At the precise moment in which the irreducible tongue of the sun recoiled and became an irregular line trodden by the tremulant eucalyptus leaves, Jorge Guerra first felt the dense phenomenon of solitude so characteristic of birth. His father, António Medes Guerra, was a reputed dipsomaniac of jagged features, of which his black beard was most characteristic, as it felt strangely luminous and always sodden. His drunken paroxysms were so persistent, he saw his position as a bricklayer in the construction of the train-station of Vale do Peso quickly foreshortened.
In fact, just that very night, António is said to have borrowed a Browning shotgun from a cousin, crouched behind some brambles near a hillock by the village entry, awaited until that very tongue of sunlight was besprent upon the hills, and charged at his foreman, José Lobo Branco, in an attempt to intimidate him into the restoration of his job. António, however, did not learn to operate the firearm, and José struck him with a skiving shovel, for which he had to be hospitalised, in a room curiously near to that where his son was just born, although, almost seemingly by some divine order, they did not meet each-other that night.
His mother, Christina Guerra, was of Galician origin, and although she moved to Castelo de Vide at an early age, she knew enough of the mossy pathways of Santiago to feel morriña, the most Galician sentiment of all, which only intensified whenever António would come home, choleric and crapulous, a vile monument of her profound weakness, a vile monument of her profound strength. Jorge, too, would often be beaten by the casuistry of his mere existence, since the anger of António was a dark puddle without perceptible depth; a trap designed to never be evaded. Luckily for Christina and Jorge, however, António died of tuberculosis just shy of two weeks after Jorge celebrated — under the lashing belt — his fifth birthday. His death lunged them both into a state of indigence not too unlike that which they had lived thus far, but, to them, it still felt like an unimaginable relief.
Jorge’s luck, and, concomitantly, his salvation, was Christina’s second marriage: Ernesto da Gama, a literate tradesman from Penacova who, besides abounding in benevolence, had an unabated love for his adopted son and insisted unstintingly on his education. Ernesto was also instrumental in introducing Jorge to a litany of ultra-romantic poets, the likes of Soares de Passos, João de Deus and Garret; and nothing enraptured his thoughts quite as feverishly as poetry. Jorge, by 1916, was successfully formed in the basic faculties and was allowed the opportunity of further formation in the University of Coimbra, in the fields of Law, which, at the time, was the only course with veritable applications outside of Academia; but the pylons of his passions, what moved him beyond his blue, bruised core, was the sprawling and lucid poetry that spawned at his lips and blossomed at the very borders of his cognition; what provided his spiritual existence was his sharp, bucolic soul, sprouted from cycles of tears and condensation, and culled by that jittering blade of sunlight which withdrew when he come-to-be.
In the dawn of 18 of August of 1919, Ernesto was caught in a blaze of massive proportions near Sintra, while returning from an excursion to Lisbon. Though his calcined remains were never returned to Penacova, Jorge insisted on the search; to such purpose, he voyaged to Lisbon the next week, with the intention of only a small interregnum in his studies. Still quite hoverish, as if held by a tight thread, which is common of those whose pain failed to materialise fully and is still but a shade darting below the pond, he was entirely oblivious of the fact that he’d never return to Coimbra, nor would he spend much in search of Ernesto’s cadaver, since Christina, now entirely sclerotic and paralysed in a bout of deep depressions, found it beyond her will to even drink a cup of water on her own. It was then, during the large stretch of years in which he took to her bedside, that he produced «Condolência», the prime and lone book of his authorship.
«Condolência», produced over nearly two decades, seems to cover, in its essence, only two discernible cycles of Guerra’s poetic production: an early, plaintive and ruminating, gleaming with substance and sentimental contamination, named Geminea, and a later, lighter cycle punctured with a levitous, ponderative and pastoral demeanor, named Botania. Their transition of one onto the other, after careful geometries and chronometries were established, seems to have been spun from the event of the departure of his mother to Galicia, a desire she could never quite shake after her recovery from prolonged cataplexy. Jorge accompanied his mother for a short while, in her village of Taboada, near the magnificent natural wonder of Castro Candaz; in this mythical castle, whose sub-aquatic habitation only allowed it a glimpse of breath whenever the rainfall diminished for long enough, Jorge saw himself reflected. He felt as if life never gave him enough dry periods in order for his deserved flourishing. During these months in Galicia, he wrote some of his most impressed bucolic pieces.
In 1921, Christina passed away from a fulminant breast cancer that had annihilated her in the shorter tail of three months and about which little was known at the time, and Jorge, now wholesomely and inexorably alone, decided to return to Vale do Peso. By then, he weighed so little, it felt as if he was a waning vessel, a foundered boat. His phlegmatic disposition, now coupled with his physical macilency, far transgressed any sense of emotive numbness; he simply had no more of himself in this realm, he felt as if objects could not contain the poverty of his sight; furthermore, they were negated by it. He was a walking, consuming force, a space being reclaimed from within, long tired of its own unworthy, fruitless occupation. For a good count of three hours, he sat and looked at the steams fume and flit, one here, one there, in the train-station that brought about the fateful night of his making. For a while, he wondered how many different tones of self-enamouration he could count; how many of them were destructive; how many of them only came about when it truly rained as never before, an authentic deluge of being, of nothingness. For a while, he pondered on the inevitable, before realising that such, when it matters, is nearly always the case, nearly always inevitable.
Jorge’s book was never published.
Disclaimer: Jorge is, of course, entirely fictive, as is apparent. Why I felt compelled to generate an entire mini-fiction regarding a mysteriously unfortunate Portuguese poet from the beginning of the 20th century is as beyond me as it is beyond you. I’m not in a deep state of sanity, these days. Regardless of any particular intention, I found the small path of Jorge quite interesting, and I regard him as an example of what might have happened to many, invariably, since the story is itself composed of some reality. The locations are real; so are the poets accited, the dates and events (including the fire in Sintra), and many elements were inspired by stories I’m privy to. I was also heavily inspired to do this from recently having read Sebald’s “The Emigrants”, though I differ greatly from his (invariably superior) approach.
I hope you liked the read, though since I tend not to post fiction, you might have not,
and I’m sorry if you haven’t!,
a glorious weekend to you all,