Looking up. Photo: John Salvino, Unsplash.

He was getting used to being alone by now. It was his birthday, and not a single person had gone to see him, or even given him a call. Not that he needed any of that, although now and again he would remember her, and something akin to nostalgia would come over him. So today the best thing for him to do was to leave his captivity and go to that charming bird store where he would spend hours staring at a Heart-of-fire Txetle. He left wearing what he had on and entered the store in search of the small feathered creature. The little bird also stared back at him, for many long minutes. No one seemed to notice. Not even the store clerk took note of the unusual scene: a man and a bird, staring intently at each other. Sometimes he’d even speak to the little bird.

“You must be tired of that cage by now. Though you don’t seem bothered, you’ve gotten used to captivity—maybe that’s not so good for a thing like you.”

“Maybe you’re right.”

It was the first time the bird had answered him. He wasn’t surprised by it. He’d read in some treatise on birds that the Heart-of-fire Txetles had that ability. But he also knew what this meant, and it didn’t frighten him at all, he’d had a feeling about what had been happening to him for years. He resigned himself to it immediately.

“Are you afraid?” the Heart-of-fire Txetle asked.


“I’m sorry, truly. But I think it’s about time you knew. What are you thinking about doing now?” inquired the bird.


“How about you open the cage,” the bird proposed.

“Is that what you want?”


“Open it,” said a woman with pale eyes who appeared out of nowhere.

“Yes, do it,” said a boy with yellowish skin who was holding the woman’s hand.

“Alright,” he said.

Without warning the cage was birdless. All that remained were some feathers, red as blood, floating in the air. The bird store clerk brought his hands to his head in shock—his most expensive bird had escaped, just like that. The mythical bird sold to him by that strange man who had assured him the bird possessed supernatural powers—and that it could even talk to the dead—was now gone forever.

He sighed, resigned, and thought it strange that he hadn’t had a customer yet that morning.

Translated by Michelle Mirabella

Read an interview with John Better Armella in this issue of LALT.


Elicura Chihuailaf
Number 16

In our sixteenth issue, we celebrate Mapuche poet Elicura Chihuailaf, who in 2020 became the first indigenous writer to receive Chile's National Prize for Literature. We also feature dossiers dedicated to the work of Andrés Neuman, Latin American literary criticism, and the Latin American essay, plus a bilingual selection of texts from Dispatches from the Republic of Letters: 50 Years of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature commemorating Gabriel García Márquez, the first Latin American author to win the prestigious Neustadt Prize.

Table of Contents

Editor's Note

Featured Author: Elicura Chihuailaf

Dossier: Andrés Neuman

Dispatches from the Republic of Letters

Latin American Literary Criticism





Brazilian Literature


Translation Previews and New Releases

On Translation: Seeking Publisher

Nota Bene