(Droplet) – al berto

the days without anyone
impish notes scrawled quickly
crumpled in our fingers

the honeysuckle was beautiful
rising through the night of forsaken residence

exact stones scented dusts
fireflies napping in the flexibility of clay
sands covered of insects bones and teeth
and the river hauling weary nights

luminous inflorescence acid moons crumbling
fissures of earth coastline cities birds
fragile paths in open flight
during the tremendous lucidity of dreaming

I’m left with halls of glass
where I drown the calcined remains of body
I open the door leading to my visage
descend the mossy steps of the yard
cross the masonry garden where I lived
the entire time before I hurried
“Days Without Anyone” – Al Berto

Landlocked mid poetic subject and poet, mid experience and body, mid reality and the act of writing, lies an indubitable reflective surface lightly swiveling as the halo of a flame.
Mário Lugarinho illustrated Al Bertobetween the poetic and the experimented, installed as a bridge — the mirror itself, recurrent metaphor in his oeuvre. Between poetry and experience, the subject, incontestable mediator between the real and the written and establishing between them the flagrant coincidence.” In a sensory blossoming of ontological experience, Al Berto carries the brutalism of existence as one does scars in one’s own body, exhibiting those elements of suffering with timid thrusts while words cannibalise their own element of sincerity. The body, in his poems, rises as a monolith of subjectivity laved in the hemorrhage of experience; it is cumbrous with sensuality, hatred, speech, infancy, shards of things-in-themselves in a scenery of mournful abandonment:

I sleep
within a disheveled body
fear encroaches the somber hall
I find a water scintillating in plaster
a scar of mossy crystals opens
porous to my touch, indicating
there shall be no forgetting or breeze
to clean the immemorial time of this home

of this simulated sleep, it left but bitter iodine
the waxed woods covered in dust
dried herbs in rain sheafs of rosemary,
jonquils, snapdragons, campions, clover
yet no escape has been restarted
my infancy remains sad where I abandoned it
nearly does not live
yet I still hear it breathing within me.

now all is different
I restart life from the emptiness
of dark days in silence
in-between skin and a beam of magnificent veins
I feel the bird of age dragging its wings

where it develops a calm lunar flight

I enumerate objects thoroughly, classifying them
by sizes and textures, by functions
I want to leave everything tidy when madness comes
from the sharpened extremity of my winged body
and my face is intruded by a shard of wing

so shall life collapse unto a sheet of paper
where verse by verse
I illuminate and wear myself out.


“Vigílias” – Al Berto

The stark provocation of image — which binds itself both cruel and ethereal in a procession of memory — is not merely symbol, but a counterpoint to denotation; the wound is palpable, as each verse widens its longitude with unstinting force where the absence of breath is not merely a quality of form but a proxy to restlessness. A frondsome garden is thus woven and hydrated in white obscurity: reality is held in a crystalline distance, writing cannot approximate it, regardless of eloquence, of thought, of philosophies, we lie in open sight and sketch an estimated geography, and, from time-to-time, an embodiment of placid light befalls our lips and we are disfigured by castrated toponymies; our place in the universal lie unfurls. Al Berto carries out his death in poem successively, both the wanting of his death and the pestilent, modern malaise of the death of wanting, inherited from a legacy of weighted dichotomies and promises–too long has the poet promised, too epic was the oneiric journey of poetics, too arduous the return. Thus, his poetry is a summon for a corpse, the buoyant corpse of his infantile yearn, the mossy corpse of his lyrical dreams, the winged corpse of his light, yet merely a corpse: the gallows of his life plaintively whistle within, and in reality lies a frigid inheritance of death. Our body, lush with herbs and snapdragons and rosemary positioned as a reflective vessel of both, a world of unbearable cruelty made of particles and waves of synthesized beauty.
There is, yet, an ethereal release from anguish in his mirror of corpses that, even if still anguished, serves to lighten the breath:

I write to you feeling all of this
and in an instance of lucidity I could be the river
the goats shrouding the tinkle of sleigh-bells in the silver crystals of a photograph
I could rise as the chestnut-tree of those tales whispered by a fire
and wander, trembling with the birds
or accompany the sulfuric butterfly revealed by humid lips
I could mimic that shepherd
or mistake myself for the dream of a city which little by little bites its own immobility

I inhabit this world of water by error
I’m required radio-graphic images of bones
unfocused faces
hands on bodies printed in paper and mirrors
notice
I have nothing else
if not this note stained with fine arils of pomegranate I sent today
notice
how a heart of paper is yellowed by the forgetfulness of loving you.


“Trabalhos do Olhar” – Al Berto

Passion, even in passing, is an effusing stroke, and a world perhaps collapsed is reshaped (albeit perfunctorily) only to support that florescence, as loving is the most human of all Arts,
notice
we have nothing else.

(Droplet) – poetry in memory

The voices of the world becoming quieter and fewer.

Kafka, October 21 of 1917 – “In Sunshine”, The Third Octavo Notebook.

Every action of scrawling begins with fossicking old dusts in search of eventful shapes, harnessing memory as a mass of particles brought alight; cold fountains dance, pellucid, in a constellation of footfalls, and a blond-featured priest halts the litany, displaying the grimace of revolt, placing a tome of interrogations over the a vine-perfused lectern, passing his tongue over the thumb, and falling silent; indolence befalls substance. Every memory is a phantom of sensation, a tender ogive of contingency launched to annihilate the fabrication of a transmissible instinct, remembering drops of oil distilled from silence and density, a black orb siphoning air, zest, faces, skins — the page is famished, and tinted of ghost.
In the hunting grounds of Memnosyne, man is prey and prayer. Our meat is glazed in agonic shouts, our skin, scented of sanctity, towards which the hunters coil in disgust; vipers, red vipers, snip at our ankles. My head is a catalogue of agonies and heavens, of pains and heavenly hours, painful hours in heaven, heavens within painful hours, and the surreal commune of figures therein: cicadas and silence, mango foam and silence, heaviness, milk, laughter. Self — resuming the balance of plates — lies unrevealed, and a poem threads the stumbling cord held just above the floor in search of light and contour; fruitless.
Memories are burnished pebbles in a rusted sieve, as ineluctable as they are indelible, and contain no glimmer further than that of any sedimentary measure of pain or minimal relief; ages, alone, transfigure them into pearls in shape of traumas, individuations and statuettes of peace, which we paint with garish colours as to dilute their stillness. A poem is an instrument that translates the silence of all, into sound; fruitful. The poem now remembers, as prey and prayer.
We can rest.


Listen, my child, the silence.
It is a rippled silence,
the silence
whence vales and echoes slither,
and that turns faces
to the ground.

Federico García Lorca, “El Silencio”

(Droplet) – mozambique – (English | Português)

A toy © Gökhan Kayal in Clam Collectors of Maputo

Luís Carlos Patraquim lives, but I read him as if he never lived. When I cogitate of his life, I sight odd coppery faces and calcined terrains, the hollowing of plasters in the decrepit walls and fences of Lourenço Marques, a sublimation spawning the vividness of Mozambique in memory, a Mozambique that can only wound memory akin to the rattling of trains; we primp the man, he has no pulse, but acacias bloom and fade within; we primp the man which primps itself by his own labour, and a parsonage remains, history, a seamless image.
The image-of-man is defenseless, exists only in exposition, in row with other images inasmuch as one cannot probe the colour of irises, begginings of laughter or threads, one cannot see sortileges that aren’t extenuatingly pestiferous, nor loves without the clatter of taking steps with a shattered heart; nothing lives in these men, nor is there will to give them such textures, as we are not soothed by seeing such images as articulated flesh, we do not care for the mensuration of their days, or the instances of vitreous fear for time: a first kiss, a first flight, the ontology of a motherly caress, or the satin fever of nights. There is so much to being, so much that refuses to be transfigured in narrative movements, so much matter centred in itself, held in a tattered cloth which is twisted, and twisted, twisted tirelessly for some droplets of varnish. In my manufacture of symbols, I see swollen ossuaries, bronze wheat-ears and cans of castor-oil, and there, I see Patraquim, scanning the acacia’s thirsty leaves.
I see him distantly, cindery, as an ornament of my youth when I would grip any poem whose language allowed for my understanding, before I balanced myself with the rabble of cities, before I was an image-of-man; that, perhaps, goes mostly unspoken. Some speak of machinery, filters and filtering, of means and censorship, vilifying aesthetics and the gelid action of refining a countenance, some speak of calculating innocuous improbabilities while calculating the probability of being understood. Lesser, it seems, speak of the editing of people, of the being made, created and formed by fictions, and I can say without contesting that I know more of those that never lived than I do those that live; I know myself more in the I which never lived, the I in constant persiflage towards improbabilities, the I in a barrage of dreams and quests and pretensions tinted of the same coppery faces, engineered by books and almond-trees, seeing in them a more veritable texture than in the spent colours my eyes still receive.
Patraquim, the image-of-man, gushes in me those droplets of varnish — as if my image-of-man took form of an ewer — and so gushes Stevens, bleeds Hatherly and Sebald, gushes the lad from the subway that crossed my eyes and timidly retracted his own, and I gush, outside, within, impish droplets that inflame me, small blades from a barbershop, small threads of faces petrifying slowly beneath the stepping noises.
Is there an autochthonous child, a storm’s prelude, a fleeting seagull that can cast a linen string over men and images-of-men, a life-saver that rescues them as they were, before they were images of lives? If there is, I fear that remembering that nude version of being may be more maddening than swallowing mercury.

(…)
And your silence, your silence, where
they bloom, bloodied, the acacias of Lidemburg Street
and Lagos shivers in blue and spawns
a styled solitude and a bull which recoils
in the labyrinth of an inflamed aorta,


your mouth, your mouth and your silence
and no longer the inquiry, none,
and your wonderment and that of stars, lightly
the torpid mist submerging your profile,


in the afternoon where I thread,
and the stone registered in a snowing sun.

Luís Carlos Patraquim in “O Círculo

Moçambique

Lúis Carlos Patraquim vive, mas leio-o como se jamais tivesse vivido. Quando cogito que lá terá vivido, vejo semblantes de estanho e terra calcinada, o escorchar do reboco lá nos muros e nas grades de Lourenço Marques, uma sublimação que engendra as forças de Moçambique na memória, um Moçambique que apenas fere a memória como o estertor dos comboios; ataviamos o homem, não tem pulso, tem acácias florindo e morrendo, ataviamos o homem que a si próprio se atavia em seu labor, e resta-nos personagem, história, uma imagem inconsútil.
O homem-imagem é inerme, existe apenas numa exposição, a renque com tantos outros, e não se dedilham cores de olhos, príncipios de risos ou traços, não se vêm sortilégios sem os mesmos serem extenuantemente pestíferos, nem amores sem o ruído acutilante dum coração em cacos; não há nada de vivo nestes homens, nem há vontade de lhes dar essa textura, não nos afaga saber dessas imagens como carne articulada, não nos interessa a mensuração dos seus dias, das instâncias de medo envidraçadas p’lo tempo: o primeiro beijo, o primeiro voo, a ontologia do desvelo materno, a febre acetinada das noites. Há tanto em ser, e tanto que não se transfigura em momentos narrativos, tanta matéria ensimesmada num trapo velho, que é torcido e torcido, torcido infindávelmente por umas quantas gotas de lacre. Na minha manufactura de símbolos, vejo os ossuários entúmidos, espigas de bronze e nas latas de rícino, e existe Patraquim, a perscrutar a sede das acácias.
Vejo-o na distância, cendrado, como um ornamento da minha juventude em que perfilhava qualquer poesia cuja língua me permitia que a lesse, antes de me sopesar na turba das cidades, antes de ser homem-imagem; disso, talvez, poucos falam. Falam da maquinaria, dos filtros e filtragens, dos meios e da censura, aviltam a estética e a forma gélida de editar o rosto, falam-nos do cálculo das improbabilidades inócuas, calculando a probabilidade de os enterdermos. Menos falam da edição das gentes, do humano crescido, criado, formado pela ficção, e posso dizer sem barganha que sei mais dos que jamais viveram do que sei dos que estão vivos; e sei-me mais no eu que jamais vivera, eu no chorrilho dessas improbabilidades, eu na torrente de sonhos e demandas e pretensões pintadas de cobre, um eu engendrado por livros e amendoeiras, vendo-lhes uma textura de realidade mais sincera que as cores exauridas p’los meus olhos.
O homem-imagem de Patraquim jorra em mim as gotas de lacre — como se o homem-imagem que sou fosse em forma de caneco — e jorra Stevens, sangra Hatherly e Sebald, jorra o miúdo do metro que se acanha por me cruzar o olhar, jorro eu, lá fora, cá dentro, pequenas gotas que me inflamam, pequenas lâminas de barbeiro, pequenas linhas de rosto que se petrificam lentamente ao passo dos ruídos.
Haverá uma criança autóctone, um prelúdio de tempestade, uma gaivota fugitiva, que lança sobre as gentes e imagens de gentes um cordão de linho, um salva-vidas, que as salve como elas eram, antes de serem fotografias de vidas? Se haverá, temo que rememorar essa versão nua seja mais enlouquecedor que beber mercúrio…

(…)
E o teu silêncio, o teu silêncio, onde
florescem, sangrentas, as acácias da Rua de Lidemburgo
e Lagos estremece em azul e punge
uma solidão ática e um boi se recolhe
no labirinto da aorta que infla,


A boca, a tua boca e o teu silêncio
e não mais a pergunta, nenhuma,
e o teu pasmo e o das estrelas, ao de leve
a cacimba lenta submergindo-te o rosto,


pela tarde onde caminho,
e a pedra se inscreve no sol que neva.

Luís Carlos Patraquim em “O Círculo”

(Droplet) – lurid rags of silk

Saint-Saëns — my father still says — was garniture for fatuous men and their gold-laden alcoves, veiled by a cordon of ludic dins; Milosz was flour of similar grain, a bargainer of truisms, a mute chaff coated by wooden beads. I liked them, I liked their touch, their texture, I see it as the texture of heavy rubber boots threading a pavement composed by shards of glass. There is a pearlescent quality to all humble objects of life, a glimmer of sorts, and all sorts of glimmer, as that of dew wept from acanthus leaves, the unstinting mist out of every breath in every wintry dawn, in the fox’s scan over the woodland; all which transiently shines akin to gold, without a droplet of pretension for being so. That is the unbridled beauty that exsanguinates the heart, the ars poetica of our ending realm, which labours yearningly under a sun to sun merely to purport effortlessness. The levity of the natural mechanism is shouldered by an indelible effort.

Many suns ago (yet still, fewer so), I would commonly peer with hyaline gaze at a poplar whose branches had grown near my window. A warbler would come by, and I wanted to be an author, unknown to mensuration, unknown to corrals, shrouded from torpor and hypostasis, and I wanted my book in shape of that warbler, free from the lassitude of grounds, even free of words — no, no words, merely feathers, some cinereal, some of torrid yellow, few to blend the hues — and no bindings, only a pair of immovable black marbles, no strings nor vaticinations. Perhaps it would peck at the temples, and serve only as a petty victory to the one that manages to clumsily open the blinds and defenestrate it. And, as the warbler took to wind and with wind flew, I had little victory of my own. Returned to the tendance of humble glistens, I’m my own earthly man, my own end of the world, exulted by fibres of glass sticking to my knees, envious of my own fullness, enamoured by the perfunctory scope of my agonies; returned to the tendance of this world which ends while it faintly glistens. I’m the garniture of higher men, the gold-tint of their cordons of fools, the torrent of circumlocutory pleas, and nothing nearly as unworthy as to be written, nothing nearly as light as I’d have it be, like the warbler and his poplar tree.

On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
(…)
And those who expected lightning and thunder
are disappointed.
And those who expected signs and archangels’ trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits the rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.
(…)

Czeslaw Milosz, A Song On The End of The World, Warsaw, 1944

⌉|⌈ – Ethan’s Petal Dance

And now, the moment. Such a moment is unique. It is, of course, brief and temporal, as moments are, ephemeral, as moments are, elapsed, as moments are, in the next moment, and yet it is decisive, and yet it is filled with eternity. Such a moment must have a special name, let us call it: the plenitude of Time.


Søren Kierkegaard, in his Philosophical Crumbs (Translated by M.G. Piety in his Oxford World’s Classics edition, with its translation retouched by me, based on my Portuguese [Relógio D’Água, with translation by José Miranda Justo] copy of the same work)


Platforms such as these are not only mediums to project our works, but also, to withstand our passions; those which, static or volatile, orderly or lost, ripple across our sighting of our world as a rainstorm-at-sea. At sea, most likely, is how most of us experience reality, along with some sensible doubts and senseless certainties; but this perdition is — as it has been — a moment of eternal recuperation. One must operate, as one does, and further still, navigate reality, while holding grip of a road which isn’t there, of a route too-faded (much like your forest-dark, E.), and a race against phantom figures of truth and non-truth. The question, then, is the thread which is pulled to unravel eternity; for a question, in itself, may be eternal, and any semblance of answer — for its own rigour — cannot be so. Søren found his eternal answer in God, insofar as it sufficed in a philosophical landscape hand-made by Plato and drawn out into existentialism, but it may not be, for many of us; and many more, still, search for that knowledge. 

Platforms such as these present me the utmost pleasure of observance upon the journeys of many, as many observe my own; but hollow words have a metal taste. Many bright minds — some much superior to my own — go critically undiscovered along the swamps of what is continuously produced.


“I hold a conversation, bound in leather,

  and, though it speaks not to me,

  I pretend.” 

Ethan, untitled poem, found here. 

Once rooted, one comes to understand that: if the ground was any wider than the inches our feet inhabit; or the lines of the horizon, any wider than our plan of sight, one would succumb to the eternity of each moment; almost slouched into a state of paralytic indolence that echoes itself as it elapses. To resist such crushing motions, is to firmly reduce — like only a human-mind can — and slowly carve out the reduction, bit by bit, to a frequency dictated by our preparedness to sculpt, and knowledge that such small crumbs may be taken without collapsing our structures. 

Alas, I’m not a philosopher, but merely a child in this world, with a pen of permanent ink and a hair that parts at will (my sincerest plight). I take advantage of my confusion, and make poems that encapsulate that very same eternity of each moment — to varying degrees of success — but always wary, might the ritual itself ever become obitual, which it surely will, and I surely won’t stop. 


“Man must now bear his own meaning, for the world will no longer accept the projection. We have blasted apart its mythic strength with our knowledge, burned the bridges between other and self, so we carry that self without the gods.”

Ethan, in “Transcendence as a lived possibility rather than a metaphysical truth”, found here.

A person accepting enough of such demand aforementioned, and thus, presented with the abound humility such task carries in itself, is a person whose intellect can be reliable; for, even if faltered, even if insufficient, it shall never be ill-conceived. Humility and, by extent, understanding and interest of what lays unknown, are the primary instruments of our betterment, in whichever garments they might appear dressed in. 

A poet, a philosopher, a store clerk or a sailor — we navigate different seas within the same ocean; but they are all seas, nonetheless, and they are sumptuous in both beauty and terror, rumbling and resounding beneath our platforms, eroding the pylons in which we stand; and, bit by bit, we all sculpt what lays left, and survive for as long as we’re able. But, together, as those very senses of other and self are immolated, we survive longest, brightest, and with a warm heart. 

Ethan is, to my view, one of the brightest minds I’ve had the pleasure of encountering, one whose words rumble and resound nearly as loudly as those seas, but with the gentility of a placid pond. It is a sight — a truly unique sight — to encounter someone with such a refined intellect, and yet, so sincerely enthusiastic about humanity; It isn’t innocence, nor frailty, nor hope. It is, in my humblest view, the sign of a Man seeing the path, the route, and the race, as ornate windows to reformation, rather than infinite reflections. He holds much potential, among the most I’ve seen, and it would be a true loss if he was to be swept by turbulence. At times, all I’ve needed was someone to share my passions with, and you, my readers, have done me a service for which I shall live in perpetual gratitude. Would you be so kind as to check his oeuvre, as surely more is to come (fingers-crossed for poems), and perhaps it might be as solacing to you, as it is to me. 

You can find him at Rooted Contradiction, and by all means, please do. 

As my time-slots widen, not only am I spending more time preparing the Cantos, as I’m able to check many different blogs and works. And, with permission, I might make more of these posts, not only to begin repaying my debt of gratitude, but also for this passion we live in each moment, which is so dearly ours, and collects us all so tenderly together. 

Thank you much! 


JOHNNY

⌉|⌈ – Of Worth Onto Self. 

 


             My strides and vigour in poetic refinement, albeit little, have warranted me much trust from a few deambulatory souls (including many from WordPress, I adore you all dearly), whose abound kindness and levity allowed my work to be weightless, and live freely, in whichever form it holds, and whatever path it may pursue. This trust — or perhaps, credence — has led a fair few to the haunting question of worth; “Is my poem good?, Am I a good writer?”

           Assuming a grounded perspective upon the canticles of quality, and furthermore, interest, of course a work can be good, or satisfying, or accomplished; And any, with or without knowledge in the Art, may cast conclusions, and both the question and the following answer are inexorably legitimate. But who does that serve? 

      A scale of worth is, then, given to mires of juxtaposition; A work with higher verisimilitudes to those exalted by literary canons, is one of higher worth; At least, as one is quick to assume. Poetry, akin to any medium of Art, devours itself in non-absolution, and there are little reasons — in my view — that the Artist, too, should be devoured, or grimmer yet, should devour itself. But the recipe is clear, albeit not, and it shades externally as something clear, when internally, the same couldn’t be more false. “Be sincere.”; As I’ve said, many times; But that alone is insufficient to edge anyone into a more rightful direction. Bukowski was a tenderly sincere man, and to a different extent, so was Mallarmé, or Miss Ana from across the street, whose morning smile while stacking bananas is so worthfully poetic as Heródiade. There is nothing good about a poem, and there is nothing evil either; When it is sincere, it merely is and it requests little else; It isn’t as hungry as the immensity of Art, nor must it be crushingly artful. It musn’t be anything, and it can be nothing; Because we can feel anything, and we can feel nothing, and this isn’t good nor bad, it just is, just as it needs to be. Sincerity, to me, does not resist judgement, but flows with it. Much like a poem. 

         One is then tasked with reaching that medium of gentility in which sincerity, by itself, does not overbear the relay; It is a fine sheet of ice, and it will crack and dip, and at times, sink and resurface; But after that line, there is no return, and along those cracks, no repair. This medium is a sinuous, tranquil glade, where words fall into a doze. It is a home to some, and a graveyard to others, and sometimes, both. But it is not a permanent space, as it tolls heavily. You must be the ship that dares back into the turbulent seas of a self-serving reality, and ache. 

           This, too, is a heavy thought; Almost a level of mystical, peppered with surreal; But I, who write poems, venture into that place, as I believe Bukowski might have, or Mallarmé, and certainly Miss Ana, who is likely to visit very often. We all do; Versing, restocking, breathing, existing. One who requires fleeing, insofar as it imagines such escape, is already halfway escaping into just that thought; And that, maybe, might be why imagination is so warmingly sincere, even if surreal, absurd, and aesthetically mystical. 

         To those who’ve known my aesthesis, I’ve often stated that I do not find my poems good, I never have, not once. Why do I keep writing, despite that? Why do most of us? Well, to me, I just sincerely want to. Regardless of worth (of self or others), or even that cast by others; these are all structural to improvement and growth, but not to worth. Thus, being sincere simply means believing your work is, as it must be merely what it is, irregardless of whatever it should perceivably be. This might sound like a gamble on semantics, but in truth, that’s what it is: to deconstruct this noxious seed that something as volatile as Art, can ever hope to be ideally good. That such a rigid concept of worth can co-exist with human entropy, either of self, or others. One, therefore, does not hold worth, since it is what it must be, and shall change — by will or design — to whatever it must, simply because it must. 

         To be frank, my singular hope is that you who reads me, and simultaneously, also writes (like most of you do), fear not for the worth of your sincerity, as perhaps you have before, and are likely to do again. Remember my words, when such malaise sweeps your mind, and they may soothe you. I really hope they do. 


JOHNNY

⌉|⌈ – Arboretum


                Days are colder. Men stroll with long coats and laden heads, guarded from the rain, women grip their catatonic hearts, gazing into their reflections on the sultry train windows. I don’t remember the last time I cried. I’d swear I’ve seen sunlight in the past few weeks, but such memory escapes me. The Summer that just evaded is now another distant shard, and somehow, I remember my nineteenth Summer with more clarity, than I do that which just passed. 

                 Kids are still as radiant as heat itself, seasons aren’t seasons to them, but simply a permeable haze that hovers through; it doesn’t weigh on them, little weighs on them, little weighed on me when I was a child. I remember when I ceased being a child, the very day, down to the very second. I was thirteen, marked by a shortness that would take its time to grow, and a coal-black hair coated with gel and pumped up, like a porcupine, which would become my nickname throughout those years (Ouriço, in popular Portuguese). It was the fifteenth of May, I know the date as I know my palm, as it was the day to visit the Arboretum with my class of petulant boys. The morning extended, as my stomach rattled with excitement, almost an effusion that I’ve ever rarely felt since. Eargerness, perhaps, in contrast with present-day anxiety, with the only distinctive factor being that of willingness to do, rather than drainage by the thought. The rains of May were barely settling, but enough for the condensation to fill the in-betweens of the bus-glasses, creating this pendular effect, water bouncing and mixing with more drops, and drops fusing, dancing, consuming other drops and tracing more paths, akin to the roots of a tree. The clouds transitioned like foreign passengers, and for small minutes, they would eat the Sun, and then spit it back up, so it could warm entire lands, entire fronts and hands and wrists. 

           We had arrived. The rattling became ever-so rattling, the heart pumped with pleasure, almost sensuous pleasure before such semantics plagued the mind, before innocence was as violent a word as banality now is. Before I knew to grip my heart and pray for it to lay serene, I would just let it beat, beat away, because there was brightness in each beat. There is still brightness in its beat, just, perhaps, a little faded and distant. 

               The Botanical Garden didn’t have a built entrance, but instead, a series of gates with discarded vases and abandoned plants. We were meant to simply go in and enjoy, as the paths of cobblestone warped like varying horizons — to a mind of a child, of course. I’ve gone back to visit the lilies each year since, and now, they are merely cobblestone paths with no true sense to their design, they merely happened to be there, as most paths, without much additional logic than to go from here to there. Still, I do recall my youthful magics trying to enchant those paths to last, or rather, begging them to last. They didn’t last. 

               I was, perhaps, one of the few children interested in the plants, and I had taken special interest in their latin names, unsure on why they poked my mind so dearly, like thorns of a Rosaceae. There were poisonous plants, and they appeared especially enticing, as if the vile of their poison was meant for you alone to endure it, and such vile was the toll of contemplating their beautiful displays of colour and form. There were trees, far too many to count, and some unveiled almost in shapes of adults, like the Baobabs and their huge bellies, or the Willows and their disheveled hairs, and Yews whose trunks were deformed enough for a small child to fit between them (and fit, I did). When Time struck for lunch, we all gathered at the core of the Garden, near the window-palace, home of the most delicate little greens. I’d cease the opportunity to escape after the count, and stealthily (a child-level of stealth, as in, everyone can see you, but they aren’t really paying much attention, so you feel like a true-born spymaster) run into the North side of the Gardens. 

                 A little ways past the small pond filled with mallards, there is a muffle of white-lilies, perhaps the most common you could find if you hiked through an oak forest. I remember it all, even the sounds — a recorder, perhaps, is what I am above all. I kneeled by the lilies and leered them through and through, and I could feel them speak to me, although not make up fully what they transmitted, and I recall my heart sinking into my chest like a cold boulder, my eyes widening, and a cry — not a whimper or a wail, not even a lament, a merest cry, a couple tears shed silently and without expression, almost as if half of them fell within, into an invisible, placid pond of emeraldrine mallards. My father had died two years prior, and I’d recall his death, and they spoke of him, but said almost nothing, with each stuttered syllable becoming a spear thrusting into the aerial arms of childhood that cocooned me, until it was completely stripped of me, or I of it, or both. 

                To this day, I do not know why that was, or how it came to be. I’ve felt lonelier since with each passing Summer, and by each, I return to that Garden and whichever lilies it holds, and I look for him. Unsure if I’m searching for my father, or for my child, or both. I believe to still not hold the words to describe what the demand is, and by being a recorder, I’m also bound to be a describer, and each year since I’ve brought the descriptions of all the beauty I can still sight beyond those lillies, my etchings and poems and notes, and I kiss the forehead of that boy still-wandering the gardens, still feeling the chill of the ponds and gazing at latin descriptions. Still smiling into those lilies. I give it all to him, as my words beget new plants for him to see, for him to feel eager about. I give it all to him, so he may know I still live a beauty worth living, and yet, incomparable to his. I don’t know why this is, or how this came to be. But I’m at peace with it. 


JOHNNY

⌉|⌈ – Für Alina

In 1976 — a year hardened by a big exodus within European confines, Alina, then eighteen years of age, left Tallin, Estonia, for a more promising life in England. Shipping in embrace with her father, she left only her mother, who was left in solitude. Arvo Pärt, by then a long-time friend of the family, syphoned from his years of composing and wove one of the most influential and sumptuous works of musical minimalism — Für Alina, the emblem of his tintinnabuli stylistic approach.

Music, unlike any other basilar-Art, envelops and takes command of a singular sense perception, and opposite to what modernistic music-videos would have you believe, Music itself pylons above little else than sound. Any aesthetic extension is dismissible to the gestalt of a piece. If a composition cannot support itself, a music-video has no worth, and shan’t amend the issue, since it is not constituent to the Art at-hand. There is, however, a very important semblance of aesthetic (by medium of thematic) in Music, laid at the very core of what makes Music, well, Music: giving order to noise and shape to silence — the simplest, most sincere description of the Art. 

Pärt, however, had many trepidations with that unique conception of his craft, and his dark, strikeful soul, compounded with the frigidity and abound lifelessness of the Estonian landscapes, opened those mires of sound that would pend and dip into those chilling waters of silence. He discovered that, perhaps, the soul of a weeping mother, missing and fearing dearly for her child, might connect more with the softness of absent sound than with the cadence and encore of a sole violin.

At roughly seventeen, I first heard this composition being played at a concerto in Lisbon’s suburbs, held in a poorly-lit office room with what felt like six sombering, silent listeners. Maybe such setting allowed me to feel the profound isolation hand-crafted by Arvo, the lingering restlessness of his notes, coalesced with sumps of a silence so-dense, so terribly overwhelming, it becomes a luscious shade that dances around you, and beats at tandem to a shrivelled heart. Alina was gone. Alina left, and with her, she took only her mother’s light, her mother’s life. And how many have done so, since, like Alina has? How many left? Leaving in their wake, the sounds of marching feet, slammed doors, doleful grunts and grievous wounds, followed by a prompt of marginal silence? Silence so long, so withering, it seems to hug you with heat?

Für Alina soothes (and suits) best those who feel abandoned at the margins of a big, haunting desolation, much like Arvo did, much akin to Alina’s mother; but also, the composition itself does not lean only on a negative effect — there is, simultaneously, moments were it lends itself to the release of youth, to the prospect of a more-complete life, a stroll of innocence within the avenues of a reality where such innocence is rewarded, and not condemned nor abused. But all the while, silence is still there, thus, pain is too; no truthfully sincere vision of a positive future may exist in a bubble of suspension, there must be descent, that bubble too must pend and dip into the chilling waters of silence; there is no courage in leaving without fear for what is left behind. Arvo, then, dares not to shy away from his still-silent soul, one that still hurts much, even in the moments when it hurts less. Arvo then upheld the truth of a minimalist — that sadness and serenity cannot be fully translated by adagios and staccatos, that release and catharsis cannot be fully translated by crescendos and da capos, but that Music itself exists only because Silence does, too. This idea, this seed that Silence itself can be a carrier of Art, a medium of emotion far beyond our conventional perception of music, was thought of way before Pärt existed, but he alone mastered the weaving of silence beyond any of his predecessors, acing it with a grace and mastery equal only to the silent landscapes of his Estonian youth. 

I often ponder on this, for Pärt heavily influences my poetry, perhaps more than many poets I admire, and without ever stringing a singular verse; I connect more with his silence, than to the pristine sound of a Shakespearian sonnet; Because I am made of more silence than I am of memories of rosie lips and venetian balconies. Because life is as much a song, as it is a pause. A long, beautiful song, and a longer, sombering pause. 


I will leave you with a fellow Portuguese artist, Joana Gama, playing Für Alina with incredible technique and properness:


JOHNNY

⌉|⌈ – Irrigation, friends.


        Leaned against the customary elm tree, some would take aim at nouvelle psychologies, others would echo life-bound lessons at the bottom of a plastic beer cup. If elation existed on summary, little else would be needed to describe the happiness blooming from friendship. I’d spent my few years of breath on fighting prejudice and carving a spot in the landscapes, as to measure the weight of my sins with that of my embraces.

              Little was expected, less was requested, and the ley-lines of kinship were bursting with movements: an arm around my shoulders, a hug so firm it freezes my flesh, turning a moment into a brass statue made to be outwardly admired. I had understood the height and worth of my words, I learned to love my speech and to gaze at the walk as a path worth replicating. I have known silence, I have known solitude; and how pallid, chalky visions they seem to have become. The lines of simplicity are aligned with themes of highest complexity, and the unrest is only natural when we serve the lordship of inner exploration; a while back, I’d coin myself as a poet of the simple and sincere, but I’m none of the sort. Life is as complex as it is simple, and the figments in between are the colours of its palette, poetry is just the chrome I use to coat the rust of days. Not much is simple about those days.

              In the Portuguese island of Madeira, levadas carry waters from the highest elevation to the southern plateaus, effectively reproducing veins. To create these channels, colonists had to burn the island for months due to its thick rainforest, essentially taking what they would then give back.
There is a certain parallel to all of this, there is a reason why levadas come to mind while I hug some of my dearest friends. A paradigm that unfolds itself on living parataxis, through disconnected clauses that present themselves as an older slide-show, burning ever-so-slightly in the heat of their projector. There is pain is non-return; there is despair in frugality; there is missing and there is saudade; a method of regret over tears that we couldn’t help but shed, a process of reclaiming days where we lived poetry just by staying in bed.

              I strike at Time and it inevitably strikes back. I bathe in the hypocrisy of blaming Time for its callous nature, rather than acknowledging my blunder as a human wired to thrive on disfunction. I see all, and during some shadowy nights, I could have declared that we all did. We all see where it hurts, what it takes, and how it must. We all live, breathe, evolve and suffocate beneath that same dust. And perhaps I carry little more than awareness that the hug was gaining momentum over those days of isolation, from the topmost of those pallid visions to the plateaus of my heart, smoothly hauling what it is to be human until that moment of touch, of irrigation, of a thrist so repressed, it pinnacles as it blooms into that sincerity and simplicity, into that hug that simply transmits: I need you, and I didn’t know I needed you, because I’m faulty and inadequate, but now I know that I need you. That is all I know, and all I need to know.

             Some of my friends are poets, and undoubtedly, they will be better than I could ever. Holding them in these fragile arms, along with the belief that briefly, I could inspire them, is all the greatness I think I will ever need.


JOHNNY

⌉|⌈ – Sunken Soul, debris.

“Sad is what I am — what I will always be,
 an artist is born in form of a shipwreck,
 and henceforth, that same sunken soul
 shall live from scavenging the debris.”

          Existence is often homogenous with the ebb of an ocean — composed of movements, violent thrusts against the shore, soothing hymns that ascend from the waves, to the tip of a cello’s arc, producing the sharpest sounds whose harmony is replicable only by natural flow. As vast and nightmarish as the ocean can be, so can existence. As exurgent and garish its reflective surface can be, so can life be cloaked with that same brightness, when we collect at a table with dear friends, when we peak in a laughter so sharp, it hits the arc of that cello, producing a sound only the heart can see, an expression only movement can encapsulate, doing so calmly… and tenderly.

          One thematic I’ve been avoiding for quite a while is that of nomenclature, am I a writer? Perhaps a poet? Maybe, even, an artist stripped of specification? Do any of those names represent what I am, or rather, what I want to be? What constitutes a writer, a poet, an artist? What constitutes me? All questions whose validity is seeded on a necessity to exist beyond mere existence, beyond the ocean of movements and its tides, where I’m able to become the conductor of my being instead of allowing ebbs and flows to erode me, until I have shapes worth naming. But then, a vision occurs from that breath of epiphany: that of a fern, rooted in a shadowy empire. To understand the fern in its metaphysical elements, even if completely manufactured, is to understand where and why the fern exists and why it needs to exist — akin to any other plant — in this ocean of movements.
An artist is not a sculptor of new realms, or a scholar of unnamed emotions. The artist exists as a process, as a method, whose bounds of chaos and entropy along with seemingly endless creative freedom give it little more than a sense of burial at sea. Once we quest on discovering which movements of this spectral ocean truly ripple within, we are shackled to insufficiency, because the quest is unending, tiring and highly volatile. An artist is then painted semantically as a creative force, even when the process and method display the exact opposite, a form of extreme destruction. Humans are destructive by core, and as much as I try to stray away from speaking of human nature, I believe it is common knowledge that we have a tendency for destruction (albeit at times, it is justified) — what we cannot justify though, is our predisposition to destroy ourselves. The artist takes all that is to be human, all that is to be subjective, and augments it, throws it against the canvas and pages and notes and screens, all that is destructive is permutated to pure, then unruled and ravaged, broken apart and deconstructed. We justify this with Art, for the sake of Art, at the expense of that vast, nightmarish, exurgent and garish ocean. At the toll of our own sincerity towards destructive emotion.

         To be creative is to create space for that creation to elapse, and in the double-trouble of creating creation, we often get too caught up in the first part and what that produces — the pain, the sorrow and memory, the melancholy; instead of the latter, the act of creation itself. Are we even able of gripping that last stage, or do we suddenly become the escape artist of this scenario? Does the vision of that ocean of movement and the ability to bend its threads become overbearing and over-encompassing?
As I gather with friends around the table, and I laugh and elate, I realise further that a writer, a poet, or an artist — are not things I either am nor want to be, but rather states where I slowly dip my toes and feel the temperature of life, of existing, a small gate into a world where concepts become so maleable, their inevitable destruction also becomes inevitably inconsequential. My fear of this nomenclature was simply representative, because I’m not strong enough to constantly overlook the vast ocean of emotions, sometimes, I just want to drink and laugh and hear the peak of that cello’s arc without playing it myself, or writing the small introduction of cellos being played. We cannot always be outsiders, or we will perish in inertia. The movement of this scary ocean must also be our own.

Who knew battling with semantics could be this overly-poetic?


JOHNNY