky from mines and mountains

dissociated and graying, frayed around the edges
with nowhere to go but Argentina.


Beware nostalgia, patron saint of drank-too-much.
It will make a Catholic of you. And you. And you.

Neruda loved a woman with a snake bouffant
mere blocks from my unfurnished studio

where the heat was killed nearly immediately
and stayed buried through the Andean winter.

Lucia Berlin described a Santiago as crisp
and pre-revolution as perfect toast, but I had

nothing to my name but a lover who wouldn’t
fuck me, the virgin outside my window

an aubade and nocturne both. White white white.
One neighborhood over, they broke the fingers

of Victor Jara, the Woody Guthrie of Chile because God
forbid he be the Victor Jara of anything.


Up, then down. Open. Close. Boring.


It cannot have been true that I did not sleep
for three years, but there you have it: in writing.

When I left, I left drunk, refusing
to look back, afraid of being kept forever.


Image credit:yan Viveros

July Westhale is an essayist, translator, and the award-winning author of five collections of poetry, including Trailer Trash, Occasionally Accurate Science, The Cavalcade, Quantifiable Data, and Via Negativa. Her most recent work can be found in McSweeney’s, The National Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, CALYX, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and The Huffington Post, among others. When she’s not teaching, she works as a co-founding editor of PULP Magazine. www.julywesthale.com