⌉|⌈ – 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

⌉|⌈ – Four Chestnut Kings

Four Chestnut Kings


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.

 

(II)


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.


Johnny

Part of True-Ultra.

My Grandmothers Carnations

I know this is not a photo blog, but I make a ton of references to my grandmothers carnations in my poetry, especially in True-Ultra, so I thought I would show you why they are so inspiring to me.

They have received no editing and come directly from my lousy phone, so the quality might be lacking, but trust me, she has a beautiful garden.

Everything about this place — the place where I grew up — is no less than magical.


JOHNNY

P.S: Check out Portuguese Artist Norberto Lobo, an instrumental marvel that also breaks the barriers of language and speaks directly to you, using only a single guitar and a great heart.

Bronze & Bismuth (english 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)

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JOHNNY