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.
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.
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.
Psychologists, when encountered by someone highly entranced with the concept of Death, insofar as it creates deep psychological impacts, have come to call it Anguish of Death. Either by intense fear — Thanatophobia, or strong passion — Thanatophilia, Death, as it is modernly conceptualised by medium of the Ancient Greeks, can easily take a large space at the core of human social structures, and even individual human structures. As it is so encompassing, so impending and inexorable, it is easy to crumble under its weight.
My Thanatos, then, draws from that mixture of existence and impermanence. Not a reaper nor a culler, nor an agent of silent or peaceful death, he is, rather, a materialised version of Anguish itself. Not made to be cruel nor merciful, but instead, just there, and always there, until there is no longer a there.
I’ve since changed jobs and the novelty of adaptation is taking its toll. As such, I haven’t been able to write remotely as much as I’d wish. Canto III is a simple introduction into the first arc of the story, as well as ground-work to introduce Thanatos as a regular character (which will happen in the next Canto). This one isn’t all that great, truly, but my energy levels are scathing.
The Appendix is not a required read, but rather, a big edit of one of my many pages of conceptualisation for the story. The Battle of Kytinion was a central catalyst to the story, so its accounts will be many and varied throughout the epic; thus, Thanatos account is facultative; but since I’m currently building his parsonage, I’d figure this was an interesting and fun opportunity to write as he would.
I will post other Appendix throughout the Cantos, as I’m awful at drawing, and showing you nice visuals of these events (that I do have in my mind), is outside my reach. As such, I’m bound to conceptualise through words, and appendixes are the only mediums for that.
Disclaimer: Canto III holds many references to Max Richter’s oeuvre, including “Catalogue of Afternoons” and “On The Nature of Daylight“. Appendix A contains some references to modern musician Bon Iver, with “Moon-Water” and “Caught in Daylight” being the most prominent.