I don’t talk much about poetry (the theme) anymore, and I’ve always found it difficulty answering questions such as “what is poetry to you?” and “what is your relationship with poetry?”, (not that I get deluges of questions, I certainly do not). Some days ago, I was reading about Albert Tarantola, and I thought, why not view it through the perspective of an inverse problem? That is the origin of this (quite) simple composition, thank you for reading, João-Maria.
(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.
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.
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?
Before the world spun suddenly into this crucible of fear and solitude we identify today, I had plans of collecting forgotten relics of the Portuguese written arts. Lisbon is thronged with “alfarrabistas“, stores with the unique purpose of selling rare and used books, many of them bought in bulk from personal libraries found by folks once they lay their relatives to rest. These libraries often contain, besides various editions of World Literature classics (your common James Joyce “Ulysses” and Leo Tolstoy “War and Peace“), an even more interesting assortment of gifted-re-gifted books that bounce from generations without much thought to their existence. They are to bookshelves what pebbles are to beaches; but I’ve always taken a special interest in these books. Unfortunately, I was only able to find two before the entire globe crashed atop itself:
Encontro (Poemas D’Amor) Albino Fernandes de Sá
The inscription in the second image reads: “Ao sempre querido e inesquecível amigo Hélio, a quem este livro deve, em grande parte, o seu aparecimento, com um almoço de eterna gratidão, oferece: O autor Albino Fernandes de Sá” Translated: “To my ever sweet and unforgettable friend Hélio, to which this book owns, in large part, its existence, I offer, along with a lunch of eternal gratitude: Encounter (Love Poems). The author, Albino Fernandes de Sá”
It’s rare to find a book of limited printing, especially one such as “Encontro“, which was printed in 1954, fourty-one years prior to my birth; but rarest still, it seems, is to find one such book that was gifted by the author himself to the friend that inspired it. One is often given to reflections regarding the loss of being, that shedding, and concomitantly, where the scales of our shedding might lie; foundered in some sea-floor, rived by caracoles and barnacles, or earth-bitten under metres of soil, near a tall building or pile of rubble. None of us hold much of a clue regarding the destination of our droplets, our scales, our shards that stamp upon things our sole impression of what they are. Not much can be found regarding Albino Fernandes de Sá. Some registries of old, lost publications, indicate that he might have published, in collaboration, a series of treatises and short anthropological works regarding the old Portuguese-African colonies. Bibliographic guides have cited Governador da Hulía, a book he wrote apropos the ever-shifting political powers in the region of Hulía, Angola, is one such example (though most documents I’ve found cite this as a reference to Mozambique and not Angola, and the reason for such has eluded me thus far). Fernandes de Sá, however, was not a colonial native. By reading poems in “Encontro“, I rapidly gathered his place of birth to be Barcelos, in the Northern Portuguese region of Minho. It’s likely that he wasn’t from the city itself, since he mentions a village in the poem “A minha aldeia“, and later the river Neiva, in the aptly named poem “O Neiva“.
“Encontro” chronicles, in punctilious detail, the entire life of Fernandes de Sá. It delineates his birthplace and parents, his favourite flowers as a child, his journeys to the coast and first sight of sea, his first voyage to the colonies, his upbringing with his “bark-haired” loving sister, his first love, marriage, first daughter and son. The hymeneal bliss in which he found himself, as if citterns played everywhere, buoyant as bubbles along the smoothest whiff of air, plays a coronary role in this book. Fernandes de Sá wrote of it all in a-hundred-and-fifty sonnets, which are, thus far, the only creative publication I’ve found under his name; even then, “Encontro” was a personal publication. It never had a commercial form nor was it ever available beyond the copies requested by the author. I haven’t, however, found any other extant copy of the book, either for sale or under private hands. The last record of Fernandes de Sá publicly available was a print of his presence in a literary gathering in Sá da Bandeira (present-day Lubango), dated 1963. I found no evidence of living descendants ever returning to Portugal, but it is indubitable that they exist, albeit perhaps disconnected from the written aspect of Fernandes de Sá‘s life. This leads me to the rather feeble conclusion that this book I currently hold is, with a strong chance, the last remnant of Albino’s personal writings, and that it likely came from the private library of Hélio himself, the friend that inspired its creation.
Nature has its lovers, that charged with affection, with sugar, she, sometimes, employs in the making of vistas glazed in a thousand colours!
Radiated by auroral showers, it slithers through the moss-green web of the view, beaming with freshness, from Antas, the Neiva, lined in flowers.
It seems like a mirror of luminous crystal, in which my sumptuous village sights its own profile of emerald and sapphire.
Since my youth I returned its ardent love. I figure that within my blood runs the dew that flows in my sweet and beautiful Neiva.
A dream that has not died
A dream that has not died: my Angola. Since youth, I wanted to give it my life. It smiled, fair and colourful, like to the sun smiles a corolla.
Its voice was a coo of a dove that between the boughs sings invitingly. I made her my bride, my most wanted, and she, in sadness, consoled me.
I loved her with passion; in her, my dreams of love and beauty came to find warmth and home to live happily.
I then decided to give her my vigour, my life, my blood and my love, all of which, far from her, would die.
(Note: these translations are not entirely faithful to the original metric and scheme of the poems, since most of them are written in a form of Portuguese already adapted to sonorific effects; these translations merely intend to mimic the original sentiment of the text)
Those scales — shards of impression — may fall anywhere indeed. It’s uncertain to me if “Encontro” was first produced in Angola, though the date of its publication and the last record of Albino both congruently indicate that it was written and printed there, in Sá da Bandeira, mid-twentieth century. I know not who carried it to Portugal, where it was kept or how long it percolated, from a hand to another, until it was drowned beneath multitudinous old books on the most varied subjects, and lastly, picked up by me, likely due to my profound weakness regarding the shaded outline of spring swallows. Every attempt I make at alchemising a possible story sounds overly poetical and contrasts with my knowledge of this world. This now lonely, diseased, and at times, unbearably real world. What I know is that the words of Fernandes de Sá have found another “encounter” in their subtle existence, and that, at least for now, they have another home in which to perdure, another memory to cling to.
The other book, “Lucilações” by Telémaco Augusto Santana, shares many elements with this one, but has many more elements unique to itself; sadly, in fear of making this post any denser, I will publish it at a later date, but as soon as possible.
I hope you enjoyed this brief journey into the oblivion of words; I have more planned, hopefully, if and when things resume to themselves. I would also like to deepen the prose of these voyages; unfortunately with the case of Fernandes de Sá, I’m not sufficiently knowledgeable of Northern Portugal, nor have I ever visited Angola (only Mozambique and South Africa).
We become inured to the tragedies of our miracles. I see now a Europe leeched dry of its fortitude; Lisbon is empty, and it seems that I plash about inside indifferent space. It feels colder, now, but only because it feels the same. The old gypsy moth flaps its thin veil of dust just the same, crowned in indifference, and my lungs can no longer complete a conscious breath; half of them seems filled with a tasteless disease, and the other half bubbles. It’s fear, the whole sum of it. A small thing traveled so far and rived our world, a world held together by fragile specks of dust with lungs brimming with fear, a world that thrashes around, enchained, servile, a cold point in a warm room. We forgot how to fear wisely, we became inured to the tragedies of being, we’ve heard of them time and time again, how many have died, how they suffered, how the bones of their calloused hands are now the palisades we gawk at, how the arts of those we’ve lost are the lymph and blood of beauty, a beauty made with the hardest of stones abraded by the softest of waters, a beauty made of loss, of cost, of brokenness, and so much of it is now sand in a Greek coast, ash in a Chinese garden, pearls of rime in a Peruvian summit. Our numbness to what once was is filled with fear. We’ve seen a history so unforgiving, we cannot move a foot without the miracle of forgetting, all immediately or simply slowly, that we are here merely to perform a disappearance. This is not our task, this is not our purpose, this is not the whole of what we are, but as one fills the lungs once more and feels them bubble, as one dreads that incoate breath paused by illness and fear, one cannot fail to remember suddenly that half of life is paused with unbecoming, with shedding. Conclusion is a messy, hungry master; it feeds and expands, much as a disease, until there is naught but itself and the warmth of emptiness. I cannot walk in my own city, but I can see it dry and wither from my room, I can see the spectres dart and fling about, the gypsy moths and the pigeons, aureated with the sheen of their indifference, shall now and for a short while be the rulers of our frail legacies, and they shall rule with effortless justice. After all, they have no need to forget, and as blindness is such a dear consort to fear, I spend my days trying to forget even what is to come, trying to knit, below those I love the most, a net of artificial safety. I try to give air to their lungs filled with fear, yet I have so little to spare. Afraid and enclosed, we wonder then: what will tomorrow bring? Another malaise, another death, another end to the means of living? A longer shadow still, it seems, than that of falling so violently ill, is the sensation of falling regardless, the slow and breath-stealing descent that has stricken us, falling, destitute, sick, in pain, afraid. Our pains are fresh, still, and it is long before they heal, and none alive today shall forget the tolls of this tragedy, but it is of little use to ironclad our much-too-real paranoia now, since more wounds will inevitably open. What truly matters now is the power of our painful difference in this world, because as much as we may never again forget the tolls of this immeasurable descent, we must just as strongly be reminded of our ability to alter it: stay home, be generous, listen, be protected and protect those you love. None of us is alone, we are all responsible, we are all entombed by the same fears. Be safe, for you, for us all.
Approach, there are voices, a finished star. We select a stick and twist the algae, what does it contain now? At once, everything, all colour and light any eye is to receive; stringy life in vertical lifelessness, and there are systems as hyaline as emotions, finished stars, beginning stars, some are turtles and some, small tadpoles. This sensory realm unfolds its frills and aqueous dreams spur out, yet there is cruelty: this I see, but how do I say it? Systems are cocoons around the unbending, spiritual cages around sensuous shapes, and none is to float in the air they break. A brush is lifted to reproduce the stream, paints percolate and fall like the corpses of a vision; however, this is the vision, the fatality of colours and lights any eye bleeds to receive; the commissures of expression stretch once more, because more is to be said, motions, movements, the bunting of colours as unfocused displays of sensuality that obstreperously flee from the point of magic; nearly suddenly, movement is an object of dissension, a prize of lack, because what moves cannot do so in all orientations nor arrive absolutely. We are taken back, a squalid lucidity flashes the room, a shiver, a warm bright-white sun which is a finished star and a beginning star, perception is formed and is unstinting, the content of a phrase putrefies, a dusty painting. There is futility in order, yet we so orderly design the dream which isn’t dream any longer: the books go here, by the margin, Bach follows above the gleam, a pestitential smile that dims under an odd tugging of loss; yet another membrane of lack, expanded, intumesced, a breathing wound in horizontal breathlessness, a pulley lowering the ropes around our necks until we touch the ground: the world lies right there, there, you may see it, and this you see, but how do you live it? How do you stand in an unsound architecture?
What boils the dream into a tarry sludge is the statuesque essence of extremity, be in ultimate positive insofar as you desire yourself in each millimetre of bled-out sight, each motion of pain and each dimension of possession; an extreme safety banishes an extreme fear, an extreme hatred dissolves an extreme weakness; we are wholesomely corporeal in our dreams, we are flimsy legs and velvet flesh, we are green, sometimes pink, and rarest of all, we can be purple, full things in a full realm of unsmothered movements that stretch in all directions and arrive absolutely in each.
But it is not the profound dissociation from dream and living that languishes the spirit or dries the stream, it is maddening poise of how inextricable they are, those instants of total sensory delivery that are godly hands rending the systems, fledgling swallows in the flocks of words, poppies wavering in the fields of memory, which become themselves the words and the waverings; instants where life is undiscerned from anything else, a pure fount of sense where we become untetherable from the totalities we contain; instants where we become unobliteratable, and thus, disenchanted with obliterative extremes, both dream and dream, life and life, a beginning star and a finished star.
Those are the truths I’d like to keep, the ferment of my writings, my systems, but trying to encapsulate them is like trying to collect bladed plumes; to reproduce them is to shatter the silent nature that allows their force. Perhaps by lack of talent or stamina or persistence or experience, I can never quite get to them, I can never bring someone to that point of exurgent sensory blossoming that informs my creations, but I’m not giving up just yet.
I spent a good deal of December avoiding the written arts entirely; there was this sentiment of emotional threshold, a sensation that the stacks of words I was creating were cindery distillations of ire or sadness. The purge I necessitated to convalesce informed my Art, but I thought it should be contrary, that my Art should instruct the purge, navigate the healing, become a beacon of undiluted self that extended structural fingers of beauty to raise me from any form of depth. My creative reluctance ended with this piece, a malformed narrative schematic-of-a-poem, overwrought and of painful reading, written in a about forty minutes without interruption. I returned to my methodical alcove and once more resigned to the weight of my distortions, yet I’m not ashamed, strangely, because I must herald the authenticity of my expression even when it is a shattered crystal, even when I’m met with the countenance of what I sought to exile from myself; because it is impossible to heal when we are eternally bound to the shame of hurting.
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.
I don’t always know how to write poetry; well, I do know how it is meant to be written, I just can’t say I know how to write it. Every time I write a poem, it feels like I’m learning to write poetry all over, and over, and over, stretching longitudinally like a row of trees lining an horizon, perpetually learning how to grow. Hence why, I believe, it is so difficult to publish something I’ve written; I essentially have no perception of my evolution, thus, I can’t really feel like I’ve evolved. I can objectively put a poem of mine from years ago and one that I’ve just written, and of course I prefer the latter, but merely because I am the latter presently, and I shall never again be the former nor feel it in the dimensions I felt it when it was penned. But this is a hurdle that extends to life, at least in some ways. We can say we have evolved, but it is hard to pinpoint the whys, the hows, the morphology we had and now have seem, at times, entirely disconnected, separate autonomous beings, and sighting ourselves in retrospect can often feel like seeing something entirely eldritch, the sun that warmed us then doesn’t feel like the same sun, the waters we bathe in don’t feel like the same waters, and there is this strange sentiment, like we are perpetually learning how to grow, how to do these same things in new ways, ways that match our new beings.
(Thank you for reading me, I know I’ve been diffuse lately, but even if I’m not great at this, I always try to give the best of myself that I have, and I’m incredibly grateful that you allow me that luxury)
Only in false gold have my eyes shimmered; I’m a sphynx without mystery at sight. The sadness of things that never happened descend in my soul as a veiled light.
In my pain, craving swords are broken, illuminated arrows blend with dark. The shades flowing from me are torn apart, as with yesterday, to me, today is forsaken.
I quiver no longer in face of secrecy; Nothing torments me, not even gore: Life flows through me like a war, Without a single breath of fear!
I’m a drunken star who lost its skies, a maddened mermaid who left the sea; A godless temple crumbling to its lies, A false statue still held highly.
Mário de Sá-Carneiro, Paris, 5 of May of 1913
MERCEDES IN HER FLIGHT
A gelid and upright guitar is what you are in rocks of height. A throatless voice, a dark voice sounding everything without sounding anything.
Your thoughts are snow slipped by the infinite glory of whiteness. Your profile a perennial burn, your heart a freed dove.
Sing, sing in the freedom of air, that fragrant dawning melody, mound of light and wound of lily.
So that we, down here, day and night shall make in the corners of sadness a garland of melancholy.
Federico García Lorca
55, Rain Passage
«In each raindrop my failed life cries within nature. There is something in my drop-by-drop disquiet, in the downpour-to-downpour with which the sadness of a day unbecomes uselessly over the earth. It rains heavily, so heavily. My soul is humid just by hearing it. So heavily… My flesh is liquid and aqueous wrapping around my sensation of it. A restless cold places those frigid hands around my poor heart. The grey hours stretch out, flatten themselves upon time; the moments drag out. How it rains! The gutters spit out scant torrents of water always suddenly. Slithers through my knowledge that there are pipes with an unsettling noise of down-spurt. Rain bangs against the glass, indolent, moaning.
A cold hand grips my throat and impedes me from breathing life. Everything dies within me, even the knowledge that I can dream! In no physical sense am I fine. Every softness in which I recline has edges for my soul. All eyes I look upon are so dim after this indigent daylight breaks onto them so it can die without pain.»
Fernando Pessoa (through Bernardo Soares), 1914(?) in Book of Disquiet
«What imprecise queen holds near her lakes the memory of my broken life? I was the pageboy of promenades too insufficient to the aerial hours of my blue stillness. Distant ships completed the sea by waving over my terraces, and in southern clouds I lost my soul, like a dropped paddle.»
Fernando Pessoa (through Bernardo Soares), 1918(?), in Book of Disquiet
Again, not quite as potent as I would have it; writing compositions over days (or, at times, weeks) allows for a more refined method of writing, but some assaulting sensations end up becoming elements of works where they don’t necessarily belong, which makes the process muddy. Sieving said sensations, percolating them, becomes a bit of an exercise in taste more than anything else. If only this had a science (it wouldn’t be half as interesting if it did). I also realise that merely saying these are translations doesn’t do much without access to the original texts, so, I’ve provided it here. If you do happen to know Portuguese (olá), and would like to offer translation feedback, I would be immensely grateful of such, since my translation skills are rather primal.
«‘But Bernard goes on talking. Up they bubble — images. “Like a camel,” . . . “a vulture.” The camel is a vulture; the vulture a camel; for Bernard is a dangling wire, loose, but seductive. Yes, for when he talks, when he makes his foolish comparisons, a lightness comes over one. One floats, too, as if one were that bubble; one is freed; I have escaped, one feels. Even the chubby little boys (Dalton, Larpent and Baker) feel the same abandonment. They like this better than the cricket. They catch the phrases as they bubble. They let the feathery grasses tickle their noses. And then we all feel Percival lying heavy among us. His curious guffaw seems to sanction our laughter. But now he has rolled himself over in the long grass. He is, I think, chewing a stalk between his teeth. He feels bored; I too feel bored. Bernard at once perceives that we are bored. I detect a certain effort, an extravagance in his phrase, as if he said “Look!” but Percival says “No.” For he is always the first to detect insincerity; and is brutal in the extreme. The sentence tails off feebly. Yes, the appalling moment has come when Bernard’s power fails him and there is no longer any sequence and he sags and twiddles a bit of string and falls silent, gaping as if about to burst into tears. Among the tortures and devastations of life is this then — our friends are not able to finish their stories.’»
Virginia Woolf, The Waves.
Along my inclement journey with literature, towards which I’m always shackled into a sentiment of certain rain-shadow, no book entreats more envy to me than The Waves, despite not even being my most favoured book. That writing, itself suffusing in one’s mind like luminous vermillion ink thrown at the solid shadows of a nightly sea, manages to collect the summonings of a graceful elm whose leaves command delicate beams of light that lick the hairs of ancient Gods, and whose roots silhouette skeletons quivering and thrilling with allegories of forgotten heroes. I would readily give much of what I have — which isn’t much at all — if I could write with her convex descriptions and concave emotional realisms. Virginia dawned lives inside herself so ravelled and ornate, one should only feel the perpetual shame of inhabiting a world in which a soul as hers could ever meet a fate so ruthless. But I lean against my stile to find the watery-eyed posture of loss trailing my memories of her, serenely laden against her own, looking at the threaded colours diluted in the glass, conjuring the whirlpools of vivid sorrow that I and so many others readers have been entranced by, and I’m happy to fit silently into her designs. Extremely happy with the chance of doing so, at least.
In the passage above quoted, Louis catches Bernard be betrayed by his own oneirism and enchanting absurdity for the first time; this laceration is one that any wordsmith is far-too privy to, when we feel our phrases with such intensity yet they become miserable attempts at flight once they leave their tidy homes within our minds. This heartbreak is inexorable, and, as children, we are lured into it as the carps of a pond whose surface ripples with breadcrumbs; the world, as in others, as in natures, as in images, cannot resist the prestidigitation of padding our hearts full of prismatic lights only to fracture it with one stealthy strike. Percival delivered that strike to Bernard, but I do not have any literary account of who delivered that strike onto me, but rather, a series of blows along the coastal remains of my life in shape of dense black spots in a beach brimming with whiteness. They grow; they grow once remembered, once any is added, some coalesce and obscure further hideouts of my youth, some are so intimately cruel that they seethe with a purple, purulent aroma, and those I cannot ever approach, as they hold the tyranny of possibilities.
Once, at a swift nightly escapade with my friends in the dusk of Lisbon, I broke down in a self-liturgy pulled from my own sense of decay. Those friends, some actors of considerable talent, some writers containing what, to me, were the greatest possible stories, all of them liegemen to the Arts which I, due to cowardice, so vehemently denied to ever stand a chance of creating anything worthy of the inheritance those Arts so severely cast upon their creators, these friends stand both as the Atlantean pillars of my dreams and those black and grim holes of memory; constant reminders of my timid and inept attempts at existing half-formed in a world that seduced and daunted me in equal magnitudes. I broke down as Bernard did, fervently portending my own doomed reality in which my story would never be finished, but scattered among others; I was to die as a liegeman to them and not to the Arts they served; a pathetic being in a frail cocoon that I, frailest still, couldn’t shatter. And that was a task and fate that disappointed me, but did not dissatisfy me, as holding that would elevate holding nothing.
In more ways that those I’m able to count, perhaps like specks of obsidian dusk pairing above a stream, both dark and brilliant, the creation of this website allowed my continued survival. I do not write for posterity or immortality, as those things are uninteresting to me, and it does not bother me that I will be forgotten. I write, now, for interaction, my interaction with both the Art I love and with those who love it as much as I, to exist in a cordon of souls representing both aspects of Virginia’s Percival, those who receive my words as to allow them their chance of flight, their chance of surviving my despotic and cruel rule, and those who are bored by them, because those are the ones who inspire poetry.
I’m always on the prowl for ambient sounds apt for concentration, quest which led me to some of the most endeared songs of my library. Recently, I came across Ensō, by Fort Nowhere, followed by my procurement of what Ensō meant, the discovery of that Japanese spiritual practice, along with Japanese aesthetics, which I explored through various sources until I came upon this article, which features a series of Japanese aesthetic principles along with an Ensō ( which completed a full circle in my quest, interestingly). Inspired by the various principles presented in the article, I attempted to create seven compositions related to how those principles interact (although at times a bit loosely) with my own ontological views. I paired each principle with a material or substance, to have both a thematic and a cosmetic focus for each poem. They are simple, very simple poems, some plangent, some more delicate, all of them written in the same style but independent of one-another, which means you may read only the one you feel most drawn to, or read all in the hope that you might like at least one of them. They are ordered as follows:
Needless to say, they are more modernistic than oriental in tonality and form, but my primary attempt was to coalesce the two in my own style. I don’t feel that I was fully successful, but I decided to heed to my most oriental principle: just to let them be. I produced them in two hours, in Portuguese, and did not edit them. I still hope you managed to extract something valuable or, at least, be entertained. Thank you much for reading, João-Maria.
Writing poems has, slowly, become a ritualistic exercise of hindering the velocity of my mind-dialectic, give it a shape, try to understand what it is I’m trying to reach. I rarely ever reach it. Various elements go missing, and I end up scouring a wreckage more-so than exploring an inner architecture. That is the thing, though, things don’t often come out as they are, and less often come out as they should, but it’s still important that they do.
The “you” element is not something I ordinarily use in English poetry, I don’t always like the form it takes in English, as it feels more dual than I believe it should. This poem, however, as all of those I’ve recently published, is translated from its Portuguese original. Don’t judge it too harshly, he is not from here, you see…