The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2014

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NOV 2014 Issue



So, political is personal and personal is political, right?

Because when they beat me in order to obtain information
That’s political, right?
When they beat me and say they’re going after my family
That’s political too, right?
When they play recordings of children crying and they say they are my children
That’s still political, right?

So what’s the difference?             Where do we draw the line?

In 1969 Kate Millet defined Politics as a set of stratagems designed to maintain a domination system. She was talking about power structure relationships, about how one group of persons is controlled by another. A type of herrshaft according to Max Weber. A relation of dominance and subordinance. The dialectic of master and servant.

A man and a woman stand in front of the Oracle. They’re waiting to hear the words that will shape their destiny. They’re somehow waiting for a command inasmuch as we know the words of the Oracle are a sacred truth and truth is almost always unbreakable.

This doesn’t occur in the void. The way we conceive how a system of power is maintained and reproduced is about to be broadened; it’ll be enlightened.

What kind of words do people need to hear to be mobilized as a collective entity?

Certain spheres of life are just centers of domination and the way oppression is experienced plays a fundamental role favoring the political reinterpretation of our own existence.

There are two sisters: one gives birth to the other and she, in turn, gives birth to the first. Who are these two sisters?

Standing in front of the Oracle I realize my body is my fortress just as much as my body is my weakness.

Standing in front of the Oracle I realize these words are not about the past, the present or the future.

These words are about a certain kind of certainty or even better:
they’re about the complete lack of it.







Explanation of Purpose

This manual cannot teach anyone how to be a good interrogator. Its purpose is to provide guidelines for interrogation and particularly the counterintelligence interrogation of resistant sources. There is nothing mysterious about interrogation.

It consists of no more than obtaining needed information through responses to questions. Interrogation rest upon the knowledge of the subject matter and on certain broad principles that are not hard to understand.







First Principle: Bluffing

Some players never bluff.

After you figure out who they are
playing against them is easy.

Other people are habitual bluffers.

No easy answers exists concerning players who bluff some
but not all of the time.

Opponents who bluff some of the time
are better players than those found at
either end of the bluffing spectrum.

Better players of course
can keep you guessing about
whether they’re bluffing or not
and when you’re forced to guess
you will be wrong sometimes.

That’s just the way it is.

Of course, you may be able to pick up a tell 
(a revealing gesture)
and know when your opponent is bluffing,
but that's not too likely in most cases.

The sad truth is
players who keep you guessing
are going to give you much more trouble
than predictable opponents.
So let’s define trouble

let’s define revealing gestures:

A voice projecting tension
a voice projecting fear
a dislike of certain topics.

The subject’s mouth as a rule is
notoriously more revealing than the eyes.

Gestures and postures always tell a story.

A posture is like the physical image of the tension.

A dry mouth denotes nervousness.
A ruddy face is an indication of anger.
A cold sweat is a sign of fear and shock.

A pale face usually shows
the interrogator is hitting close to the mark.

A slight gasp or an unsteady voice
may betray the subject.

An interrogation is not merely a body performance.
It is most of all a vocal performance.







Dear torturer

when you beat me with your bare hands
I can see heaven in your eyes

There is something about
the sound of my bones crushing
that makes me feel closer to truth

There is a certain kind of inspiration
that only comes out of heartaches & pain

A dislocated jaw maybe
A couple of nails pulled out
Some knocked out teeth
scattered on the floor

Are just isolated signs of the       / inevitable /

A hanging body is nothing but a type of rhetoric

When not even the whip of electricity
                     shaking my whole structure                            
                     striking my own core
can change this bizarre mood I’m feeling right now

The mute sound of the blows
                     landing like rocks in the sand
is meant to be a part of the secret        
is just another example

of our only possible closeness

The language of violence
                     has such obvious statements
The language of violence
                            has such an overwhelming clarity







The saddest goal in history

sometimes the idea of a poem is better than the poem itself.

the idea of a place, instead, how we imagine it, how we dwell in it. how we think of the different possibilities a place convey. a whole different conundrum.

when Karl Brunner, the Austrian architect (not Karl Brunner, the Swiss economist, not Karl Brunner, the SS brigade leader) built the National Stadium in 1937, he never imagined what that place would be. what would be transformed into.

a place meant to celebrate victory and mourn defeat, in a civilized way, all of a sudden, turned into the biggest concentration camp in Chile.

a forest of rifles and uniforms. the sound of military marches on the loudspeakers. blows, screams, and skull fractures.

a pit
but mostly the idea of the darkness
that a pit entails.

so how should a poem about torture and imprisonment be like?
how should it sound?
what exact words should be used?
and worst of all, how can we relate those words to sports?

maybe we can start like this:

FIFA world cup, 1974. qualification round. after a cold nil-nil draw in Moscow, Chile must play the final match against the Soviet Union at home. the coup d’état had just happened and the National Stadium is being used as a detention and torture center.

an endless line of shadows entering the coliseum in silence.
thousands of heads bowing down in dreadful misery.

ghosts. and soon to be real ghosts covered with blankets at the stands.
waiting. interrogation, torture, death or freedom. waiting.
the whole day, the whole night. just waiting.

when FIFA agents inspected the field, the prisoners were still there.
under the bleachers, locked in the dressing rooms, observing through the hatches.
forced to remain silent at gunpoint.

the day of the game everything was ready. the prisoners had been evacuated to a different facility. the field was impeccable. the grass was shiny and green.
there wasn’t even a hint of the atrocities committed in that place.

at the last minute, as a way of protest, the USSR refused to show up.

8 thousand curious in the stadium had to witness
how the national team was playing against nobody.

so this is how it finally happened:

ball in the midfield, somebody kicks it to the right,
then to the left, one, two, three passes and then
to the right again, number 19 enters through the same side
and a few inches before the goal, without any conviction, kicks the ball.

the saddest goal in the history of fútbol has just occurred.

(no screams, no cheers, no joy, no flags, no clapping, just silence)

up in the highs, close to the snowy mountains, the sight of a scoreboard that will remain in infamy forever. a testimony of the new order. a document of barbarism.

USSR – 0







from The Exit Strategy (Belladonna #157, 2014)

There is one thing you should know: Death stands in the background, but don’t be afraid.

Know this, as well: The important thing is not the reason. The important thing is not the procedure, but how well you are going to execute it.

To be able to leave, to abandon this place properly, you must be willing to leave something behind. That’s a toll that can’t be avoided.

So the ritual finally takes shape: In five different parts of the city, you will place five different parts of your body. It will be up to you which parts of the city you choose, and which parts of your body you pick. You must be able to match the physical place with the actual representation of you body, your tiny surrogate, the fragmentation of your individuality.

Consider this: The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.


two axes. five squares. a city.

Also a body fragmented by cardinal points. A shrine to put your relics on. The space where memory dwells.

The rest is history. The rest is what we call literature.

I look at the horizon. The lights are blinking: Last call. The hanging bodies are wind chimes: the sound of departure.

Let this be the final verse. Let this be the farewell.

When the gap between words becomes real space, real distance, is time to change the hemisphere, to turn the map upside down.

The wind blows peacefully today. The rivers are frozen.

I close my eyes. I open my wounds. I count my final steps. I make no promises. I disappear.





Carlos Soto-Román

Carlos Soto-Romàn is a poet and translator. A former resident of Philadelphia, PA he now hails from Santiago, Chile. He has published in Chile: La Marcha de los Quiltros (1999), Haikú Minero (2007), and Cambio y Fuera (2009); and in the US: Philadelphia's Notebooks (Otoliths, 2011), Chile Project: [Re-classified] (Gauss-PDF, 2013), Alternative Set of Procedures (Corollary Press, 2014) and The Exit Strategy (Belladonna, 2014). As a translator he published and expanded the Spanish edition of Do or DIY (Das Kapital, 2013), a collective essay written by Craig Dworkin, Simon Morris, and Nick Thurston. He is the curator of the cooperative anthology of contemporary US poetry Elective Affinities


The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2014

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