Javier Taboada

'Three visions of Toño,' translated by Cole Heinowitz

[In celebration of our work together coediting the transnational assemblage of North and South American poetry from origins to present, in progress and scheduled for publication by University of California Press, Im posting here these three connected poems from Javier Taboadas most recent gathering. The delving here into the realities of his own new localism is a supplement for me to the more transpersonal mindscape of his earlier El niño de varas (The Whipping Boy), published previously in Poems and Poetics. (J.R.)]

            HELLO, ABRAHAM


            he looked like Sai Baba but

            without vomiting up watches golden eggs

            sometimes dressed like Yoko Ono

            with his miniskirt     —red—

            and his white plastic glasses

a musketeer      sometimes an old lady

without the love of Jesus in his heart

well it’s not like it’s a boarding house

I saw Toño


            GET UP LAZARUS

to a dead pine branch he kicked across the sidewalk

walking naked between cars

swimming in the fountain’s rank water

or blowing kisses to make me look




hearing a name


or Alfredo


            hello, Abraham


feeling his hand in mine

the tickling of a thousand bedbugs

in my gooseflesh


hello, Toño

owner of a backpack filled with drawings

paving stones sticks

garlic cloves wrapped

in nylon pantyhose


hello, Toño

the guy who railed BEHOLD THE WOMAN

and lifted up his skirt

his testicles swinging in the breeze


            hey Abraham

            so glad you finally showed up

            I went by the synagogue the other day

            I was waiting for you

            got a cigarette


and then he told me about his boyfriend Freddy

the one he met on Elm Street

with the emaciated face

and fingernails like claws






            I saw him one night between the bushes

            a storm had him down on his knees      Toño screamed

            hey Toñito are you okay (I asked)

            and he screamed howled bleated

            a flash of lightning a scream then another and another

relax my Toño

            thunder scares me too

            want a cigarette

                        oh yes thank you Abraham

                        the rain scares me so much

                        the lightning bolts shatter inside me


            and we sat down together to smoke

with our feet tucked in until the rain stopped

keeping dry

            I’ve been waiting for you

            do you want to play the game of big and small

I thought it was a pun

it depends

what it’s about

and a gleaming red deck of cards landed in my hands

            take it and shuffle

the cards didn’t have a single crease no muck

or grease stains on their edges

            shuffle again then gimme them

here you go

he covered his eyes with his palms

            now take one


and I

swear I picked a card he’d

never be able to see or even suspect

            ready (he said):

            KING OF SPADES

and it was the king of spades

sticking his tongue out at me

with his jockstrap on backwards

            I told you Abraham

how’d you do it Toño      show me again


            I’m not a damn videotape

            goodbye Abraham


and he snatched the card from my hand





                        hey Abraham    want to play the game of the goose

            sure thing Toño but we don’t have a board or dice

                        you may not (he said)         TA-DAH

            tied with a shoelace ribbon

            in a little pocket of his sack he carried the dice

along with thousands of papers notes his pack of cards

his calendar

and he took out a small square of paper

less than an inch by an inch and opened it

unfolding each space on the board

a mappamundi

goose atlas       well maze

the cosmos on the sidewalk

            have a seat Abraham

and we sat down on the ground

he held a plastic cup

half horchata

half pure alcohol

            take your dice—red—I’ve got two

            if you want to play put your money down

            I’m the fava    you’re the white bean

let’s get started

            you’ll see Abraham   but first

            have a ciggie

a “ciggie,” Toño

            yes   a ciggie

“sparked” or “snuffed”





he sucked the tobacco

like a charred beaver tail

and heaved a lungful across the board

a whirlpool    spiral over all the shapes and colors

that never lifted or dispersed

I felt dizzy

maybe it was the acidity of his armpit his clothes

the tune he ta-dahed

his fingers emerged from the cotton glove where he primed the dice

on top of the blue the green

the white dots rubbing against each other    multiplying

leukodermic cubes leprous martians

with numbers that were words I never managed to make out

He took one     the blue

he rolled it

and I felt the space shake

I felt every turn of the die    its shifting vertex

coming to rest and its call


his fava advanced on the board

like the footsteps of geese climbing the same tree

            what do the geese sing on top of the tree    roll Abraham

and the bean that was me (its shell was loose)

walked to the first spot

            ONE    here you stay

he took a slug of his drink

            my turn

he took the green and


with the blue


he reached the eighteenth space


listen don’t fuck with me Toño

the dice are loaded

with one you get FOUR

and with the other FIVE

every time

            shut up and roll Abraham



I called     and advanced my marker

onetwothree  one   two    three

he was crazy but he wasn’t a fool

            no you don’t    go back

            one two THREE

            you stay here

            my turn

from the eighteenth to the twenty-third space    the twenty-eighth

            roll Abraham


I won’t play anymore

            NO ASSHOLE

(he yelled)

look Toño if you’re going to be like that

let’s just drop it I’ll take my money somewhere else

            no    hey Abraham

(now sweetly

with bedroom eyes)

            leave your money

fine then but lend me your dice

            NO ASSHOLE

            they’re mine

roll your own

and I rolled


I called

and onetwo one-two


                        go back     one TWO

you stay here      MY TURN

and forty-one

                        moving from spot to spot


                        Abraham your shot

from the well to the inn    the prison

—three turns later—

until at last


but my bean got stuck in the death-head’s teeth

I felt something happening a porcupine

behind me the shadow of a dog

or maybe it was Toño’s belch to make night fall



            I leap over death fly through the gate enter the garden of geese and win

                        NO ABRAHAM

                        that’s not where you go

                        YOU DIE

            he picked up his dice his money     where are you going

                        I WON

            and I




            the fava and the white bean went flying


                        IT DOESN’T MATTER THAT YOU’RE ALIVE

                        YOU’RE ALL GONNA DIE

                        OF HUNGER AND COLD


            the board became a square of paper again

            Toño finished his drink

            stood up

            and took off walking toward Río Churubusco

            down that same street

            where months later

            he’d be killed by a truck