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THE CULTURAL ATTACHE After the massacre of ’68, I went to the Sorbonne; the French taught me discipline. I studied with Barthes and Lacan. For my dissertation I’ve been collecting field notes on Panamanian folk dances and costume, region by regionthe semiology of clothing and ritual movement, you know. The shapes of our movements, the figuration of our foodhot dogs, tacos, milk, mondongo, cuisinart cuisineconstitute the masks we are. As a poet I think Paz will not be fairly judged until the next century, but they laugh at his essays in Paris. His theory of the image will stand. You know, just a month ago, just where you’re sitting, Ernesto Cardenal asked me almost the same question: “Comarada, but what is this ‘perpetual present,’ this sublime eroticism you’re preaching? Only another bourgeois mystification; love is so much more than that, Comarada. It’s love of justice and fraternity and anxiety for fellowman! Haven’t you read Whitman? The love of comrades!” I told him, “Of course, if it brings the Pope half-way around the world to wag his finger at me on live TV.” He laughed. iMaria! iVen aca! Didn’t I tell you the lichee has to be served cold? Put these in the freezer immediately. You’re an exception, of course; most Norteamericanos couldn’t learn another language to save their assesor their business. Have you seen the Colombian girls who dance at Costa Brava? Poor, gross bitches, most of them but there’s one, slim as smoke, who comes up to your table, arms aloft, and shakes her bush right in your face faster than a jackhammer, all the while fixing you with a smirk of sheer shameless power. It takes me a week to recover. Your compatriots seem to favor the place. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13