There’s also my grandmother’s garden, published a while back, if you like looking at flowers.
There’s also my grandmother’s garden, published a while back, if you like looking at flowers.
There’s also my grandmother’s garden, published a while back, if you like looking at flowers.
The house slopes down from the holt, pieces of wenge sorted among lithe vertical panes, casting licks of sun upon the floors. The back-porch hung above the echo of a stream; it no longer ran even a hair of water. Standing purposefully near a dammed lake, during early mornings, one couldn’t detect the house from the trees due to a thick, sulphurous mist, and at the lips of a summery evening, one could enjoy the tunes of laughter from swimmers, or the sound of timber and scent of resin, a feeling of tempered rapture gracing the thoughts with smooth sand. As the chrysalis of moths Felix and I often found and kept in a shoe-box, that entire world seemed quiescent, and even my memory of it resists the curse of movement. Ingrid, the wife of the German architect whose hands birthed that beacon of modernity deeply enclaved in a Portuguese forested desert, spent her days reading Vesaas; with her short, brown hair and irises of a deep blue steel, she was unlike any woman I had seen. She held Vårnatt or Liv ved Straumen with such a grip of absorption, such a pure and centred consciousness, that as we looked for her hammock along the wide porch, she was entirely invisible against the quiescence; if we were to paint the vista, she’d be indiscernible from the yellowed foliage, and whenever she rose, the neutrality of her being was so that one couldn’t detect any happiness or sadness, just a form, a morphology, a rustling of leaves.
I spent an entire summer with Felix, the wheat-topped son of the couple, but I never met the father. As we made our way along the house, however, we could piece him together from the lines of his creations: the monumental skylights — as uncluttered as skylights could be — were two metres wide each and went uninterrupted until their sum was four, and not a speck of dust could be detected against the light blue; the only visual assonance was the armour of the skylights, eight thin white lines veining the heavens, and one final beam to tether them at the center. Felix and I gathered that he ought to be charismatic and surprisingly forthcoming, or maybe, he was frightened of being stuck, or senseless, or lost. All the rooms of their home were echoes of the last, all made of different tones of wood that demanded adjustment from the eyes; in certain instances, it was nearly impossible to tell what was wall, floor or ceiling, as the three were lined with small wooden panels whose shade could only indicate that, perhaps, the floor was a month older than the wall, or the ceiling was from trees of an adjacent plot to those of the counters. A thick layer of lacquer atop the panels robbed them of any residual contrast, and as the house sloped from the holt, once within, it felt like it was hovering above it, descending into the breath of nature itself. Felix and I figured he must have been melancholic, but not outwardly so, a very thin patina of melancholy that, perhaps, in any normal day of his life, he’d never guess he even had. There was no garden and, as is customary to European summer homes, no physical or imagined separation between what was property and what wasn’t. The house melded into the airy forest almost organically, but still, never failed to draw light into itself or to feel somewhat foreign. As we rose an effigy of symbols in order to give bevel to his father, the sentiment of notness never left the tips of our cogitations. We knew he wasn’t extravagant, or terribly daring, or colourful, or had any bombast; he was another figure of quiescence, and, perhaps with even bigger force, his absence was the most bombastic element of his being. His signature wasn’t just his subtlety, but his inexistance. After we became privy of that, we quickly fatigued of piecing together a presence, or labouring over the fables behind his miniature planes, which were all collected inside the only room completely walled in glass, the only one that felt earthly, human, present. We decided, instead, to pick apart a putrid log fallen onto the echo of the stream and play with the beetle grubs.
I never saw Felix after that summer, twelve years ago. The house was vacant three years after we were there, and after five with a caretaker, it was abandoned and scheduled to be demolished today. Now, I gaze at the same sky of limpid blue and fill it with the fiction of lithe white veins and a strong central tether, and from me spring the sounds of swimmers laughing, and slowly, another summer loses its place in reality, becomes historical, and I walk into my own subtle inexistence, my own inch tucked downwards from the holt, swallowed by the earth, echoed in my dreams.
I’ve had this conception since my childhood that we all contain some degree of emotional surrealism within us, some inner set of strings that attempts to disorganise our systems back into their sensorial forms, and, to me, such a tugging between inhabiting orders far too complexified to easily seep into us and listening to our disheveled sensorium tingling tunes that seem so distant, they might as well be eldritch, is the tugging responsible for our yearning to create. Nature is a disorderly place, as much as one likes to ascribe to it profound magnitudes of balance, it is still essential chaos, cruel and demanding and smotheringly bounteous in its expressions, and Spring, in my view, expresses it most; it is the period of survival, florescence and restlessness, the period of greatest demand, filled with equal measures of violence and colourful bombast. It displays something that is quintessential in my view: order is madness, an artificial madness with so many curious spectrums; our disconnection with the natural disorder, that primal wound we carry and oft ignore, that distance to our motherhood — albeit perhaps necessary to maintain the structures and systems we’ve built for social survival — is a wound, an abandonment, which seems forever difficult to balm. With this poem, I attempted to replicate just that: both the overwhelming disorder, and the intensely lyrical nature of Spring and our senses therein, and I did so by instrumentalising parts of my emotional surrealism that trail and fall off, ephemeral thoughts and reflections, alliterations and shifts in voice and tone, repetitions, and a good deal of my botanic and vocabular arsenal. Allusions to mythopoetic women of classical culture, through their realms and domains, are also woven carefully into the composition to summon the froth of the feminine spirit of change and emotional maturity, which, in my catalogue of association, coalesces so marvelously with the notion of naturality and the primaveral.
It’s certainly not, at its core, an easily digestible composition; it is very dense in most poetic aspects, like sound and symbol and image, and I’m sadly aware of this element. But, being raised and still continuing to live in such covenant with Nature, I could never peg it for something simple or parsimonious, as many poetic and prosaic expressions have previously. To me, it’s wondrously intricate and limitless, secretive and glorious, painful and healing. It’s nearly everything, and nearly everything can’t truly be simple in my eyes. Despite its dense qualities, I’m still hopeful that a reader will be able to extract meaning out of it.
Also, it might be a bit odd that a composition regarding Spring comes in February, but inflorescence happens a bit earlier in Portugal. We are already enjoying primareval weathers, and the cart of Spring already turns its vine-wheels through these lands.
A thousand blooming thank-you’s for reading.
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,Charles Boudelaire, The Balcony.
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.”
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.
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)
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?
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.
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.
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)