This isn't much of a poem, but stay with me for a minute, if you don't mind:
Mr. Wiltshire (El señor Wiltshire)
It's all over, says the voice in the dream, and now you're the reflection
of that guy Wiltshire, copra merchant in the South Seas,
the white man who married Uma, had lots of kids,
the one who killed Case and never went back to England,
you're like the cripple turned into a hero by love:
you'll never return to your homeland (but which is your homeland?)
you'll never be a wise man, come on, not even a man
who's reasonably intelligent, but love and your blood
made you take a step, uncertain but necessary, in the middle
of the night, and the love that guided that step is what saves you.
This poem inhabits page 81 of The Romantic Dogs (2008), a Roberto Bolaño poetry selection translated by Chris Knight. I have the terrible feeling that the poems in the book were chosen because they contained, or might contain, clues to Bolaño's big books. See, for example, the many the poems employing the word "detective" - "I dreamt of frozen detectives, Latin American detectives," etc. I was naïvely hoping they would be good poems. A back cover blurb, written by someone who has apparently read no poetry written after 1950, tells me "His poetic voice is like no other."
Regardless. Did everybody identify the literary work at the base of this poem? Would I have been able to identify it, or have the slightest idea what was going on, six weeks ago? No! Lines two through five are an accurate if plain summary of "The Beach of Falesá" (1893), my favorite Robert Louis Stevenson story. Favorite as of six weeks ago, when I read through all of Stevenson's stories.
Is there a single hint in that poem, for the reader who has not read the story, or (I'm thinking ahead), for the reader who has read it, and even wrote a blog post about it, but whose memory is not so good? I'm imagining that I'd read the poem a year from now, and how agonizing the "this seems so familiar" sense would be.
I have no point here, except that I got a kick out of recognizing the source of this poem, even if it was merely by chance. I do wonder, though, how many other poems in this little book are built on works that I have never read or never heard of, or if it matters, or why it would.