Related: Nicanor Parra


I'm the individual. \
First I lived by a rock \
(I scratched some figures on it) \
Then I looked for some place more suitable. \
I'm the individual. \
First I had to get myself food, \
Hunt for fish, birds, hunt up wood \
(I'd take care of the rest later) \
Make a fire, \
Wood, wood, where could I find any wood, \
Some wood to start a little fire, \
I'm the individual. \
At the time I was asking myself, \
Went to a canyon filled with air; \
A voice answered me back: \
I'm the individual. \
So then I started moving to another rock, \
I also scratched figures there, \
Scratched out a river, buffaloes, \
Scratched a serpent \
I'm the individual. \
But I got bored with what I was doing, \
Fire annoyed me, \
I wanted to see more, \
I'm the individual. \
Went down to a valley watered by a river, \
There I found what I was looking for, \
A bunch of savages, \
A tribe, \
I'm the individual. \
I saw they made certain things, \
Scratching figures on the rocks, \
Making fire, also making fire! \
I'm the individual. \
They asked me where I came from. \
I answered yes, that I had no definite plans, \
I answered no, that from here on out. \
O.K. \
I then took a stone I found in the river \
And began working on it, \
Polishing it up, \
I made it a part of my life. \
But it's a long story. \
I chopped some trees to sail on \
Looking for fish, \
Looking for lots of things, \
(I'm the individual.) \
Till I began getting bored again. \
Storms get boring, \
Thunder, lightning, \
I'm the individual. \
O.K. \
I began thinking a little bit, \
Supid questions came into my head, \
Doubletalk. \
So then I began wandering through forests, \
I came to a tree, then another tree, \
I came to a spring, \
A hole with a couple of rats in it; \
So here I come, I said, \
Anybody seen a tribe around here, \
Savage people who make fire? \
That's how I moved on westward, \
Accompanied by others, \
Or rather alone, \
Believing is seeing, they told me, \
I'm the individual. \
I saw shapes in the darkness, \
Clouds maybe, \
Maybe I saw clouds, or sheet lightning, \
Meanwhile several days had gone by, \
I felt as if I were dying; \
Invented some machines, \
Constructed clocks, \
Weapons, vehicles, \
I'm the individual. \
Hardly had time to bury my dead, \
Hardly had time to sow, \
I'm the individual. \
Years later I conceived a few things, \
A few forms, \
Crossed frontiers, \
And got stuck in a kind of niche, \
In a bark that sailed forty days, \
Forty nights, \
I'm the individual. \
Then came the droughts, \
Then came the wars, \
Colored guys entered the valley, \
But I had to keep going, \
Had to produce. \
Produced science, immutable truths, \
Produced Tanagras, \
Hatched up thousand-page books. \
My face got swollen, \
Invented a phonograph, \
The sewing machine, \
The first automobiles began to appear, \
I'm the individual. \
Someone set up planets, \
Trees got set up! \
But I set up hardware, \
Furniture, stationery, \
I'm the individual. \
Cities also got built, \
Highways, \
Religious institutions went out of fashion, \
They looked for joy, they looked for happiness, \
I'm the individual. \
Afterward I devoted myself to travel, \
Practicing, practicing languages \
Languages, \
I'm the individual. \
I looked into a keyhole, \
Sure, I looked, what am I saying, looked, \
To get rid of all doubt looked, \
Behind the curtains, \
I'm the individual. \
O.K. \
Perhaps I better go back to that valley, \
To that rock that was home, \
And start scratching all over again, \
Scratching out everything backward, \
The world in reverse. \
But life doesn't make sense. \

by Nicanor Parra translated by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg Antipoems: New and Selected (edited by David Unger), New York, New Directions, 1985