Father scuffled with the taste of saltpetre still sticking unstintingly to his tongue, and the lustre of a candle which, already nearly drowned by its own wax, sobbed intermittently, enervating his eyes. Here, an horizon. There, an horizon; tessellating the sides of a glass as the canary-green flood subsided, in altisonant tongues of water slapping the hull, in the two very-white blocks of light bounced from each iris — those transient lovers becoming one united streak whenever the source was richest — and seemingly everywhere: an horizon, wide as widest be, grand as grandest they come, and if I were to stop, then, centred in such a massive mouth of sky and water, and closed my eyes and braced to be swallowed, perhaps then, in that will-never-be-moment, as in Ammons’ Admission, I could have «broken away from the final room». Little is imaginable then, as my eyes pierced the very fabric of nothingness; reached a hidden point beyond the sea-line, and my mind, obliquitous as if dragged by a long velveteen rope, would think of «La Damoiselle élue», which was being so candidly played that night by one such neglected lounge pianist; a lounge so far enclaved at the very tip of the bow, it felt as if it fluttered atop the ocean and never grazed it, never gashed the sea with that effusive separation of bloods and bodies so characteristic of vessels as massive as that one was.
Father disliked crowds; they scrambled his brain. After years of successive neurasthenias and depressions, his thoughts trailed off celeritously, plumes of smoke to be blown one on top of another, some expired upwards or downwards, infusing another parcel or topic with a distinct scent of petrichor after a wildfire; others would be expired right ahead, one after one, each large brunt of smoke puncturing the other as they coalesced in some hallowed destructive waltz, the kind Limón would have liked. As I fluttered off, imagining which unfathomable, implacable beauty hid itself beneath a secret point in a realm with the single material of horizon, so did father, who, himself looking at his own abstract subterfuge, would express all manners of disgust at how the space of the lounge was designed; the golden-corinthian crowns which stood in precise dissonance to the garish teal wallpaper mottled with crested parsley; the disposition of the oblong seats, prussian-hued, which mooned around the room in such odd, aleatory ways. “How ugly it all is“, he repeated, “a brass foot-rest with zebrano counters!, vulgar, criminal!“, in an infinite punctuation of repulse that, as the taste of saltpetre, would cling and stack and grow until the thought just trailed off, perhaps fallen into the unwounded sea. As so, we’d spend every night in that cruise, and after he had his third canary-green spirit, he would allow me to stand, silentious, behind the pianist, studying the score. Playing The Blessed Damsel now reminds me of gold and teal, acanthus and parsley, smoke and brass; ugliness, infinitude; a cold and hungry horizon which, in the dullness of magnetism, wholly lacks any compassion.
The beach of my choosing was Rocha, which was besprent with caverns, alcoves and grottos, some due to decades of construction atop the promontories inevitably causing fall-ins, others were formations of erosion that, so careful was the fashion of their forms, one would be tempted to believe that the sea sculpted them in its own language of beauty, thronged with apocryphal patterns too pure to be seen by our eyes. Perhaps that of biggest repute was one such lonesome tower of rock that stood half within the beach, half at sea, but only whenever the tide was even in itself; at low-tide, one could crawl within the rock and, once inside, the waves penetrating the chamber from different points would produce thunderous sounds, all in differing pitches, giving a littoral harmony that managed to not sound either consonant or dissonant. At high-tide, whenever a large wave struck the top of the dome, half of it would be devoured by that rocky mouth and spat out with the force of a roar from Neptune himself, which would awaken many men given to sleeping in their towels with a sharp, electric punch, stunning them into the chorus of loud laughter made around them. The beach itself, spanning many kilometres in length, was divided down its centre by a large rocky indentation from which it received its name, (Rocha – Rock), and the similar tide-play was at hand whenever crossing such rocky obstacle was necessary. At low, the very tip of the formation had a large arch that drooped, as if melting under a column of icy sunlight cast upon the sand, which could be crossed in a fragment of instant, and most would do a small, almost delicate sprint, afeared that the arch was about to collapse at any second. At high, however, one would need to cross a vast man-made tunnel that punctured the formation like a trephine blade; whoever made it did so at the longest and thinnest it could be, insofar as one would only have light at the very start and very end of it, having to thread everything else in a wall of solid darkness mixed with the thick, languid maritime humidity, which would cling to the feet like large bulbs of rot and whatever else laid there, abandoned in that black subterfuge. Most folks simply rose the steps of the cliff and descended on the other side, preferring the labour of three-hundred steps in a leering heat than the accursed tunnel. Another hideout, which was perhaps my favoured, was a large rock crater fully freestanding at the eastern sandbank, wholesomelly untouched by seawater for what seemed to be eons. In order to enter the convex platform at its core (whose natural coming-to-be still eludes me, since it has no logical reason to be as it is), one would need to climb one of its sides and jump inside, which, apart from a handful of kids at the very beginning of afternoons, was nearly always emptied and shaded. Of all of these wonders-in-themselves, myriad secrets could be found, and I would often slice and rend my feet trying to reach points where I did not belong, or, even more commonly, end up wailing back into my mother’s arms so she could remove a puny shore crab that latched — with some mysterious scythian might — to one of my fingers. Teary-eyed and abashed, I’d defend my honour each time by saying that I did not wish to harm the crab, thus, I couldn’t dare to remove it. «What if it loses a pincer?» I’d argue. I knew limbs regrew rather hastily, but pincers? Who could know? And they seemed very essential to the crabs; too essential, if such thing makes any residual sense.
Although I’d often make a strong case as to why spending the day at the beach was such a sterile activity, and how fruitless it seemed to me, especially since I did not enjoy being immersed by the ocean or large swaths of folks I did not know, my mother would allow nothing else than a punctual rise at seven, a long session of sunbathing under the earnest light of dawn and only until before midday, when the Sun would gnaw instantly with its violet teeth, such was the intensity with which it glistened. Returning at four, we’d stay in the beach for as long as the day permitted, and we’d often leave when naught but the black outlines of soccer-players would dart to and fro, backed by a dying star whose blood, dim and fervent, would hue the water with deep sapphire and give the waves, now smooth and slow and entirely voluble in their subtle conclusions, a tone of pearlescent cream and the texture of undulating webs. This was my favoured time, as it seemed that the world was waning upon itself, and the vast horizontal line which bore — now completely nude and unobstructed — the clear semblance of the Gods in all their aqueous journey into divinity, adorned with their nightly caparisons and their staves of cuneated streaks of light which they would stab into the imponent, high curtain of the universe, for safekeeping until next they rose, hauled by an inimitable silence that perdured, far and always far, beyond the reach of us, mortals darting to and fro, outlines of darkness and subtle conclusions. For saying things as absurd as these from a very young age, I’d inch towards that perduring silence and, given the chance, I’d swim and sail and sink there. My parents, often worried about my saturnine disposition, would urge me to meet other children, and would go as far as to befriend their parents just so I would be forced to stay with them, but it was all as fruitless as a day at the beach. I’d flit off, into the rocky hideouts and places where loneliness was a glorious rocky crown fallen atop my head; where, bathed not in a sea or in a swath, but in the grounding company of the artists which etched the shapes, melodies and points of the natural realms we inhabit, I’d be free from dream. The spray from a wave of the wispy hand loomed by the breeze are nubile spirits much kinder than those caustic ones of other children. Or so I thought, back then, while I gazed at the Gods and their shedding of multicoloured tears onto the last remaining men lining the shores, their backs to an infinite, prismatic divinity, and their fronts to a soccer ball.
Or, in my case, lonely explorers fightning the terrible iniquity of crabs, armed with nothing but mercy. Not cowardice, mercy.
Since one may not take a proper vacation this year, I thought I’d bring, through my words, my memory of the vacations I’ve taken throughout my puerile life. This is the first in a series of a few whose number entirely depends on how starkly I can remember them. I’m sorry if my prose seems a bit weaker than normal; I haven’t been feeling my fullest, and am bothered with some difficult mental demons.
I hope you enjoy this strange journey of worded vacations.
Monte Alerta (Monsaraz), at youngest night, a meticulously woven veil of darkness was cast upon those arid hills; Occupancy was scarce, and I’d taken a chance to flee my parents as they engaged in a fruitful political quarrel with our nearest tenants. I knew not the ways of the small garden, but I knew it to be vacant, as no silence quite as smothering could strap itself in a space where others would be present. Oh — and what a silence it’was; the world had gone mute, taken to a torpid physiognomy, and the contrast to such phase was my unrestful self, dauntingly expediting an oblivion of solitude, frigid, distant. Next to a short enclave hosting a no-longer-functional fountain, laid a lamp hanged from a tangerine-tree branch (which, if one is familiar with such kind of tree, knows not to hang much from it, since its branches are among the frailest — still, the lamp stood quiet, ligher than the light by itself emitted). That lamp was, objectively, the only source of light in those gardens, with the only one closest being that sleeved beyond the room’s shutters. All living gravitated towards that lonesome lamp, and as moth to flame, so did I. Below it, a hammock laid beside a small tea-table made of iron with a layer of deep-green paint, and two chairs to match, one upon each side. I laid in that hammock, energised by a warm dusk which no Moon came to haul; All within my sight was that lamp placed right above me, petrified, without that comfortable swivel we’ve come to know of objects so carelessly hung, as no breeze swept those moors, as none dared. In that orb of genuine yellow, I saw but the most impish critters attempting to reach it, feeding off its warmth, much as I did on a different scale.
“I’m not myself if not above or below me, enraged or dejected; in my habitual state, I ignore my existence.”
Emil Cioran, All Gall is Divided.
When space sumps into inexorable silence, a poet is robbed of lyricism; expression is no longer a front of waving beauty, but a howl lunged into warped dimensions of infinitude and fatalism. There was no rhyme under that lamp, no meter, no hope nor justice; there was blood shed from a flesh no longer in covenant with bone, beyond despair and pain, a loss so vast and an abandonment so cruel, that the most residual serenity could be projected upon that distortion, as does the light in-between those shutters. I chose my solitude, for in my mind, the rustle of my realms was sufficient sound and adequate melody; t’is when those realms are depleted and plunged into silence, that a soul screeches, blind and mute, in stumbling search for conformation, for a hand to secure reality when eyes no longer can.
I know how to call forth those moments so dear, And to live my Past—laid on thy knees—once more, For where should I seek for thy beauties but here In thy languorous heart and thy body so pure? I know how to call forth those moments so dear.”
Charles Boudelaire, The Balcony.
In those heath-lands of thorny silence, a mind, no matter how exurgent, is deconstructed. Without pylons to support its height, nor concepts to fuel its light, no mind lives; under that lamp and over that hammock, I was not above nor bellow myself, but at a centre where self was disintegrated by the very aperture which sees it, as an ant scorched by the focus of a magnifying glass. Then, I was reanimated, as my mind and self regained veritable shape through a chart of formalities, akin to a device being rebooted, and whilst so, a hallucination of thought elapsed: My consciousness formed a boy in peasant garments, walking in swivels at the side of an asphalt road, the margins of which stood replete with verdant overgrowth — emerald, even, shining its dew after a sultry day; The ditch siding the path had collected water beyond capacity, and these long, languorous pools of water were formed, fully absent of stream or direction, tailored akin to large sheets of mirrored glass. The boy was too reduced to disturb them, and yet, two metres forward from his direction, the pools rippled; it was always catalysed by his walk, paced by his pace, no matter the speed of his march, the pools always rippled two metres beyond him, yet the air was as silent as that brought to the light of my own lamp. Frightened and confused, the boy quickened his step as to surpass the event, but to no avail, and the road itself stood infinite, a perfunctory stretch of scenery hollowing itself, empty until all limits of sight had been called — soulless, but still, undoubtedly living — and undemanding, as such stretch laid so serene, and yet, the rippling, tiny and unassuming, took all attention in its abnormality. The boy mustered a final sprint fueled by frustration, but was quick to lose balance and trip upon himself, falling to his knees, scraping them lightly, and in wake of his fall, specks of asphalt projected onto the pools, rippling them in a familiar pattern. He wept with endearing gentility, as one does when purely alone, as he made his way along the stretch which had now taken a different shape — no more rippling, but vitality, swallows and songbirds, tall foliage and warmth, water rushing, hauling buoyant pine needles which soon collected around the drains. A serene world is not truthful to him; at least, if pain does not precede it. When such pain comes about, it is the lens from which we sight the beautiful fatality of chaos, and when such pain becomes abound, we are blinded by doubt and impermanence, which is woven into melody. No life exists before the pain, for such, to any living being, may only be a memory. While a boy (much to the likes of that rippling my thoughts), I knew to avoid nettles while I explored the rich lands in which I formed; I knew to avoid them not because I was warned, but from the moment they first caught me. With nearly somatic impulse, my awareness magnified the ground in which I stood, scanning for the pesky shrubbery whose painful sting is imprinted in my nerves. How many wonders have I lost in my obsessive quest to avoid them? How many sights, creatures, magnitudes? — in retrospective, it seems so small, and yet that demand of avoiding a pain which I knew, quickly became most what I could veritably know. That evisceration of quietude, of hours and days laid to waste while I forcibly replayed my failures as to not repeat them; the disappointments, doubts over such disappointments, and roots fanning into rich soil, draining all there is or could possibly have been, as a mind shuffles to sprint away from a daunting, voided future, only to bunt against a blurred past replete with memories of wakes and nettles, speared down in avoidance, anointed in sap and shame; what choice remains if not that of celebrating our ways.
Under that orb of light, perhaps, I pulled too much of what was laden; a sepulchre, decorated with plastic roses, is but my last vision of that night.
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.