(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.
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’m going to start publishing some “humbler” poems I have stored and continually write; although I’m quite demanding of, if not the quality of the poetics themselves, at least the attempted quality of the posts, as well as their parsimony, I realise that I’ve become quite obsessive with it, which ebbs against me rather than flow in my benefit. There’s no use in being associated with just density, just longevity, or even just the maximum of what I can provide, if that comes at the cost of the development of veritable writing versatility. Some will indubitably be worse than others, and I still prefer my denser, longer works, if not just because I truly lucubrate over those extensively, but I hold the belief that all of creative work — mine or yours — has a tangible intrinsic worth; perhaps not to all, but it does to me. One ought to practice what one preaches.)
Thank you tons, you guys, João-Maria.
(Also, a huge thank you to Sapna, and the power-double from StarTwo [visual artists and storytellers with such enviable skills, one would be tempted to steal their hands], for nominating me for awards; I don’t reply solely because I have a golden rule of only creating literary-themed posts and none other, otherwise this blog would be a flurry of piano album reviews and tributes to deciduous trees, but I truly, deeply appreciate you guys remembering me; if I did awards, I surely wouldn’t forget you either)
(And a monumental bow to Kaiter, for including me in his circulars whenever my work passes the readable threshold; to be included is — if one is attentive to his beautiful talents, rectitude and rigour — beyond any word that synonyms incredible, and I’m tremendously grateful. If anything, I’m already immensely grateful that I get to enjoy the other contents in his blog and circulars, whose eminent taste I’d recommend to anyone who’d enjoy a step above my own works.)
These days, to write feels almost strange, almost selfish. Torrents of flurries of anxieties ignite the nerves, and one feels leeched before the first phrase forms. Solitude outcasts the voices — depersonalises — and what once was an interaction of linings, echoes of a singular voice with many textures, seems now like a procession of isolated galleys. There is no dismissing of these voices, they haul the murderers, the mercenaries of our creative constructs. A succession of disasters that reshape, with the tools of torture, a disjointed spectre of reality, one that bounces only from itself, and is only madness.
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.
In spirit of support for Hong Kong’s recent and on-going social struggle, I decided to review one Cantonese work that had the vastest artistic influence over myself and my own creative method, and that work is, without an inkling of doubt, Wong Kar Wai’s Happy Together, made in 1997. This film proved to be the deserved consolidation of Wai’s directorial style and, simultaneously, a unique insight into Hong Kong’s LGBTQ+ dynamics as well as the specific emotional axioms of abusive relationships in a profound state of isolation. The film, armed with a minimalist cast of only three actors and an even more parsimonious and unfinished script that weaves itself together by means of image and sound, is a sprawling exploration about the coalescence of masculinity and the tumultuous and abashing treatment of LGBTQ+ communities in certain countries, a mixture that exacerbates a type of emotional mutism and reinforces the role of violence, both emotional and physical, in replacing the lack of communication and expressive clarity that should lie at the heart of any interpersonal relationship.
The relationship between Ho Po-wing, an airy and infantile man whose volatility proves highly obliterative, and Lai Yiu-fai, a depressive and internally unstable individual who finds himself in a perpetual performance of silent self-destruction, serves as the machine-of-war for the film’s dark existence; Ho Po-wing recurrent malediction, «Let’s start over.», made whenever the relationship felt most strenuous, was further engraved by his purchase of a lamp that resembled the Iguazu Falls, which the couple had planned to visit. This lamp acts as the central nervous system of a relatively diaphanous narrative. Both Ho’s infatuation with it and Lai’s attachment to what it represents seems to tether them both to a sense of eventual romantic actuation: as long as the luminous waters of the lamp cascade, so does the blood of the conjoined and corrupting heart of their relationship. The film then shifts its focus to the exploration of Lai’s convalescence from this deeply abusive relationship, one that left him with the sorrow of survival and confusion thereof, to survive outside and beyond a mechanism of abuse that slowly became his raison-d’être, one that left him felt alone, lost, ashamed, betrayed and obliterated, trapped in a country which wasn’t his own and unable to return.
Wong Kar Wai’s lavishly dim cinematographic aesthetics, after gaining emboss in Chungking Express (1996), are further consolidated in Happy Together; the recurrent chromatic shifts that play upon the levels of narrative magnitude, the derelict and harsh environments reverberated by a sanitised, dry usage of light that appear as a signature of both his thematic emotional acuity and as a replication of Hong Kong’s own neon-spent frigid and synthetic streets, and the instrumentation of visual punctuations, chiefly exemplified by the films opening scene, a sanguine and heaving sexual encounter whose aggressiveness is found in both the actors and the corner-angled, gradually more intimate shots; the aesthetic interludes of the film also serve as vibrant expository conveyors, and such is the case with the bird’s eye shot of Iguazu Falls which is overlaid with a low-saturation filter and backgrounded by Caetano Veloso’s Cucurrucucú paloma, a pensive song about the destructive motions of lovesickness; shots like the kitchen tango scene, or the culmination of Lai’s emotional devastation in the voice recorder scene, are made with a level of artistic direction that, as far as my experience with film goes, has no parallel in how effectively it translates the most profound and vicious elements of emotional abuse in romantic relationships.
With a soundtrack that includes Astor Piazzolla’s Tangos, Frank Zappa’s I Have Been In You, and a cover of Happy Together by The Turtles (which inspired the English name of the film), Wai assures not only that every scene receives and apposite sound, but also that all the themes intertwine seamlessly, something he was already famed for after the release of Chungking Express and its memorable usage of California Dreamin’.
Lastly, I would like to express my support for the Cantonese people; their culture and heritage is not only thronged with beautiful works, it also had a magnificent impact on the cultural productions of today, on and beyond Cinema. One such example is Nicholas Wong’s Crevasse, a guttural poetry collection about growing up LGBTQ+ in Hong Kong that I could not recommend more.
I tend to write too much. Recently, I’ve perscrutated some of my older documents, hundreds of pages of unfinished poems and texts, unnamed corpses with maggots glowing with auroral colours, some contained beautiful ideas done poorly, others were armed with beautiful constructions enveloping poor ideas, and I only gained a real sense of how much I write when I saw at them, all those fragile creatures and growing things. I seem to write nearly out of habit, like everything spoke to me with some unbearable silence that I’m encumbered with deciphering. Poetry was never forefront in my productions, and I started composing for the bounds and restrictions; the parsimonious quality words attain, that bug of shortening and condensing, it helps me quiet down. What I want, still, is to write a novel, but I find it to be a tortuous exercise at times: I write walls, I water every minute aspect of my realms, and I can’t truly shake the sensation that I write too extensively, too strenuously, almost too delicately, thus, I never truly started a novel, despite my monumental amount of inklings here and there, small blossoms of lemon thyme. I’ve never given up on training, though, if I might someday take hand at a task I’m likely to fail at, I must at least take solace in my trials, in my tiny evolutions. I’ve been looming three separate documents for a while: Echolocations, so I can train on shortening and sharpening my descriptions of places, mostly exteriors (interiors are rather easy to pen, since personal items carry symbols, they are purposeful, they can be calculated); Melisma, where I practice my precision on collective events or passages with movement and vibrancy, mostly describing isolated scenes that require further aid; and Restoration of a River, a small narrative development where I further my creation of characters.
This latter one, however, proves to be the most arduous, for a great dichotomy plagues it like a pestilential locust: human beings are beautifully woven, fluid and frail things, and one can’t help painting them with as much brushes as it lays possible; we, as their creators, see them so sharply and care for them so limpidly, it feels criminal to let them go misunderstood, but, being misunderstood is one of the humanest things we all experience, and we rob them of their humanity if we rob them of that. A conundrum indeed, and in ambiguous instances like these, where I must weigh the exact measure of my control, are the ones where I often lose it entirely.
“Grant, which had not ignored the look completely, found it too fatuous to warrant intervention, but that sensation of idleness circled his thoughts and held them captive. «Maybe I should have said something,», he thought, both infuriated that he didn’t and regretful that the chance had escaped his grip, «but surely, if I paint him correctly as someone who does and says for score, another opportunity shall arise for me to muzzle him» and with this thought, he entombed that haunting sensation. Grant was more of a yew than a human; incredibly tall and wide, if one was to stand as close as a metre, he would nearly fill horizon to horizon; this physical attribute, coupled with a pointed sense of his surroundings and those who occupied them, coadunated into a form of distant sentinel, and one couldn’t help but feel as immensely aware of him as he was of everything. His eye, for how incisive it tended to be, often led him into the wildest hunts of imagination, and after leaving with Louisa and Payne in search of his stick, his thoughts slithered into the knots of every trunk, the silky lips of the rivulet whispering the spirit of mint, an odd cawing here and there of a bird he couldn’t quite identify but that reminded him of his sylvan childhood, how green things seemed back then; and then his mother, her pallid skin so similar to the birch bark, and a smile which, much like him, seemed to fill horizon to horizon whenever he arrived home, and so he kept busy with details, never idle and never restless, but a median of dream he came to master.“
Restoration of a River
Harder still than ebbing between the voice we allow them and the voice we take from them is perhaps the osmosis of interaction. In our quotidian, it is rather easy to spot how often we abnegate shards of our expression so others can express, how often we judge how much to abnegate in order to enrich our relationships, enrich our own expressions and projections of selves; how much of us exists in this world tends to consist mostly of what of ourselves is contained in others, and applying those mechanisms and dynamics into the parsonages, crafting individual devices of abnegation and judgement for each of them in a way that they fit one another almost inextricably, proves to be more than a bit demanding. I don’t want to merely generate a lazy narrative force that drives characters forward in a particular path, but instead, people that are driven beneath and beyond that force, characters that are able to be moved without the magnitude of villains and mysteries and tragedies and dalliances, because very few of us are driven by those things. We are driven by what we are into what we become. And that element of being proves hardest to replicate, although certainly not impossible, as many did it in the past.
Collie, now near Sandra, kept his eyes coiled to the ground whenever he felt she might turn to him, locking the air with a breeze of timid silence, shrouding his hands within the side-pockets of his coat. A mist rolled with the softness of a first snowfall, and their breath condensated in a brisk show of glimmer whenever it encountered small rays of the wintry low-hovering sun. Sandra, a bit disheartened with the disruption of her solitude, despised appearing icy, as that resulted in others taking her for a bland character, something she assured herself often that she was not, thus she shattered the ice before it even formed: — Collie, right? I went to school with your brother, or at least I think he was your brother. What was it? Liam? — she said, manufacturing some sense of doubt not to appear overly cognisant of the lives of others. — Yes, Liam!, he’s my elder brother. Was he your friend? — Collie replied, exulted that she had taken notice, but somewhat laden in his speech, as if a cold boulder sat on his throat. — Not friends, no. I merely knew him from sight. How’s he doing? I haven’t seen him in a good count of years, feels like. — Sandra said, raising the weight of her taciturn eyes to a point that her face seemed suffused with the features of a solemn and torpid lake, distantly removed, tightly hidden atop some remote mountain. This was an instrument she made use of, but she wasn’t aware of why nor what purpose it meant to achieve, she simply did it as one simply eats or simply bathes. — Yeah, I suppose he wasn’t much of a friendly type, it was a silly question. He moved near the coast, to study. He doesn’t visit nor call much. My father insists that Liam feels we can no longer understand his profound and modern forms of communication, but that he will return when he needs to. «They always do», he says, because «when they are in need to be understood, they very rarely don’t find the words», as words only evade us when they detect our insincerity. And when we feel we can bend them to our liking, they tend to bend us instead. — Collie prattled, and then widened his eyes, falling into a chasm of quietude as soon as he realised how much he had just spoken. These meagre embarrassments of youth seem to hold so much gravity to us at the time, but with age, they become fundamental habits of our self-distinction and almost definitive elements of our personalities. Sandra found the splurge of information tenderly effusing; it allowed her greater times of silence, bigger windows of invisibility, and the way she lovingly held each word he uttered (as it represented another word she wouldn’t have to utter) was shown clearly in her expression: the lake began to lower calmly, undetectable, her skin was more visible as her face angled upwards, a tone of olive sheen befell it and she almost appeared to be a feminine bronze statue foregrounding a Mediterranean dawn, still graced with the dew of a humid night, glimmering and exurgent. This shift wasn’t noticed by Collie, who was still submerged in his own infantile discomfiture.
Restoration of a River
Both fragments of the document represent a tiny amount of what I’ve written on it, but they are among the weakest parts of the text; they showcase well the measure of my shortcomings and, in some strange sense, I prefer to exhibit these instead of the stronger ones. Perhaps one day I will feel ready, but being aware of my inadequacies seems the best way to inch closer to that readiness, however long it may take. And thank you, if you’ve made it this far along. I write far too much.
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 have few conversations which lay vivid in my mind, very few, in fact. I’m one for the dead particulates of experience, objects that don’t move nor breathe, still things, oblivious details, a sort of hyperesthesia which only serves to coif the saturnine adepts of purple prose. And my predilection for «things» is not given by an inflated sense of grandiosity or any specific disillusionment with people, but rather, the fact that I have a sensorial perspicacity about me, I see people as sounds at times, some are colours or tastes, because although those things are as volatile as people, they are volatile in predicable manners, in opposite to people. Thus, I tend to cling to my own clarities, my own bitter domains within, where any disappointment is only my own.
Yet, one particular conversation clenches firmly, often removing me from my self-centred dalliances; it was a prolonged and especially strained dialogue between one of my clients and I. He, an elderly man likely in the block of seventy and a few; a small and frumpy man who, despite wielding a stern, taciturn conduct, appeared fervently keen of talking once any given body presented itself for the role of listening. Shortsock (which is a direct translation of his Portuguese name) had served shortly in the Ultramarine War at the earliest years of Portugal’s most extensive dictatorship, and upon return he came to be a carpenter much to the likes of my father — with whom he shares many years of friendship — and ceased his working activities as a public servant, profession he only did for a bout. Our conversation began from an interjection, a rhyming couplet he slung towards my sister apropos some awfully unspecific newsreel back-grounding the administrative room, afterwards quickly proclaiming it as his own. A short «do you write?» from my sister, sounding mildly uninterested, led to an answer in the affirmative and a successive «my brother loves to read», a type of statement typically harrowing to anyone as timorous as I, especially when it alights certain aspects of self which one rarely likes to exhibit, if not only for the sense of property they are often dignified with. I proceeded a bit protectively, opting to ask which authors he found most approximated his liking, a question that he dismissed with celerity in favour of maundering how civilisation was so vile and mordant, being that both the reason why he wrote as well as his most versed subject. I asseverated a tad frigidly that political poetry, much in the threads of anything general and distant, failed to captivate my attention entirely, and that I strongly preferred the unique and indelible quality of experience, of humanity in its minute and mercurial essence, experiences which, if not taken to Art and replicated through that instrument, couldn’t possibly endure, such was their particularity; things that I couldn’t have written, things that I couldn’t have lived. Human things, specific, away from the portends of civilisation or the pallor of absolutes. Things that I can’t yet write because I do not know the apposite forms and words necessary to bring them forth.
How careless of an approach, I must have thought immediately. Shortsock transported a grimace of shattering the likes of which I was oddly familiar with, and volleyed me with verbal arrows: «that is because you are young, you do not know what it is like to be in a war-zone, to have children and naught to succour them with, you have not lived this world as I lived, and it is yet to break your heart as it did mine», utterances that did not fail in showering me with silence. It is true, I do not know, and had I been perspicacious of people, something that I’m naturally not, I could have sensed beforehand that he wasn’t disappointed with either the world nor civilisation, he was disappointed with his world, not mine, even in spite of his generalist poems with the purported objective of weaving a better future by diminishing anything current. He did not want a better future inasmuch as he didn’t care much for the current, but simply, to change everything hitherto. His past fumbled him, it was tortuous and insurmountably cruel. While my life satisfied me, I was afforded the vanity of living shards of other lives through Art, if only to compound my own or enrich my experiences, but he was simply never afforded vanities of the like, and I was terribly ice-veined within the first step — a true testament to why I dodge as many interactions as I can — and the innermost fissure that stood between us wasn’t merely a differing focusing lens on matters, or even on what matters, as I initially assumed, but more-so the nature of our memory, that delicate «seamstress, and a capricious one at that. Memory runs her needle in and out, up and down, hither and thither. We know not what comes next, or what follows after. Thus, the most ordinary movement in the world, such as sitting down at a table and pulling the inkstand towards one, may agitate a thousand odd, disconnected fragments, now bright, now dim, hanging and bobbing and dipping and flaunting, like the underlinen of a family of fourteen on a line in a gale of wind.¹», and to me, those thousands of disconnected fragments were mostly joyous and bathed in the rosy lights of dawn, memories of baubles or hazy fields lathered in the green tinkle of emeralds, large tiled walls and the scent of uprooted plants. His were replete with people, the dirges and metallic chimes, pernicious seasons and hunger, lack, dereliction, fury, all bobbing and dipping, pecking his innards, tirelessly demanding. Things are rarely cruel, but people so often are; the former can contain small mythologies, symbols and beauties of perfumed shapes, but only the latter can reach the highest peaks of substance, the most intricately rewarding forms of beauty, especially when it interacts with our own. But things are much more durable than we, «whose frail warmth cools down with memory, disperses, perishes.»²
We talked further about specifics, I engaged in a political discussion in which I was merely the receptacle of information, supporting a manufactured rapt, as I felt indebted to do so, and we soon came upon common grounds, since his daughter had recently ended her own life due to relentless abuse from her former partner, and I had many mental health issues of my own. These morphologies of emotion, often reduced or occulted, often diminished to the farthest extremes of our vulnerabilities, are simultaneously our humanest traits, the ones which carry most force, that are most limpid in our memory. Shortsock wasn’t particularly keen on vulnerability, he was raised by a regime whose greatest weapon was the effacing of expression and sentimentality, but grief is among the hardest sentiments to conceal; he assumed a wounded front, the likes of being stricken by some unstinting bodily pain, and his hands extended like parachutes trying to collect his soul while it disassembled, a comportment I’ve only ever noticed in myself before, when I lost the dearest person in my life as a child. This interaction, which followed one embossing my social inadequacy, was exactly the type of interaction that displays that pith of human experience, that solemn existence, idiosyncratic and inscrutable. The inter-connectivity of our pains, the symbiosis of our joys, the elements that make the cruelty of the title of person not only bearable, but romantically worthwhile. And, strangely, I hold great gratitude to my initial error; it provided such a valuable discovery.
¹ Orlando, Virginia Woolf; ² And Yet The Books, Czesław Miłosz.
I haven’t been writing poetry quite as much, often opting instead for prose or even the marvelous lassitude of notes and aphorisms, and that is mostly due to this strange bout of ineffective thought. I contain the outlines, the emboss and image of a poem, but my mind is rather accelerated and disperse thereafter, it creates these arabesque and disjointed blocks of paltry expression. I’m sure this poem ought to mean something, and I could make a case for what that might be, it is the form that seems oddly disconcerting, an etiolated flower, the white patch of a limestone shatter. I’m hopeful it is one of those problems that fixes itself, a phase of sorts. Otherwise, I might need to invest in writing novels.
Thank you so much for reading, if you’ve done so, — joão-maria.
An author is a company to the nothingness, indigent because it is company to nothing, and possesses that nothingness, imperious, impermissible, obedient to the reasons of things, bled-out in the salts of colours while assuming itself king and progenitor of them. It is a whimsy, being an author, authorise the creation of nothingness and gift it the vehemence of being; if I was prohibited of writing as soon as the following dawn, I would not see it as an act of injustice. I would simply say that I have nothing to write, that the particles of water scintillating in my breath exist as towers, as trees, streams, which collect within me in murderous stance yet refusing to kill me (being that the ultimate trick), constituting nothing more than the nothingness I accompany, otherwise written there, in lithology, where earth whispers with impenetrable force, or there, in walls made goldener with the torpor of times, or there, in a book, in any book written, in any book unwritten. It is a nothingness which is unique only while it is nothingness — because nothing is unique — and soon collapses within the banality of conveyance. One who writes of nothingness has nothing else to write about, and is, truly, creatively hindered, for it only receives a casuistry in assemblages of casuistries laid upon an arid ground; we are of philosophies while we rehearse interrogations, of cement in the architectures of fiction, of soundly banisters in poetry (and only of banisters), and we inflate nothingness with leagues of meanings, of personal mythologies, images of dragonflies in the thawing boughs, pine-cones floating over the equatorial seas, the lugubrious quality of facts which soon cease to be facts under the gravity of other facts, and noble horses, beaten, hungers and terrors and pestiferous qualities of loving, of what we intend to love, of what we intend to understand in the qualities of loving, all laid as flagstones to be danced upon as a divine coalescence of what is because it is and what it is because we generate it being so by measure of feeling it. Enumerations, many, all within the same nothingness, an infinite parenthesis that fits perfectly in the spiralled-hole made by a closed fist; but let me revise what-is, if truth is creative and dream its destruction, let me revise the subterranean of things, because all of them bubble with the meaning of everything, seethe as a compass of light in an interminable condensation of phenomenon, and not seeing the crushing dimension of everything but only the replica of a constant reductive exercise — a simulation of essence — is a wound extended to the horizon, because we are fragile, our bones cinders easily turned to dust, and because all which contains meaning is perfidious in that meaning, and that ash penetrates our lungs, within nothingness, within all, within meaning which is nothingness of all, a panic, a neurological tuberculosis, a paralysis. And then, there is a destruction which isn’t reduction, olive oil over the sting of a bee, the youth and the regeneration which takes itself in such an unstinting and clear meaning, which is akin to the glisten of a tear in immense darkness. We return home. The world regains sense, and is absent of meaning and nothingness and everything, resistant to such adornments, and we are made-whole by the levity of the air itself, the stark colours of florets, and all light resounding in shaded walls. There is, perhaps, a mother and a father, siblings, or the limpid memory of them, of where they stood, where they observed this domain with endless complexities which not even dream purports to understand. There is a dog, perhaps a cat, a canary, and their phlegmatic enthusiasm bleeding from their spirited eyes. There is that foolish night and the ill-starred end of that antiquity, which I did not see pass, because I never stopped being anything that I was, and I shall never not be anything that I was.
We return home, where world and language live in profound reciprocity, and we may contain libraries within, we may have never written anything leather-bound, we may have written twenty meticulously woven narratives, but here, we are not authors, we are not writers, we do not accompany a nothingness which is yet to be described. Here, we are that nothingness, that meaning, we are the shadow the author plies to accompany.
Long before physics and psychology were born, pain disintegrated matter, and affliction the soul.
All Gall Is Divided, Emil Cioran.
O autor é a companhia do nada, indigente porque nada acompanha, e possui nada, imperioso, impreterível, obtemperando as razões das coisas, sangrado nos sais das cores enquanto se assume rei e progenitor das mesmas. É uma veleidade, ser-se autor, autorizar a criação do nada e dar-lhe veemência de ser; se me coibissem de escrever já na próxima manhã, não seria um desvario. Diria apenas que nada tenho a escrever, e que as particulas de água que rútilam na minha respiração existem como torres, como árvores, regados, aquilo que se colecciona em mim a poste de me matar mas que não me mata (sendo essa a sua manigância), constitui apenas um nada que acompanho, que outrora fora escrito ali, na litologia, onde a terra tuge uma força impenetrável, ou ali, nas paredes douradas na modorra dos tempos, ou ali, num livro, em qualquer livro outrora escrito, até ainda por escrever. É um nada que é único enquanto é nada — porque nada é único — e deixa de o ser quando deixa de ser nada. Quem escreve sobre o nada é o autor que nada tem sobre o que escrever, e está, deveras, criativamente estropiado, pois é-lhe dada uma casuística que coaduna com as outras casuísticas de viver num campo calvo; somos da filosofia quando ensaiamos as perguntas, do cimento nas arquitecturas das ficções, dos balústres do som nas poesias (e apenas dos balústres), e vamos entumescendo o nada com léguas de significados, de mitologias pessoais, imagens de libélulas no gelo das árvores, de pinhas flutuando sobre os mares equatoriais, a qualidade memorial dos factos que logo deixam de ser factos sobre o peso doutros factos, e cavalos nobres, espancados, ludismos, lajedos de fomes e terrores e qualidades pestíferas do que amamos, do que pretendemos amar, do que pretendemos entender na qualidade de amar, uma coalescência divina do que é porque o é e do que engendramos ser por medida de sentirmos que assim o seja. Enumerações, muitas, todas dentro do mesmo nada, num parêntise infinito que assenta perfeitamente no buraco-espiral dum punho cerrado; mas deixem-me rever o sí-mesmo, se a verdade é criativa e o sonho a sua destruição, deixem-me rever todo o subterrâneo das coisas, porque todas elas borbulham com o significado de tudo, fervem no compasso de luz numa condensação infinita de fenómenos, e é uma ferida que se estende ao horizonte de não ver a dimensão esmagadora que têm, é a réplica de um exercício redutor constante — uma simulação de essência — porque somos frágeis, os nossos ossos cinzas que se esmagam com a maior facilidade, e porque tudo o que significa é pérfido no seu significado, e essa cinza de ossos penetra-nos os pulmões, dentro de nada, dentro de tudo, dentro do significado que é um nada num todo, um pânico, uma tubérculose da mente, uma paralisia.
E depois, há uma destruição que não é redução, o azeite sobre a picada da abelha, a juventude e a regeneração que se toma por um significado tão concreto e claro, que é reflexo de lágrima numa escuridão imensa. Voltámos a casa. O mundo faz sentido, e não tem significado nem nada nem tudo, nem se resigna a tais adornos, e somos preenchidos pela leveza do próprio ar, as cores das próprias flores, e toda a luz retumbada nas paredes sombreadas. Há, talvez, uma mãe e um pai, irmãos, ou uma memória límpida deles, de onde se postavam, de onde observavam o mundo com infímas complexidades que nem um sonho suporta entender. Há um cão, talvez um gato, um canário, e o seu entusiasmo fleumático que sangra no espírito dos seus olhos. Há aquela noite estouvada e o fim malogrado dessa antiguidade, que não vi suceder, porque nunca deixei de ser nada do que outrora fui, nunca deixarei de ser nada do que já fui.
Voltámos a casa, onde o mundo e a linguagem vivem em profunda reciprocidade, e podemos conter bibliotecas cá dentro, podemos nunca ter escrito obra, podemos ter escrito vinte. Aqui, não somos autores, não somos escritores, não acompanhamos um nada ainda por descrever. Aqui, somos o nada, o significado, a sombra que o autor acompanha.
Saint-Saëns — my father still says — was garniture for fatuous men and their gold-laden alcoves, veiled by a cordon of ludic dins; Milosz was flour of similar grain, a bargainer of truisms, a mute chaff coated by wooden beads. I liked them, I liked their touch, their texture, I see it as the texture of heavy rubber boots threading a pavement composed by shards of glass. There is a pearlescent quality to all humble objects of life, a glimmer of sorts, and all sorts of glimmer, as that of dew wept from acanthus leaves, the unstinting mist out of every breath in every wintry dawn, in the fox’s scan over the woodland; all which transiently shines akin to gold, without a droplet of pretension for being so. That is the unbridled beauty that exsanguinates the heart, the ars poetica of our ending realm, which labours yearningly under a sun to sun merely to purport effortlessness. The levity of the natural mechanism is shouldered by an indelible effort.
Many suns ago (yet still, fewer so), I would commonly peer with hyaline gaze at a poplar whose branches had grown near my window. A warbler would come by, and I wanted to be an author, unknown to mensuration, unknown to corrals, shrouded from torpor and hypostasis, and I wanted my book in shape of that warbler, free from the lassitude of grounds, even free of words — no, no words, merely feathers, some cinereal, some of torrid yellow, few to blend the hues — and no bindings, only a pair of immovable black marbles, no strings nor vaticinations. Perhaps it would peck at the temples, and serve only as a petty victory to the one that manages to clumsily open the blinds and defenestrate it. And, as the warbler took to wind and with wind flew, I had little victory of my own. Returned to the tendance of humble glistens, I’m my own earthly man, my own end of the world, exulted by fibres of glass sticking to my knees, envious of my own fullness, enamoured by the perfunctory scope of my agonies; returned to the tendance of this world which ends while it faintly glistens. I’m the garniture of higher men, the gold-tint of their cordons of fools, the torrent of circumlocutory pleas, and nothing nearly as unworthy as to be written, nothing nearly as light as I’d have it be, like the warbler and his poplar tree.
On the day the world ends A bee circles a clover, A fisherman mends a glimmering net. (…) And those who expected lightning and thunder are disappointed. And those who expected signs and archangels’ trumps Do not believe it is happening now. As long as the sun and the moon are above, As long as the bumblebee visits the rose, As long as rosy infants are born No one believes it is happening now. (…)
Czeslaw Milosz, A Song On The End of The World, Warsaw, 1944
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)