Blackbox manifold

Issue 14: Juan Diego Otero




I am interested by the sound of people approaching

from a significant distance,

something feral about them right

before deploying the fields of mutual

acknowledgment, a flutter

in the quality of unused space, an

awkwardness that lingers on the furniture

of a room when suddenly you are not alone with it anymore

and every object has to pretend to be there for whoever

lays an eye or a hand on them, somehow underplaying

our previous agreement.

I am interested in honesty. Not

out of candor or moral concern,

lately, I've been interested. Really,

no implications, as trivial and crude

as my interest for the word fascination. Fascio meaning

to bewitch, or to glare with envy, and hence, the penis, because

an image of it was hung around the necks of children

to guard them from witchcraft. Honest to god.

I am interested but haven't crossed

my first honest line. I guess it's not

the medium, yet remains as

valid an excuse as any other

to seem interested,

in awe before the building blocks.

I am interested in honesty and

I'm still second-guessing that

preposition, to lie on it seems

equally comforting, a warm surface beneath my belly.

Can't say I'm sure of how it goes

in spanish either. I am interested by and by.

The first sight of my father's armpits. Honestly.

Closest we've gotten to poetic rapture is that instant

of silence after you've told a joke

and you can't really tell whether it's gonna land.

A feeling, strung               with too many knots:

not to nod, despite consent,

nor for the sake of disagreement

which has fallen out of fashion along with

the faith in umbrellas and the healing

properties of quartz

and words. And poets, we love them but

now and then we need assurance

that this love of language is anything

other than love for the

sound of their own voice. And now

and then we seem to need that distinction

although we know it's just a matter of scale:

their voices, like any voice, a bubble-burst

below the surface, heard or unheard, they all

come up, as one, under the sky. I started

drinking unwittingly             now

I know I was celebrating

the departure of all fish and excuses

for drinking and the rest. Was startled

by the realization, choked a bit

on it, then swallowed that

crutch back down

sideways. Still in shock.

I can't remember the last time

I was truly surprised.

To go about in social life without

hyperbole has proven impracticable,

and I'm sorry to death.


Floating underwater, I am terrified

by the noise of propeller-blades.

The scene has been going on for the best part of this decade

and there is no sign of it reaching a climax anytime soon. Steady

as she goes, grazing every continent with both her flanks,

leaving no face unturned.

I need to stop apologizing before asking for help. My father

finds it easier to empathize with dogs than

people, like Schopenhauer, but in a less doctrinal way and, this

I can only guess, addressing them with way cornier baby-talk.

The early european vivisectionists felt compelled

to sever the vocal cords of the dogs whose living

anatomy they explored. I am fascinated by honesty.

Wavelengths only convey color

by comparison. I am best entertained


by that ever-present montage

where the hero is trapped

in a loop of learning/training/enduring until

the all-consuming soundtrack finally stops

and our protagonist is ready to reap

the fruits of that editing ordeal.

I am interested in compassion.

The sight of non-people working hard.

Their sweat is not my poison, my poison

is my poison. But this is a public domain,

lost objects belong

to none, and all

are allowed to mourn their loss

and rejoice      at the chance of being

shredded by propeller-blades,

before the first bubble nucleation,

under the surface, no witnesses.




We would have passed unnoticed

if it weren't for that damn star.


I'm afraid I have offended somefield,

a structure, for I've been speaking lightly

of giants, wherever they fit and over

tables where they definitely don't


I've been speaking of my own death light

like a blown-up blowfish and as the tongue

inside tears flesh from bone                  the air flows out

returning sharpness to the features of its face,

the fish face of death, looks tasty, wakes hunger:

a contradiction that fulfills

the first condition of this spell.

Given the coordinates above

define the order of coexisting voices,

a minimum distance for them not

to hear one another.

The goal is to write space. I was told


that my great-grandfather, when interrupted

in his reading by a playing child, would

grumble “oh Herod”, and continue.


A thread of electricity sticking

out from the tip of my sacrum bone

just enough to pinch and pull

my complete spinal cord out

and let it float, all nerves spread wide

in an extent beyond my own, it ain’t

such a wingless thing, after all      my

central nervous s my c n system.    Each

gyrus of the brain unraveled as

freely rotating eyeballs follow    the

medusa dance of axons fanning by,    not

a configuration that I can't reverse

but      it's gonna take a while

till I can turn around and tell

you what I pulled from my ass.




When was the last time you smelled a priest?

As soon as we unwrapped the head it started talking,

For instance, this room in which we presently

find ourselves. This room's corners taken out of context,

each corner a negative cornerstone for a room of their own,

hidden, sheltered from this noise, and yet plagued

with entities that truly

understand what it is

we here are presently doing. Orange entities

so strange they actually get it, every bit of

information and awe. Triggering the

subtle peristaltic movements which

will presently push us

out of this room gasping

for more tangible constraints.


of the muscles from all

the prisoners of the world.



breaks kaleidoscopic.   Or of a man that feeds

the same beast for decades always

on the side of the mountain last touched by the sun

feeds it from his bare hand, fingers arched out

as you would a horse for, thought toothless, its gums

could taint your skin forever. The beast, he figures, came about

as an amalgamation of obsolete ATMs left cashless but

with enough reserves of worship to cluster into this

dubiously gentle behemoth. Admittedly, summoning

animals is cheating but everything is

clearer with a fish analogy, like black holes

and reality and teach a man to fish.

The moral is to take advice only

from the death-row facility's cook.

Juan Diego Otero (Bucaramanga, 1987) writes, translates, and studies in Berlin. He has published articles about the works of Fabio Morabito and Juan Rulfo, as well as his own poems in Spanish and English. A collection of the latter appears in VierSome 003, by Veer Books.