Dirty, Poorly Dressed

Roberto Bolaño’s Chair. Photo by Patti Smith, 2010



“En el camino de los perros mi alma encontró
a mi corazón. Destrozado, pero vivo,
sucio, mal vestido y lleno de amor.
En el camino de los perros, allí donde no quiere ir nadie.
Un camino que sólo recorren los poetas
cuando ya no les queda nada por hacer.
¡Pero yo tenía tantas cosas que hacer todavía!
Y sin embargo allí estaba: haciéndome matar
por las hormigas rojas y también
por las hormigas negras, recorriendo las aldeas
vacías: el espanto que se elevaba
hasta tocar las estrellas.
Un chileno educado en México lo puede soportar todo,
pensaba, pero no era verdad.
Por las noches mi corazón lloraba. El río del ser, decían
unos labios afiebrados que luego descubrí eran los míos,
el río del ser, el río del ser, el éxtasis
que se pliega en la ribera de estas aldeas abandonadas.
Sumulistas y teólogos, adivinadores
y salteadores de caminos emergieron
como realidades acuáticas en medio de una realidad metálica.
Sólo la fiebre y la poesía provocan visiones.
Sólo el amor y la memoria.
No estos caminos ni estas llanuras.
No estos laberintos.
Hasta que por fin mi alma encontró a mi corazón.
Estaba enfermo, es cierto, pero estaba vivo”.

Roberto Bolaño




“On the dogs’ path, my soul came upon
my heart. Shattered, but alive,
dirty, poorly dressed, and filled with love.
On the dogs’ path, there where no one wants to go.
A path that only poets travel
when they have nothing left to do.
But I still had so many things to do!
And nevertheless, there I was: sentencing myself to death
by red ants and also
by black ants, traveling through the empty villages:
fear that grew
until it touched the stars.
A Chilean educated in Mexico can withstand everything,
I thought, but it wasn’t true.
At night, my heart cried. The river of being, chanted
some feverish lips I later discovered to be my own,
the river of being, the river of being, the ecstasy
that folds itself into the bank of these abandoned villages.
Mathematicians and theologians, diviners
and bandits emerged
like aquatic realities in the midst of a metallic reality.
Only fever and poetry provoke visions.
Only love and memory.
Not these paths or these plains.
Not these labyrinths.
Until at last my soul came upon my heart.
It was sick, it’s true, but it was alive.”

English translation by Laura Healy

Kneeling on the Holy Ground

Patti Smith Kneeling. Photo by Lloyd Ziff


“…I am the spring, the holy ground,
the endless seed of mystery,
the thorn, the veil, the face of grace,
the brazen image, the thief of sleep,
the ambassador of dreams, the prince of peace.
I am the sword, the wound, the stain.
Scorned transfigured child of Cain.
I rend, I end, I return.
Again I am the salt, the bitter laugh.
I am the gas in a womb of light, the evening star,
the ball of sight that leads that sheds the tears of Christ
dying and drying as I rise tonight…”

Patti Smith

Easter (Fragment)

Dylan’s Dog

Patti Smith is a great fan of Bob’s songwriting, and vice versa.


“have you seen
dylan’s dog
it got wings
it can fly
if you speak
of it to him
its the only
time dylan
can’t look you in the eye

have you held
dylan’s snake
it rattles like a toy
it sleeps in the grass
it coils in his hand
it hums and it strikes out
when dylan cries out
when dylan cries out

have you pressed
to your face
dylan’s bird
dylan’s bird
it lies on dylan’s hip
it lies on dylan’s hip
trembles inside of him
it drops upon the ground
it rolls with dylan round
it’s the only one
who comes
when dylan comes

have you seen
dylan’s dog
it got wings
it can fly
when it lands
like a clown
he’s the only
thing allowed
to look dylan in the eye”

Patti Smith
From Early Work 1970-1978
W.W. Norton, New York 1995


Patti’s poem Dylan’s Dog is about a dream Patti had of Dylan and his dog. Patti listened to Dylan’s World Gone Wrong over and over while writing songs after her husband Fred’s death. She covers Dylan’s Wicked Messenger on Gone Again, and several critics have pointed to Dylan’s influence on other songs on the album.