(made in a for-fun manner; some lovecraftian mytho-poetics are great for the snap of spring; it’s not enriched with deeper meanings, or at least, not purposefully so. It’s just some unbridled imagery!)
This is wholly unintelligible and I do apologise, but I’m at a point in which trying to curate a thought ends up harming more than helping when it comes to composing. I don’t know what path to take besides continuing writing and hoping the problem sorts itself out before long.
I recently joined a Portuguese e-publication where I must compose a poem weekly, and my self-proposed theme was to translate paintings that I favoured throughout my life, which, knowing myself, is a monumental task. I’m not a visual creator in the slightest, but am instead wholesomely auditive; I suffered of poor eyesight from early age, but was only treated much later, already in early adolescence. This generated an imbalance in how I most confidently translate the stimuli I receive from the world; my trust always falls, firstly, in what I hear, and not in what I see.
I’ve always been incredibly fond of visual arts, and I ache to develop a veritable visual mythology to guide my creative endeavours. This project is one such exercise I hope may help in that task, and this second composition (the first was on Munch’s Sun), even in translation, is already roughly contoured by my visual weaknesses. Hopefully, they become better as I write more of them.
Still Life with Profile of Laval has always been a painting of great intrigue to me; the deformity of Gauguin’s sculpted jug, tactically placed behind the assortment of fruits, immediately inspired the unbecoming of the latter; that is the inevitable disfigurement — the perishing — which Laval seems to gaze at in stolid anticipation. The vividness of the objects and, in contrast, the smokey dullness of every other element in the painting (including Laval himself), seemingly translates two aesthetic tempos in a single stage: there isn’t so much a dichotomy of being/not-being, but one of being/waiting-to-no-longer-be; a slow and dormant corrosion. Gauguin’s signature diagonal strokes, which I call his texture of dissipation, add the final weight to what is, in my view, a beacon of painted brilliance.
I truly hope you’re well, and thank you, João-Maria.
Little exists in record regarding Telémaco Augusto Santana. From some spotted newspaper publications regarding his work, to some handful of poultry donations made to the parish he inhabited, his name seems almost like a dent in an ancient structure; part of a gestalt of ages, another function of the uniformity of time. A texture, almost, void of essence, void of movement. Curiously, and from what I gathered, he was anything but a quiet adornment during his lifetime in Lisbon. Any perspicacious eye upon his poems would quickly detect the lavish aura he emanates as a figure of social class and probity. An authentic “flâneur“, an ogive filled with grandiose ideas and a profoundly refined inclination for the aesthetical. An indication of his zesty and obstreperous spirit can be found in the curious preface he wrote for “Lucilações“:
A Short Statement
Poetry in Portugal has no true market. The few exceptions are revered poets, and only when these are edited by publishers with a strong commercial amplitude. Most of the literate public does not read books of verse… They lightly peruse them. I decided, then, to not make this book a commercial publication. To my Friends and Critics that have accepted to appreciate my modest poetic works, I intend to offer a unique edition of this new book. And shall do it with much pleasure, since I never thought of myself as a bookshop success. Poetry is the expression of beauty through image and the highest expression of the spirit. —
The image is the medullary substance of Poetry. It is its vital essence. When Poetry achieves its maximum simplicity, it finally enters the realm of maximum beauty. Therefor–says a great Master–, the highest poet among all must be that who, without bombastic artifices nor loud resonances, still manages to impress our sentiment, thrill us, commove us, and imbue us with the fluid and luminous harmony of his verses. I know that all my poetic flights do not reach such grand and delightful heights–but, even then, as the only indelible compensation, I received the profound satisfaction of seeing my verses worthy of flattering words from demanding critics, and from notable and famous poets alike. Some of them do not know me personally, which further values their compliments.
To all who transmitted their appreciations that I deem sincere and very honouring, here I leave my deepest gratitude.
This opening text is bounteous in its richness; we, the poetic dilettantes, oft complain about the economic impracticability of our verses. Poetry, indeed, does not sell easily, nor has it ever sold easily. It’s of some strangely dim warmth to see those concerns echoed in the somewhat-distant past of 1946, a decade that saw the artistic beginnings of Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, E.E. Cummings and Richard Wilbur, among myriad other illustrious poets of the modernistic 20th century. Telémaco himself enjoyed a pleasant hue of success and was both frequently vaunted by critics in publications, and respected among Lisbon’s literary circles. Beyond his concerns regarding the state of sustenance through verse, we find a lucid interpretation of poetic production during his time: simplicity, imagery, sensitivity. Although I’m not completely certain of who the great Master is, after some brainscouring, I now believe he might be referring to Alberto Caeiro, an heteronym of Fernando Pessoa that enjoyed publications from as early as 1925, and was commonly referred to as “the Master” by his other heteronyms, as well as many other poets of the same era, due to Caeiro’s sensism and connection to the simple and natural.
The only surviving remnants of Telémaco‘s life are his books; though diffuse and often of expensive collection, most of them exist in various antiquaries in Lisbon. I found “Flores da Minha Alma“(1942), “Lux Bruxoleante“(1941) and “Revérberos da Poente”(1945) all available for purchase, though all at prices a bit beyond my means. I have never found “Lucilações” available elsewhere, which is unsurprising, since it had no commercial publication of any form, unlike the other books he has produced. The word chosen as the title, however, was completely unknown to me. “Lucilar“, in an elder form of Portuguese, means “to glisten”, making “lucilações“, “glistenings”.
Coming from a post-war era that glistened with fertile poetic ground — insofar as it generated some of the most potent authors of our collective history — and, concomitantly, enjoying such a pronounced respect from literary critics and a wide breadth of relevant influences, it’s difficult to cogitate how it is that Telémaco managed to wane and be forgotten, even among our national lyrical pantheon. Upon opening the book, those doubts become nubile vapours rather quickly:
In that town the bloodthirsty Mars showed the fear that dominates most. — Satanic vision!… And everywhere mounds of corpses and birds of prey!…
Sounded the triumphant hymn of the rational beast.
Blazes danced, smiling with joyful and tragic effects, like the ideas of repulsive men that only in evil feel satisfied, unknowing of the light of Jesus’s Verb.
Rises now the hallucinating pain that in children is more feared and strong: In the smoldering, annihilated town, two small children, through death, sought to find the gods of their home.
Hand-in-hand, calling for their parents, they hopped from rubble to rubble. They were featherless eaglets that, orphaned, were afraid of everything…
–War!… Feral chess where playing we feel from blood, the inebriation!
And the Sun was already dying. Covered itself in a glittering mantle… and the orphans, in a plangent pain translating so much naive love, still clamoured, through long laments: — Oh, dear parents!… where do you lie?… and only the horror of Death replied!
With high indignation the Wind portended. With kisses of emotion gracing little angels.
— Oh false world, of eternal mystery, from a human Heaven to an earthly Hell!
If Fernandes de Sá was of difficult translation, Telémaco is tortuous at best. His Portuguese, though eloquent and highly expressive, suffers from a terrible contortion in order to establish a rhyme. This is, in fact, an issue often seen in many lyrical poets of any historical era: one cannot sacrifice fluidity for melody, since there is no melody without fluidity. Telémaco shows a puerile and sequacious tact with his own productions, whose subjects nearly always fall upon Christian mythology, verses on nobility and the pious deeds therein, and courts of love.
Telémaco was likely a man of wealth and stature; a nobleman, a cavalier of abound polish with a deep influence on the social strata of his time. The reviews I’ve read show a trend of vacuous and sycophantic praises of what he wrote, and considering he decided to include these reviews on the last pages of this privately published book, one might assume he was greatly proud of them. Even without an affirmed status, it is not inconceivable that he’d enjoy mild success during his lifetime; his poetry was, after all, congruent with the times, and was virtually riskless in form or content, which only further asseverates his apparent erosion through the tidings.
INEFFABLE DESTROYED WORLD
The soul of a good Mother is a large world all made from love and highest caring. A love so pathetic and profound there isn’t a plume that can describe it.
It is born indelible and fecund, and is a blooming field, always beautiful, even when the trembling of destiny overstays inside the kingdom of torture.
The most anguished human pain, from the martyr Mother is intensely cast, shattering the motherly heart.
In front of the death of her loved child… — Oh! what world, ineffable and destroyed and what longing from a volcano of tears!
“Reviews of «Reverberations of a Sunset»”
“From Alexandre de Matos (Most inspired poet and distinct publisher):
«From all literary species, poetry is that which most easily expressed ideas and sentiments; but prose isn’t far behind it. Well, in its small “Aerial Preface”, so lovingly filigreed, there’s proof that Telémaco even in prose is a poet. …Reading the “Symphony of the Heart”, for me the most interesting part of the book, I was able to listen and enjoy, executed in seven poetic compositions, the sonata of harmonies that pulse within his heart!»
(the other two reviews follow the exact same lines; sometimes, with the exact same expressions. There are also ten additional pages of different reviews)
“Lucilações”, although not the most augmenting of reading experiences, was a generous exercise in conception for me. I can picture Telémaco having extensive colloquies with his literary consorts, or ardently complaining about the insuperable shedding of leaves from the Chilean peppertrees that line the central avenue of Campo d’Ourique, where he most likely lived. I can picture him, a stern and stolid man, a true homme du temps, with a decorous modesty and calm spirit. I can picture him in cafés, reading his esteemed Júlio Dantas, or regional papers like “Alma Nacional” or “Ecos de Sintra“, and, more sprawling still, is the tact I can have with what he felt and how he felt it; how he distilled what he saw, the beauty of it, the sense in its beauty. I can compose how delicately he saw his spirituality, how fervently he saw his God, a distensible and glowing figure that centralised him inside a dazed and conflicted world. I can mimic the dehiscence of his smile whenever he received a warm review of his verses. I can, during moments and with much force, be an echo of Telémaco within my mind, and thus, for a brief moment, he exists once again, and may now feel the glorious pungency of the peppertree that lonesomely guards my own street.
Poetry, no matter its value or commercial viability, will never be destitute of its singular most convex purpose: to condense the spirit which orders the hand; its pain and pleasure, memory, pulse, texture, skin. It’s a print, henceforth indelible and eternal, even if just in the minds of those who’ve read it, which, as the tendrils of some immortal creature, seeds further the existence of a collective being, through Art, in Art. One last tether between us all, beyond the tiring artifices of social maintenance, of having to.
I truly hope Telémaco had a wonderful life distant from the wounds of his period on Earth; I hope, similarly, that as Telémaco, my creations might inspire someone, far in the future, to wonder how I was, how I lived. I wonder, then: what would they come up with?
(I’m going to start publishing some “humbler” poems I have stored and continually write; although I’m quite demanding of, if not the quality of the poetics themselves, at least the attempted quality of the posts, as well as their parsimony, I realise that I’ve become quite obsessive with it, which ebbs against me rather than flow in my benefit. There’s no use in being associated with just density, just longevity, or even just the maximum of what I can provide, if that comes at the cost of the development of veritable writing versatility. Some will indubitably be worse than others, and I still prefer my denser, longer works, if not just because I truly lucubrate over those extensively, but I hold the belief that all of creative work — mine or yours — has a tangible intrinsic worth; perhaps not to all, but it does to me. One ought to practice what one preaches.)
Thank you tons, you guys, João-Maria.
(Also, a huge thank you to Sapna, and the power-double from StarTwo [visual artists and storytellers with such enviable skills, one would be tempted to steal their hands], for nominating me for awards; I don’t reply solely because I have a golden rule of only creating literary-themed posts and none other, otherwise this blog would be a flurry of piano album reviews and tributes to deciduous trees, but I truly, deeply appreciate you guys remembering me; if I did awards, I surely wouldn’t forget you either)
(And a monumental bow to Kaiter, for including me in his circulars whenever my work passes the readable threshold; to be included is — if one is attentive to his beautiful talents, rectitude and rigour — beyond any word that synonyms incredible, and I’m tremendously grateful. If anything, I’m already immensely grateful that I get to enjoy the other contents in his blog and circulars, whose eminent taste I’d recommend to anyone who’d enjoy a step above my own works.)
If anyone has been reading me for over a year, you might have detected that the structure of this poem draws much from my older English compositions, such as Emerald Cage and Low Poetics. I wanted to design something that returned to that a bit, and simultaneously, I wanted to write as if I was a child looking at a blossom. I’m not certain I achieved either of those, but there was an intention.
The Lispector’s Egg reference pertains to Clarice Lispector‘s The Egg and the Chicken, a small story that is truly indescribable, much to the likes of all of Lispector’s works. I started reading Lispector when I was very young, and when my mother is sad, she always reminds me of Clarice, a sort of saturnine ethereal being locked to mortality, a misplacement, an injustice of some mystical kind. I believe there is an easily accessible translation of the short-story somewhere online, and I urge you with utmost potency to find it and give it a read.
There is also this beautiful piano-electronic album I’ve been bewitched by, Moon Ate the Dark, which is surprisingly serene yet inspiring and cumbrous. If you like mellow instrumentals, especially for reading or writing, give it a chance.
Luís Carlos Patraquimlives, 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”
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.
I’d like to think that, if you made it to this point, you hold the glory that my poem holds not, as you withstood it. I don’t particularly like anything I produce these days, but this one was a delicate endeavor to iron-out. Written over nearly two months, revised hundreds of times, wholesomely deleted in countless others, I don’t think any poem has ever caused me this amount of hardship in conception. Alas, I truly wanted to write another poem-of-memory, this turn related to my first youthful love and how I’ve felt about it hitherto.
If you’re still with me, my gratitude is endless. I cannot fathom someone reading the entirety of this composition, but if you’ve liked even a portion of it, it would already allow worth into my strain, for which I would be unfathomably happy.
(PS: The poem “Alto Como o Silêncio” is by Santomean poet Maria Manuela Margarido, which I translated for the purpose of citation; to my knowledge, there is no translated version of her works by a professional in such field)
I was vanished; A most egotistical subterfuge, but naught without its proper cost. Approaching my date of birth by last December, I suffered a massive plunge in my mental integrity, followed by some level of tragedy, anguish, and some sparse instances of recuperation. This is most common to me since my early childhood, yet, still incredibly difficult to pull through. I am yet to fully pull through…
I cannot outwardly write in such deep chasms of self, and my emotional sensibility becomes convoluted, nearly surrealistic, without a geometric nor organic form, which is a common symptom of a hindered artistic performance. Some find beauty in that hindrance, and to some degree, so do I; It is different, however, when one is the recipient of such chaos. To augment a fragmented emotional self is a perilous task, as it differs from the plenitude of wholesome transmission — where the emotion is left in the rear-view mirror — and instead magnifies the locations of shattering.
Although I may not claim to be as rejuvenated as I would like, I still very much miss this sumptuous community of poets which I adore so dearly, and counted each second to return; For now, I will publish only small and unambitious inklings of poetry that I shape from memories of my childhood, as the one displayed above, as to ease myself into descriptive views and then transition into the emboss of emotional production once I am more prepared to do so.
But I’ve missed this so much; I didn’t think I would be as happy as I am now, but it truly bathes me with joy…
To my Grandmother; I’d wish to make something better for her, one day. But I’ve always been enchanted with her choice to stay, despite everything, she stays in her home, and intends to die there and nowhere else. That is a beauty I cannot yet capture.
But one day, Avó, one day.
She wasn’t taught to read nor write, so I know my greatest communication isn’t adequate for her. But, growing up by her side, I knew to communicate differently; with truly firm hugs, and the trémule of one’s voice, the pulse of a touch — all truly worth saying, dispenses words, as it lives above, purely in the senses.
She will never read my poems, but she knew them before anyone did. She knew them, even those I do not yet know.
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.
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.
“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?
When I read poetry, it’s not customary to do it in one sitting, since verse can be overbearing at times, especially when the verse in question is condensed with a large amount of information or emotional overdraws. So, to break that cycle of lyricentric text, I will make a little break and explore the wonders of my culture with you.
In the Portuguese province where I grew up and still live, Ribatejo, there used to be a big amount of agriculture. In fact, most of my family still works in that field, working sun to sun along the plantations of Tagus. These men and women who journeyed from far to find work at the river basin, commonly denominated “gaibéus”, worked seasonally in the process of removing weed and debris from the yearly plantations, along with cleaning the non- cultivated fields in order to avoid crop-destroying vermin and wild-fires.
Being a descendent of such inspiring figures whose work was so elementary and harsh, I’ve always felt tenderly connect to the earth of our province. Its fertility and unbound resilience binds with my flesh, courses through my veins and forms me, as if I’m a plant of these fields, yielding fruits in shapes of worship and care.
In our village, four men stood as figures taken out of a painting. All day, every single day, they would gather in a stone table beneath the centurial chestnut tree that grew in the town-square, and they gambled away their hours with Swedish cards. For twenty-two years, I don’t remember ever seeing them anywhere else, and after so long, they still play the same game using the same spent and ancient deck. I’ve always been a lonely and sensitive child, and would have a hard time making friends, so I started watching them play cards in hopes they would interact with me.
The day they did and the days that followed were among the most important in my young life. And at the impish age of twelve, I discovered poetry without ever reading a poem. As Oscar Wilde says and rightly so – from my experience – “A great poet, a really great poet, is the most unpoetical of all creatures. But inferior poets are absolutely fascinating. The worse their rhymes are, the more picturesque they look. The mere fact of having published a book of second-rate sonnets makes a man quite irresistible. He lives the poetry that he cannot write. The others write the poetry that they dare not realise.”
Those men, who I’ve nicknamed “The Four Chestnut Kings” over the years, and have nicknamed me “Crow-boy”, taught me those values of our culture and earth. They taught me living poetry, the likes of which can never be written, only lived, experienced and passed onto those who are open to it.
Along their many lessons that I was far too young to comprehend, one has followed me throughout every bar I had to jump over during my trials: growth should always elevate above pride. Our world, the fragments of those who lived before us and those who shall outlive us, the meticulously woven fabric that runs through our gentle interactions, coursing from the deepest trenches of our beings and effusing everything with a touch of pure selfless humanity, all these concepts require nurture and growth well beyond what one person can contribute. But we all should, we must.
My little corner of the world still lives and breathes faintly, and as sure as the Sun shall rise, the pillars of our culture will weaken and collapse. Younglings like me are tasked with preserving the legacy of those who have preceded, and assure that it continues. Whether in our Art, in our strange and fast speech that no one can understand at times, in our cold buildings whose freshness allowed us to prosper during harsh Summers, or even in our strange obsession with wine and piquette. Who I am, and the simple fact that I am, I owe to my rich and ancient culture, and perpetuating it through conservation is beyond imperative to me. For as long as I live, so shall my culture.
The First King, Sr. António, taught me that he would have never been happy had his life been different. Such humility and resolve isn’t a consequence of self-indulgence or denial, but rather, the mere act of seeing endless beauty in the particles of dust visible by sunlight between those chestnut leaves. The same specks we are often reduced to when the large and ever-hungry concepts of infinitude and meaninglessness assault us, giving us sight of a Universe that far precedes our presence and will long outlive it. But we needed’t be small bellow those distant stars, we can instead relish in the fact that we have the ability to see them, feel their heat and radiation, witness their light-year brightness. The simple fact we can conceive these concepts shouldn’t be reason to reduce us, but rather, it should empower our visions and ambitions.
The Second King, Sr. João, insisted that no love ever equals the first. Although I’ve always questioned his truth, he seemed headstrong about the universality of what he affirmed. To him, the first time you fell in love was the most important, perhaps not the most intense or pleasant, maybe even short-lived and insufficient. He said it could have lasted seconds, and that still wouldn’t change the magnitude of its influence within our beings. It took me a while to understand, but I believe he might be correct.
The Third King, Sr. Lima, was an avid fan of traditional Portuguese culture, often stating that he would never bear dying outside of Portugal, hence why he never left the country. The slightest risk of not ending his life where it started, he said, would be reckless, because doing so would devalue every figment of his being. Portugal had given him everything, every moment of joyous pleasure and every laughter, the smiles and giggles of children, the sinuous shapes of grape-picking women that he flirted with in his youth. All of it was his, all for him to blossom and grow, melodies made for him to hum and dance to, but more importantly—it was all sufficient.
The fourth King, Sr. Zé, would often say that the world always gives us more than we can give back, while the others nodded with certainty.
From that point on, I started looking at moments cinematically. The conversations between my parents as I rode with them across the mountainside dirt roads, the breathing patterns and subjects, everything aligned in a grand display of colours and lights. My first love was this land, and I couldn’t be happy elsewhere. Giving back to it is my singular purpose, through poetry and prose, Art and life, I plan to give every atom of my body to this earth, certain that I shall never be able to give it more than what it has given me. That, in its most profound essence, is comfort. And the cinematic life I’ve been granted in its rawest form, is my living poetry.
A short-attempt at surrealism made to test the viability of Yangtze, just because I really missed posting. (beware: this is not a good poem to read aloud, it has a lot of bad sound variations, the kind Bach would frown upon)