The master has disappeared. You see it in how these pages darken, in how the burned ones recompose, in the appearance of the king. The master and the eunuch, who are the same, with his stela, his killjoy, his scorn, flaccidity, they collapsed at the perfect moment. The mares don’t graze anymore. They’re lying around, with their jaws open, their haunches entangled in the mane of the threadbare orange bed, fragments of the departures, of the openings, of the orgasms of the woman who was singing in the opening moment. The one who said something like it’s been a month since I’ve fucked anyone or she could also have said I’m demolished, I look like broken pieces in this constellation or when she sang this bed has seen it all or feed me when I’m hungry, etcetera, etcetera. Now, this woman has taken a name: the loose one. And it has a homolog, which is herself, which is other, which is all of them, which follow the tantrums, and the selves she takes to get it on with whoever she’s into, so that she can then get rid of them: the pearl
Now, let’s move onto something else
Up against your will
Through the thick and then
He will wait until
You give yourself to him
Echo & the Bunnymen. “The Killing Moon.”
With a bacteria lodged in her throat, without talking, without the power to speak, without power: defenseless. An infection has overtaken different muscles, creases, parts. This time it’s the throat. That’s how it is, how it will be. Like a tongue turned into globs of drool that enter and exit. Without concern for the body, its desires or its mess. Cryptic. Cryptic. Cryptic. Without power, without the power to speak, without the power to say what hurts the most, what she most desires or what pisses her off, what she already knows, what she imagined when no one wanted to stop her anymore. Inevitably, some come, others will come. There was a fuck, there will be millions. But it’s always the same itch. The same boredom, the same suffocation. And nobody knows the loose one.
Counting the days, the loose one strolls through the basic territory, humming a song. She looks at her orange bed, thinks of the days when sweat embroidered the sheets, and kisses, and purity and the piety. The same and the same. Drool. Harass. Come. Arrive. The bed. Filled with prayers. There are some keys under the pillow, clasps for a necklace with a gold heart, which the loose one looks at entranced, because she doesn’t have a heart. Beyond, in another space or under another influence, the king is sleeping deeply. And he doesn’t listen. And he doesn’t feel. And he doesn’t know that the loose one waits and waits for the perfect moment, to make a scene, so as to escape. As she has always done, because she can’t, because she doesn’t know how to stay or because it simply annoys her, because she gets annoyed at anything that starts to get serious.
As she’s making calculations,the loose one observes herself again and again. She enters and exits the bathroom, looks out at the street. She goes over to the balcony. She begins to water the plants on the terrace, which now burn from the cold of these last days of autumn. Soon winter will be here. And these, the burnt ones, remember that sunny day when the loose one told him: they are like our love; they’ve been born again. But it was a total buzz kill. And the eunuch knew it and shut up, his phallus shrunken as always. The loose one reconsidered, for example, when she would go by the window naked, or clothed, or horny. And this was just one example of the traps she set for him. With the eunuch nothing ever happened anyway. Nothing. Or better yet: nothing had happened, because he was a closed container, and stubborn, a little clumsy, a little stupid, limp fucks buried in memory, a stela, a condition one could return to.
The loose one is like this. She thinks the imperfections and disguises make her unique. I love this asymmetry she says one night while cutting her bangs in the bathroom. And she looked at herself over and over again in the mirror. Then, the trim became less precise when her eye would glance over at the orange bed. No one’s home tonight, the loose one would say, just me and the crisis. Then she started to laugh. And then came the stomach pain and the itch in her belly was instantaneous. That same night she went to the window thinking: what’s going on with my eunuch, what exchange of secretions is he involved in. Will he be picturing the ring worm he left in my belly, the loose one mumbles, her throat raw from so much talking, saying so much in vain. Because even though she doesn’t love him, the word weighs on her. And what does she do now in the solitude of the word, in the cruel speech of the days: the loose one waits and waits. And when someone appears, she attacks. Because that’s how the loose one is. When something is put between her thighs she doesn’t stop until it’s taken out and put back in again. The way she likes it or the way they like it. And afterwards nobody stops her. Once the loose one gets going, no one stops her.
And the pearl had thought that she would never again cry for him, for the master, for the eunuch. There’s no way to singularize it, the loose one says, wiping a teary eye, the wound has many forms, names and twisted, listless memories. The loose one haunts herself all day. Exactly all day long. And at night she gets worse. And the pearl acts like it’s nothing but she can’t take it anymore. Meanwhile the loose one takes great pains to please everyone, but it’s not enough. They always suffocate her. Straightening her corset, she repeats herself for them: I’m not that one, why can’t you understand?
It’s like this: the two of them get together and act like it’s nothing, but it’s something. The loose one breathes melancholically while she comes down with diarrhea; the pearl acts like it’s nothing, as if nothing is wrong with her. As if nothing were running through her, like that, just so, as self-confident as ever; then they look at each other and swap roles, swap conditions and souls. And inevitably one of them doesn’t care. Doesn’t care. She comes or finishes, coiling, and closes her eyes apathetically. Now, let something else come, the pearl says, with the ring worm boiling in her belly, her neck bent back, her eyes dried up from so much crying. And in that moment, in another temporality, the king moves, scratches his head, tries to wake up, but remains lethargic and beautiful, anesthetized, in the furor of a clear and silent night.
Suspiciously, hunger comes after sadness, the loose one thinks, as she fucks her way through the city. I’m so hungry. So. Hungry. Hungry. Hungry. And she says it so many times that it’s becomes like a prayer, a command, a new way of begging. It’s at that moment when the king begins to slowly open his eyes. And gives her the look. Then the loose one murmurs: hopefully he’ll go down. And soon. It’s the only thing I’m missing. The only thing. And the pearl acts like it’s something, but she knows it’s impossible. Impossible to keep begging. Impossible to think that something is wrong. But the loose one tells her to wait, to keep very still and with all her senses wide open. With everything wide open.
Originally published by Editorial Cuarto Propio, Santiago, Chile, 2009, in 2010, La perla suelta (The Loose Pearl) won the Premio de la Critica (The Critics Prize) in Chile.
Paula Ilabaca Núñez (Santiago de Chile, 1979) is a writer, editor and teacher. She received the 2015 Pablo Neruda Prize, the 2014 Juegos Florales Prize for her novel La regla de los nueve and the Premio de la Critica de Prensa Literaria en Chile (The Chilean Literary Critics Prize) in 2010 for La perla suelta, which these poems are excerpted from.
Daniel Borzutzky is the author of Lake Michigan, finalist for the 2019 Griffin International Poetry Prize; The Performance of Becoming Human, National Book Award Winner, 2016. His other books include In the Murmurs of the Rotten Carcass Economy (2015); Memories of my Overdevelopment (2015); and The Book of Interfering Bodies (2011). His translation of Galo Ghigliotto’s Valdivia received the 2017 ALTA National Translation Award. He has translated books by other Chilean poets, including Raúl Zurita and Jaime Luis Huenún. He teaches in the English and Latin American and Latino Studies Departments at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The art is a photo of Leif Holmstrand in performance.