Category: Staying Alive
Take from my palms
Take from my palms, to soothe your heart,
a little honey, a little sun,
in obedience to Persephone’s bees.
You can’t untie a boat that was never moored,
nor hear a shadow in its furs,
nor move through thick life without fear.
For us, all that’s left is kisses
tattered as the little bees
that die when they leave the hive.
Deep in the transparent night they’re still humming,
at home in the dark wood on the mountain,
in the mint and lungwort and the past.
But lay to your heart my rough gift,
this unlovely dry necklace of dead bees
that once made a sun out of honey.
Rust and stardust
Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were
I have spent the last couple of weeks trying to account for every month of 2017. I needed to go through all the photos in my phone to be able to do this. It seems that without them it would not have been possible for me to recall what I have lived. 2017 was not an easy year for me and for those around me. I broke someone’s heart and got badly bruised by someone else. Some sort of cosmic retribution I would say, if I was inclined to believe in a such thing.
I don’t remember much happening in January 2017. I remember that I did not celebrate New Years, I went to bed before midnight. For the past eleven years I lived with someone who did not “believe in that sort of thing” and accommodated. I do believe in starting over, either on January 1st or whenever there is a need to do so. The best of January 2017 was hoping for something better to come along during the rest of the eleven months ahead. Daydreaming has always seemed to me another form of making plans. I did play dress up at Fatima‘s which seems to be my favourite form of therapy and was happy to find my Mozambique travel diary.
Why, what’s the matter,
That you have such a February face,
So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?
I particularly dislike the first three months of every year. They are normally cold and grey and wet and February does feel like paradoxically long most of the times, but this one I actually remember it as being a happy month, celebrating Futurism and Almada in the voice of talented friends and art exhibitions, going back to Fatima’s for a somewhat surreal fashion shoot, having my hair cut and feeling incredibly cool and authentic as a tomboy, getting on stage for Flamenco tangos and fandangos and being busy with costumes and make up backstage.
March was also surprisingly good: Filipe Catto doing Variações, finding the life of strangers inside second-hand books, commuting in Lisbon with people that have no end, as Almada would say, those are the best people; seeing friends’ dreams come to life, Anna Karenina remixed at TNSJ (How she dies) and finally gaining momentum to read it all, page after page, without spiking details, Olivier Saillard‘s manifesto, waiting around for friends who are always late, going back in time, Macbeth’s open rehearsal and being reminded of the absolute privilege of hearing António M. Feijó
April came and it was not the cruelest month. Going away, enjoying bad habits at cool smokers lounges, arriving in Sarajevo, the sun, the snow, the coffee, new Friends, their stories, the history, the drive to Mostar, long conversations on everything and nothing, swan lake reloaded, the beauty, hanging out over drinks and photos and dance, “come what sorrow can it cannot countervail the exchange of joy”. Sarajevo might not have changed my life but has changed something inside me forever in the way I am able to relate and feel immense love for other people and to the moments we shared. Realizing I live somewhere in musical schizophrenia, absolutely loving two of the best concerts of the year between Heavy Metal and Fado, and that this actually helps. Every day.
May walked backwards: going back to the roots that sometimes still clutch, being back in Siena in great company, getting lost in museums, being silly enough to play La Niña de Fuego, going back to the music that once made sense
June chasing angels and finding them: Loft living in DTLA, getting an education at Los Feliz, unexpected gifts, falling in love with a bookstore, the kind and dapper gentlemen at Clifton’s, old school partying, the Los Angeles Athletic Club, being back at the MOCA, stars that never fade, hanging out with some of the coolest Ladies I know, feeling in heaven at the Way we Wore, feeling at home at LACMA, “The city is named for the angels, And its angels are easy to find”, on Beauty and Consolation, Shakespeare, being called Hope and the freedom of learning by heart, feeling at peace in Porto, clowning around on stage.
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unus’d to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe,
And moan th’ expense of many a vanish’d sight;
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor’d, and sorrows end.
July “I believe I read most of it with my eyes shut” Spring’s Awakening, Summer sunsets, flamingo shoes, walking on sunshine, flirting with writing machines and getting no answers, seeing the fog clear; “life is a matter of taste”.
August getting older and none the wiser: Chance encounters have consequences too, birthday surprises, finally returning to Mérida and making it to the classical theater festival, between a rock and a hard place, checking works of art walk by, music does save your mortal soul (writing letters might not). Fátima moved to Braga and I almost did as well.
September “Music melts all the separate parts of our bodies together.” Going kitsch, Being hugged by strangers, getting closer, Rosalía e Raül Refree at Theatro Circo, Revisiting Viana and more talented friends, realizing that nothing lives there anymore, Lisbon stories por buleria, reconnecting with Luis after having met in Boston, Still writing letters (with a pen), Jazz with a view, bumping into Lola Lola, Book fairs and pulp fictions, Being somewhat afraid of Virginia Woolf, meta coincidences, Being teletransported to The Zap via Ian’s syndrome, Revisiting Mr. Vertigo’s last (together) space, Being disarmed by words, bedtime stories and playlists feeling like goodnight kisses, Between lived words and word games, Street poets on the verge of insanity. Facing the truth and having it added to my pillow book.
I wasted time, and now doth time waste me
October “There is nothing in the dark that isn’t there when the lights are on.” A road trip through a black hole, Spiraling into someone else’s talent, Seeing George and Martha come to life, The apparent insight and kindness of strangers, Getting it wrong, learning where not to go, learning to let go, forgetting the door was open and letting chance walk right in (again), the Safety of favourite places and favourite people, Walls quoting Sartre, Lisbon stories, Healing noises, Wonder walks, wonder walls and the best guide in town, Black cats and English eccentrics, Bad concerts with cool friends, Reaching Point Omega, Making peace with Virginia Woolf through Orlando, “To put it in a nutshell, he was afflicted with a love of literature. It was the fatal nature of this disease to substitute a phantom for reality.” I have fallen in love with words. The ones I wanted to read, the one’s the poet on the other side knew were the right ones.
November “O bom é ser inteligente e não entender. É uma benção estranha, como ter loucura sem ser doida.” (The good thing is to be intelligent and not to understand. It’s a strange blessing, like having madness without being crazy.) In love with Josef Isräels‘ Mijmering, Stendhal syndrome episodes, Daydreaming and insomnia, Fictional love affairs through jet lag induced illusions – such is the power of words: they make you see things that aren’t there. Teenaging in Yichang, getting to know Frida who met at me at the airport wanting to know if my name really meant hope, hanging out with Cathy, Being a lucky charm, Getting Lost in translation and still feeling better than Charlotte, Tai Chi classes on airplanes, the sunset in Xangai and the sunrise in Amsterdam, Dark Porto, Lisbon stories on disappointment and being a spoiled brat, Life according to George Costanza, Flying solo, Getting it (so incredibly) wrong and trying to take the high road, Lisbon stories – the cold shoulder episode, saved by the happiness of strangers and a wise beyond her years long distance friend, Chasing walls, 3 a.m. dinners and the warmth of platonic love, Boots, Songs about boots, Good concerts with the same cool friends and some more, Drafting fictional memories, “For once the disease of reading has laid upon the system it weakens so that it falls an easy prey to that other scourge which dwells in the ink pot and festers in the quill. The wretch takes to writing. ” Flying high and falling hard: Considering emotional exile, Soap bubbles as reality filter
December “São tudo fantasias que o cinema projectou no meu olhar” (They are all fantasies that the cinema projected in my gaze): Letting someone else’s clothes and music do the talking; Being called a pearl farmer and realizing that every once in a while casting pearls to swine is no big deal; I’ll still have plenty left. The circus, moments of pure joy, remembering my Grandparents, because they were the ones who used to take me when I was a kid, Sharing heartbreak stories during the storm with a name, pretending to be Mia Wallace and then dreaming of being Vivian Rutledge, better yet, Florence Carala (there was enough mist for that), If only I was Jackie Demaistre, Facing lost possibilities, Befriending misfits while drinking coffee and talking for an hour at gas stations, Going back to the classroom and considering that I might actually enjoy teaching, Midnight strolls during Sagittarius birthdays, Playing diva with the Diva, Holly Golightly gifts for breakfast, Christmas Day at the movies, making up gangster stories at Turkish restaurants, Bumping into Pedro from school and being 9 again, ivory colored letters in real envelopes with real stamps, feeling connected while trying to disconnect, Synthesizer freaks, being Alice but not in the city, time lapsing, picking up where we left off, So many ways to be (“no olvides que solo eres real cuando tocas y te tocan“), the Clear Insight, Incredible Patience, Undivided Attention and Unconditional Love of old Friends. Braga doing more for my sanity this year than any shrink could have ever done. “And the rest is rust and stardust.”
I can only note that the past is beautiful because one never realises an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don’t have complete emotions about the present, only about the past
I think this is the first time I try to write some kind of “memory”. I am not very good at describing events, everything that has happened seems to have only a translation in how places, books, movies, plays, poems, music, little details, events, actions and the words of others have made me feel. And, in 2017, most of them have hurt me deeply. This year, I celebrated New Year, for two whole days. On December 30 I went to a punk rock show and decided not to move away from the mosh pit as some sort of “shock therapy” and it felt good. I spent New Years Eve with my best friend and his family and even though we had not thought of going out, we did and danced the night away until morning. And all this might not solve anything, but just giving myself away to music makes me feel both hugged by the world and ready to restart.
The appeal of inebriating oneself.
The appeal of the dance and of the shout,
the appeal of the colorful ball,
the appeal of Kant and of poetry,
all of them . . . and none of them resolves things
Today (January 1st) I went back to the circus and felt like crying during Duo eMotion‘s act. Real life is never this perfect. Or beautiful. And then, sometimes it happens. I went for coffee at my favorite place in Porto and wished by favorite waiter a Happy New Year and he just called me my love and kissed me. These little details end up, in a way, making up for a lot of the mistakes and disappointments of the previous year.
Unspoken feelings are unforgettable
If you set them free by writing unnecessarily long posts they might just go away.
Vladimir Nabokov, Marcel Proust, William Shakespeare, Clarice Lispector, Virginia Woolf Anais Nin, Samuel Beckett, Carlos Drummod de Andrade, Andre Tarkovsky, António Variações, The Twilight Zone
I do not know what
My world is not like the world of other people, I want much more, I demand much more, there is inside me a thirst for the infinite, a constant anxiety that I do not even understand, because I am far from being a pessimist; first I am an exalted one, with an intense soul, violent, tormented, a soul that does not feel well where it is, that misses… I do not know what!
Florbela Espanca (Correspondence, 1930)
Monday’s poetry came late to me this week
Do not read, as children do, to amuse yourself, or like the ambitious, for the purpose of instruction. No, read in order to live.
When Soft Voices Die
Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory;
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.
Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heap’d for the belovèd’s bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Missing my road trips
Spain was a taut, dry drum-head
Daily beating a dull thud
Flatlands and eagle’s nest
Silence lashed by the storm.
How much, to the point of weeping, in my soul
I love your hard soil, your poor bread,
Your poor people, how much in the deep place
Of my being there is still the lost flower
Of your wrinkled villages, motionless in time
And your metallic meadows
Stretched out in the moonlight through the ages,
Now devoured by a false god.
All your confinement, your animal isolation
While you are still conscious
Surrounded by the abstract stones of silence,
Your rough wine, your smooth wine
Your violent and dangerous vineyards.
Solar stone, pure among the regions
Of the world, Spain streaked
With blood and metal, blue and victorious
Proletarian Spain, made of petals and bullets
Unique, alive, asleep – resounding.
What Spain Was Like, Pablo Neruda
The time will come
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Love After Love, Derek Walcott
Silence is the place where you scream
Chego atrasado à frisa dos teus olhos.
A música violeta pestaneja na sala.
Há uma actriz transida que tirita
mas não fala.
Entro no teu olhar
Sou uma seta
que te cega e nos cala.
O silêncio é o sítio onde se grita
e a noite, minha amiga,
é mais discreta
como convém ao poeta
que se veste de gala.
O Smoking, José Carlos Ary dos Santos
I am late to the frieze of your eyes.
The violet music blinks in the room.
There is a transient actress who
but does not speak.
I enter your gaze
I’m an arrow
who blinds you and keeps us silent.
Silence is the place where you scream
and the night, my friend,
is more discreet
as befits the poet
who dresses up.
The Smoking, José Carlos Ary dos Santos ( my imperfect translation)
Photo: Written on the wall, Braga (November 26, 2017)
The Greater Sea
My soul and I went to the great sea to bathe. And when we reached the shore, we went about looking for a hidden and lonely place.
But as we walked, we saw a man sitting on a grey rock taking pinches of salt from a bag and throwing them into the sea.
“This is the pessimist,” said my soul, “Let us leave this place. We cannot bathe here.”
We walked on until we reached an inlet. There we saw, standing on a white rock, a man holding a bejeweled box, from which he took sugar and threw it into the sea.
“And this is the optimist,” said my soul, “And he too must not see our naked bodies.”
Further on we walked. And on a beach we saw a man picking up dead fish and tenderly putting them back into the water.
“And we cannot bathe before him,” said my soul. “He is the humane philanthropist.”
And we passed on.
Then we came where we saw a man tracing his shadow on the sand. Great waves came and erased it. But he went on tracing it again and again.
“He is the mystic,” said my soul, “Let us leave him.”
And we walked on, till in a quiet cover we saw a man scooping up the foam and putting it into an alabaster bowl.
“He is the idealist,” said my soul, “Surely he must not see our nudity.”
And on we walked. Suddenly we heard a voice crying, “This is the sea. This is the deep sea. This is the vast and mighty sea.” And when we reached the voice it was a man whose back was turned to the sea, and at his ear he held a shell, listening to its murmur.
And my soul said, “Let us pass on. He is the realist, who turns his back on the whole he cannot grasp, and busies himself with a fragment.”
So we passed on. And in a weedy place among the rocks was a man with his head buried in the sand. And I said to my soul, “We can bath here, for he cannot see us.”
“Nay,” said my soul, “For he is the most deadly of them all. He is the puritan.”
Then a great sadness came over the face of my soul, and into her voice.
“Let us go hence,” she said, “For there is no lonely, hidden place where we can bathe. I would not have this wind lift my golden hair, or bare my white bosom in this air, or let the light disclose my sacred nakedness.”
Then we left that sea to seek the Greater Sea.
Words I said and never meant
There are words I've had to save myself from, like My Lord and Blessed Mother, words I said and never meant, though I admit a part of me misses the ornamental stateliness of High Mass, that smell of incense. Heaven did exist, I discovered, but was reciprocal and momentary, like lust felt at exactly the same time— two mortals, say, on a resilient bed, making a small case for themselves. You and I became the words I'd say before I'd lay me down to sleep, and again when I'd wake—wishful words, no belief in them yet. It seemed you'd been put on earth to distract me from what was doctrinal and dry. Electricity may start things, but if they're to last I've come to understand a steady, low-voltage hum of affection must be arrived at. How else to offset the occasional slide into neglect and ill temper? I learned, in time, to let heaven go its mythy way, to never again be a supplicant of any single idea. For you and me it's here and now from here on in. Nothing can save us, nor do we wish to be saved. Let night come with its austere grandeur, ancient superstitions and fears. It can do us no harm. We'll put some music on, open the curtains, let things darken as they will
Here and Now, Stephen Dunn
Photo: Lisbon, Cais das Colunas (today)
Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles
In Lijiang, the sign outside your hostel
glares: Ride alone, ride alone, ride
alone – it taunts you for the mileage
of your solitude, must be past
thousands, for you rode this plane
alone, this train alone, you’ll ride
this bus alone well into the summer night,
well into the next hamlet, town,
city, the next century, as the trees twitch
and the clouds wane and the tides
quiver and the galaxies tilt and the sun
spins us another lonely cycle, you’ll
wonder if this compass will ever change.
The sun doesn’t need more heat,
so why should you? The trees don’t need
to be close, so why should you?
No part, but a whole
How have I laboured?
How have I not laboured
To bring her soul to birth,
To give these elements a name and a centre!
She is beautiful as the sunlight, and as fluid.
She has no name, and no place.
How have I laboured to bring her soul into separation;
To give her a name and her being!
Surely you are bound and entwined,
You are mingled with the elements unborn;
I have loved a stream and a shadow.
I beseech you enter your life.
I beseech you learn to say ‘I’
When I question you;
For you are no part, but a whole,
No portion, but a being.
Ezra Pound, Ortus in The New Poetry: An Anthology. 1917
Performance without rehearsal.
Body without alterations.
Head without premeditation.
I know nothing of the role I play.
I only know it’s mine. I can’t exchange it.
I have to guess on the spot
just what this play’s all about.
Ill-prepared for the privilege of living,
I can barely keep up with the pace that the action demands.
I improvise, although I loathe improvisation.
I trip at every step over my own ignorance.
I can’t conceal my hayseed manners.
My instincts are for happy histrionics.
Stage fright makes excuses for me, which humiliate me more.
Extenuating circumstances strike me as cruel.
Words and impulses you can’t take back,
stars you’ll never get counted,
your character like a raincoat you button on the run ?
the pitiful results of all this unexpectedness.
If only I could just rehearse one Wednesday in advance,
or repeat a single Thursday that has passed!
But here comes Friday with a script I haven’t seen.
Is it fair, I ask
(my voice a little hoarse,
since I couldn’t even clear my throat offstage).
You’d be wrong to think that it’s just a slapdash quiz
taken in makeshift accommodations. Oh no.
I’m standing on the set and I see how strong it is.
The props are surprisingly precise.
The machine rotating the stage has been around even longer.
The farthest galaxies have been turned on.
Oh no, there’s no question, this must be the premiere.
And whatever I do
will become forever what I’ve done.
Wislawa Szymborska, Poems New and Collected 1957-1997, trans. S. Baranczak and C. Cavanagh
Is this then a book
É então isto um livro,
este, como dizer?, murmúrio,
este rosto virado para dentro de
alguma coisa escura que ainda não existe
que, se uma mão subitamente
inocente a toca,
se abre desamparadamente
como uma boca
falando com a nossa voz?
É isto um livro,
esta espécie de coração (o nosso coração)
dizendo “eu” entre nós e nós?
Is this then a book,
this, how shall I say? murmur,
this face turned to the inside
of something dark that doesn’t yet exist,
that if touched
by a suddenly innocent hand
like a mouth
speaking in our own voice?
Is this a book,
this kind of heart (our heart)
saying ‘I’ between we and us?
Translated by Ana Hudson