Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1964, Todd Temkin moved to Valparaíso in 1994 where he served as Associate Professor of North American Literature at the Catholic University of Valparaíso. He later founded the Valparaíso Foundation, a non-profit organization that has played an instrumental role in the transformation of the historic seaport of Valparaíso into a UNESCO world heritage site. For his work as a cultural activist, Temkin has received many awards including the City of Valparaíso Prize (2008) and the Juana Ross Prize (2009), the latter of which is considered highest honor the city of Valparaíso can bestow upon an individual or institution. Since 2007 he has been the Sunday columnist for El Mercurio de Valparaíso, the oldest Spanish language newspaper in continuous publication in the world., Todd Temkin is the author of two books, "Crazy Denizens of the Lost World" (Editorial Universidad de Valparaíso 2005) and "Moriré en Valparaíso" (Mercurio Aguilar 2010). His poems have appeared in a wide variety of North American and Latin American magazines.
Crazy Denizens of the Lost World
by Todd Temkin
It seems every Chilean has seen at least two UFOs.
Lucy and Mario, for instance, glimpsed sixteen oblong discs
hovering over the coastal cordillera at dusk.
They went home and made love, while
street kids played soccer in the lamp-lit night.
I stare from my window at the illuminated masts
of the fishing fleet shimmering back and forth
in the evening tide. I wonder what superior beings
must think of us, the last utopians, reciting Garcia Lorca
over beans and rice, crazy denizens of the lost world.
My wife is a sky searcher, and she's been lucky twice.
The first time in a taxi after midnight mass
the night they put Grandma Elisa into the ground.
The blue and orange flash flickered like a dervish
dancing to flutes only dogs could hear.
Everyone saw it but my father-in-law, Jorge.
He spent his life selling Patagonian lamb to the
predecessors of supermarkets. Now he seduces himself
to sleep counting blissfully butchered sheep
in a world that couldn't care less about economies of scale.
Meanwhile, the economy of my life is spinning out of control.
According to my calculations, every cell in my body
is regenerating so fast that by the time I finish this
I will no longer have the same esophagus, bladder,
toes, or lungs. I see myself plummeting
from life to life in an inter-dimensional void,
testifying to the divinity of human pestilence and rot,
stacking the toenails I pluck into little piles
that drive Pilar crazy. I explain I am leaving a trail
for advanced civilizations to find.
I see it happening one night after making love,
curled up by candle-light, musk oil burning in the lamp,
musing to the vicissitudes of the slope of her hip.
The world inverted, our tenderness
exposed, our wills evasive.
That is how I want to be found: naked, my cells
regenerated, my semen off and running in search
of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.
At the threshold of a new life I will sleep like a baby,
my soul dancing that limp gig with a smile on its lips.
About Todd Temkin