Small Talk: Poems on Everyday Chile


As in most Latin countries, Chilean life is lived in the streets, and a favourite occupation is seeing and being seen in the innumerable caf├ęs that dot the streets of Santiago. Here are fifty occasional poems that present the passing spectacle of life to an Englishman who has made his home in the capital.
Nothing profound, but very varied in their themes, the poems document the social attitudes of the country, the local customs, the passing seasons in the city, and a little of the country's history as it emerged from the Marxist experiments of Allende, through the military dictatorship, to today's centre-left government of Michelle Bachelet.

It's simply a personal record, the thoughts that came to mind in an hour or so off duty as their writer thought back on the events of the week.

A free  ebook in pdf format.



Sunday morning, and I'm sat at peace
with coffee and an 'agua con gas'.
The rising silver bubbles never cease
to fuzz the clarity the surface has

with a bristling, steady movement: tiny blink
as each arrives and opens and is gone,
as though the fervent inwardness would link
with calm transparency I'm gazing on.

Sights recollected in tranquillity
as Wordsworth almost said. I think of how
the great technicians made us see
by painting miracles of this world now.

Velasquez most of all, whose hog-hair brush
picked out ebullience of silk and lace,
Sargeant and Boldini even, once the rush
to finish sitting settled into grace.

All tiny objects, mundane, trivial things
that are, and of themselves, not asking why,
where consciousness a moment spreads its wings
and asks for nothing but the wide blue sky


Starched linen on the tables, glasses shine,
the waiters in their old retainer mime:
we meet to catch up, chatter, try new wine
and have a stand-up, truly jolly time.

And so we do. The women like each other,
the men are mischievous but guard their hand.
My neighbour tells me of his batty mother;
I tell my stories out of Aussie land.

Fine, marvellous. We all think back
across the years, to wives, dark continent
of work, grim days that hurt us, earned the sack,
when life was boring, flat and only went

from bad to miserable, no end in sight
from meeting mortgage with the monthly check:
disgraced, retrenched, retraining, only bright
spot then the tea-girl at the local tech.

But there we are: we passed: we all got through,
despite appearances, and never knew,
those dark days back, that actually this view
of happiness might happen and be true.