What I’ve failed to write

131 days ago life took a weird, sharp turn after a few months of my driving it erratically in and out of course. Because I am prone to think of my life as a movie or perhaps as a series of pilot episodes in shows that never get aired, I failed to realize that maybe real life was happening. And I have a problem with this. My mind anticipates all kinds of scenarios, dramatic dialogues and plot twists, failing to see what’s right in front of me, failing to hear Caetano‘s warning that life is after all real and skewed. I insist on other melodies, I insist on not getting tired of hoping that one day I will get to be everything.

My homeless heart
Wants to keep the world
In me

131 days ago we coincided in space and time; he told me I was making him travel, I didn’t realize he was making me come home. For once, life was not about being the rebel in a made up cause, it was not about coming up with the perfect character for the occasion, it was not about trying to be perfect, it was not about packing and going somewhere trying to find whatever is needed at the moment to feel more alive. It was about staying. I didn’t know that to stay took a special kind of courage. I have spent well over seven thousand days of my adult life being adventurously brave, going everywhere, doing everything, preferably on my own. Along the way I collected all the clichés of falling madly, deeply and foolishly in love, of getting married and divorced, of hurting and getting hurt and feeling that I have committed the worse sin my twelve years of Catholic, yet somewhat liberal, education helped me identify, I have wasted my time and have, of course, ended up being wasted by it. Staying, in the same way as getting older, is not for the faint of heart. Staying means you have to face life as it is not as you think it was meant to be.

131 days ago I begun to understand what years of fictional manipulation have done to me, how they have created the most unrealistic expectations and contributed to an almost complete emotional disarrangement. In the midst of my inability to deal with what was happening, I have read these wise words:

Your deepest beliefs about seduction were carefully crafted by high-capitalist strategists. Lust and fantasy are opiates of the masses, easily manipulated into shapes that human animals fall for, over and over again.

I have never really taken advice columns very seriously, probably because I tend to be a bit of a snob, but every single word Heather Havrilesky poured into her column of February 28, struck a chord and I understood that yes, it was really about surrendering to reality with no futile embellishments. And still, 131 days were not enough to learn that the assumptions one makes about one self and others are also created by all the nonsense around you and that they are not real. For 131 days I have promised myself, almost everyday, that I was not going to fall in that trap, I was going to let life get real because it might not be the most glamorous or exciting place to be but you have at least a chance of not seeing life disappear without getting to live it. But, self-sabotage is a powerful force, “a way of avoiding that moment of showing up, of facing potential loss, of being strong enough and courageous enough to surrender to the unknown — but also, to surrender to the goodness of ordinary human beings.” 131 days ago,  getting hurt living my fictional life was easy enough to deal with because fictional feelings tend to be overtly dramatic but shallow.

Getting hurt in real life gets you broken.

References

Caetano Veloso, O quereres, Coração Vagabundo

William Shakespeare, Richard II 

Bette Davis

Ask Polly 

Out of place

 

Homens que são como lugares mal situados
Homens que são como casas saqueadas
Que são como sítios fora dos mapas
Como pedras fora do chão
Como crianças órfãs
Homens sem fuso horário
Homens agitados sem bússola onde repousem

Homens que são como fronteiras invadidas
Que são como caminhos barricados
Homens que querem passar pelos atalhos sufocados
Homens sulfatados por todos os destinos
Desempregados das suas vidas

Homens que são como a negação das estratégias
Que são como os esconderijos dos contrabandistas
Homens encarcerados abrindo-se com facas

Homens que são como danos irreparáveis
Homens que são sobreviventes vivos
Homens que são como sítios desviados
Do lugar

Daniel Faria, Poesia

Men who are like places in the wrong place
Men who are like plundered houses
Like locations not on maps
Like stones not on the ground
Like orphaned children
Men without a time zone
Agitated men with no compass to rest on

Men who are like violated borders  
Like barricaded roads
Men who are drawn to choked pathways
Men spattered by all destinies
Laid off from their lives

Men who are like the negation of strategies
Like the hiding-places of smugglers
Incarcerated men opening themselves with knives

Men who are like irreparable damage
Men who are barely living survivors
Men who are like places wrenched
Out of place

Daniel Faria translated by Richard Zenith

 

Today I start counting days of absence because I failed to understand all the days of Being

Take from my palms

mon

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.

Osip Mandelstam, Selected Poems

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

Running aimlessly

I am not, nor have I ever been a focused person. My attention is always distracted by some real or imagined connection or possibility. This obviously means that I’m the least efficient person I know. I get things done when they need to get done because I do not like to disappoint those who depend on me getting things done and because I procrastinate until I really have no other option. But, in general, inspirational quotes and sayings on how “things will happen if you stay focused” do not resonate with me. Staying focused will not make everything happen. Or, maybe it will, I just haven’t tried it.

I am not even one of those “existentialist pessimists” who thinks that all hope is an illusion. No, I do cling to hope and believe things will get better. If I just wait. They don’t. They haven’t.

You are only excused for happiness and success if you generously agree to share them. But if one is to be happy, one should not worry too much about other people – which means there is no way out. Happy and judged or absolved and miserable.

Albert Camus, The Fall

And now that I realize this and that this certainty seems to occupy my mind whenever I’m awake and sometimes even in my sleep, I can’t keep on waiting because it would be absurd. Although I should, by now, be way past the age of existential crisis, it does appear that sometimes it takes too long to build up the courage to become who you are and own the mistakes you have made while trying to convince yourself that you were different.

No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life. There may be countless trails and bridges and demigods who would gladly carry you across; but only at the price of pawning and forgoing yourself. There is one path in the world that none can walk but you. Where does it lead? Don’t ask, walk!

Friedrich Nietzsche, Schopenhauer as Educator

Trying to stay focused on being ” my own story” seems to be hard enough at this point but it’s better than waiting or just refusing to see what went wrong.

Getting started, keeping going, getting started again — in art and in life, it seems to me this is the essential rhythm not only of achievement but of survival, the ground of convinced action, the basis of self-esteem and the guarantee of credibility in your lives, credibility to yourselves as well as to others.

Seamus Heaney

Photo: Words on Walls, Lisbon, September 2017 ( Running aimlessly is to wait in movement)

Trying to remember Ithaka

M. bought this dress Monday morning (my time zone) and the rest of my day was spent trying to remember what seemed to have been long forgotten.

I can’t remember the last time I wore this dress, but I am sure I wore it during a chilly evening in the summer of 1997 at a concert in Montemor‘s castle. I remember who was with me and the theory that “villages with medieval castles are always cold” but I could not remember who was playing.

Trying to dig up something that you have forgotten to remember from the pre-internet era is not always easy. I tried to google what I did remember. The same artist was also a photographer who, probably in the same year, had an installation called “I could write a book” at Galeria Zé dos Bois in Lisbon.  Inspired by the famous jazz standard, specifically by Dinah Washington’s rendition of it (1955), the installation featured an unmade bed, photos and diary entries and little notes from the time the author lived, in love, in Tokyo because if someone had asked him, he could have written a book.

If they asked me, I could write a book
About the way you walk, and whisper, and look
I could write a preface
On how we met
So the world would never forget

But I did forget and, as the day progressed I felt more and more irritated at not being able to recall the name. Probably C. went with me to Lisbon so I decided to send an email explaining my quasi existential doubt of the day. He thought it was absurd and called me. He had no recollection whatsoever of such installation he most probably did go but couldn’t remember. We also saw this same guy at Labirintho, I said. Remember that? We went with another friend who got drunk and almost in trouble. Remember that? I even remember where we had parked the car and that we drove away and Cake’s Fashion Nugget was playing. He could not remember anything at all. It seems like we have done really interesting stuff together in the 90s, though.

By 8 pm I could recall some Greek connection and my Google search was “Californian musician, Greek ancestry, living in Lisbon in the 90s”. There it was an article about “the greatest Portuguese talents of the 90s”, about the great “unknown”, groundbreaking talent of Portuguese Pop/Rock and the growing popularity of Dance and Hip-Hop scenes. Finally Darin Pappas, aka Ithaka Darin Pappas aka Korvowrong and the album “Stellafly”, the most powerful and consistent national registry edited in 1997. That might help explain why I seemed to have travelled across the country to hear him even if now it doesn’t really make much sense.

But then again, C.P. Cavafy’s IthaKa is the conclusion that it’s never about getting there but always about the search, as long as you understand what the Ithakas mean.

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
 
Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.
 
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
 
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
 
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

 

I texted the name and sent it to C. “wtf, who remembers that” was the answer. Right.

Now, the material trigger for all this is on its way to another hemisphere and I hope it will continue to inspire random thoughts, impromptu travels, silly theories and becomes someone else’s story.

Mirrored

 There are no lies 
in the morning
no cheating of age

an illusion of eye
smoothing skin over bone.
No portrait hidden away becoming skeletal and demanding release.
Another day to face, my confessor, so laugh at this charting of years.
Mirror by Adrian Greene
Photo: dresses by Gilbert Adrian at the LACMA