Four Poems

Four Poems

Eduardo Chirinos

Translated to English by G. J. Racz


(Montana, 1863)

There it stands, ramshackle and old
with its tilted wooden cross
weather-beaten logs.
No one has
ever thought to have it restored.

A faded sign recounts its history:
church, grade school, residence
for soldiers and trappers.
One day
they just plucked it out of the San Miguel
and built a highway.

So there it stands, in the middle of useless
without a trace of its past grandeur,

the so-called “Hellgate,”
the first church for whites in Montana.



For Hannah Vanderlan

Around these parts the sky is red
and desolate in the afternoon,
black and silvery at night,
perforated by stars.
Some people hate stars.
“Look like spume,” they say,
“the spume on a river when the water drops
and the corpses glisten as if ablaze.”

A handful of Frenchmen
saw our footprints in the mud,
the fox’s
blood setting the eagle’s beak on fire.
They were merchants, not warriors.
That’s why they called upon their gods
and named these parts “Porte d’Enfer.”

Still, a place has got to earn its name.

In Nemissoolatakoo the sky is red
and desolate in the afternoon,
black and silvery at night,
perforated by stars.



On the banks of the Bitterroot
soldiers built Fort Missoula.
That was in the middle of the nineteenth century
when this region was still the “last frontier,”
the roofless home of the Nez Perce Indians.

It doesn’t look like forts in the movies
(Fort Apache, for example)
but it has its charms:
a broken-down
train, a dilapidated church and the memory
of the 25th Infantry Battalion
(the first to be mobilized on bicycles).

In the second year of WWII
a thousand Italian prisoners were brought here
along with two thousand Japanese.

They ate and slept together
in these barracks (never really mixing)
until they were released in ’43.
Some returned home to their countries. Others
started families and stayed in Missoula.

Those who died were buried.
They stayed in Missoula, too.



Eva Marie-Saint, the perfect name
for a blonde,
sophisticated and cold, not a hair
out of place as she stares down the revolver
nor the slightest glower to give her away.

Imagine her naked in a train car
or, better yet,
floating down a river, plucking the petals off flowers.
Then her name would be Ophelia, while Cary Grant
would be poor Mr. Thornhill à la tour abolie.

This is the waste land topped off by towers,
these are the yellow prairies of Elsinore.
Toward the west,
Lincoln’s enormous nose rises.
Don’t forget
Lincoln’s enormous nose
and the rocky chasm beckoning the blonde,
her lover and the hit man.

Don’t forget the wind clouding the eyes
of those who come from the south.

Posted: April 4, 2012 at 4:06 am

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