Val

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A few months ago I visited an amazing jewel of a city on the coast of Chile. Valparaiso is South America’s version of Lisbon, but on even more of an incline. In fact, it’s almost completely vertical. It is a city of poets, where Pablo Neruda, among others, spent many years of his life.

 

I

Val wakes up at reality rise

And realises she’s still outside.

The empty bottle of wine beside her

Says What? It wasn’t me.

A black rag dog beelines toward her

Sniffs the ground and goes by

Easy hopping downhill.

Val drags her tired eyes up to where she needs to go

And knows it will take some time.

She re-adjusts her dust-coloured dreadlocks

Bundles in a bunch the rough tendrils

And kicks the mud caked on her shoes.

The vertical city looms like a tsunami

Carrying its ramshackle driftwood wreckage.

II

This city has stopped in time

Touched by so many

But stands unaffected

Chapped and chafed

And red and raw

Kissed half to death,

This city of poets.

Crumbling and stifling,

Eyes blood-shot and sunk

She dances naked

Mumbling and drunk.

Callused, unpolished

Table for a stage

She dances naked

Unashamed of her age.

Tattooed skin translucent and thin

She dances naked

Glowing from within

She dances and stumbles—

Occasionally tripping—

To music of brass

That pulses and slithers

Sides into hips and rippling breasts

Cradled in the damp warmth of everyone’s sweat

Yes, this is the city that stops in time;

This is the city neglected by time.

This city, that, on the brink of collapse,

Dances for an audience that never ceases to clap.

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