At the wheel…

 

…of a Chevrolet on the road to Sintra,
Through moonlight and dreams, on the deserted road,
I drive alone, drive almost slowly, and it almost
Seems to me, or I almost force myself to think it seems,
That I’m going down another road, another dream, another world,
That I’m going on without having left Lisbon, without Sintra to go to,
That I’m going on, and what is there to going on except not stopping, but going on?

I’ll spend the night in Sintra because I can’t spend it in Lisbon,
But, when I get to Sintra, I’ll be sorry I didn’t stay in Lisbon.
Always this groundless worry, no purpose, no consequence,
Always, always, always,
This excessive anguish for nothing at all,
On the road to Sintra, on the road to dreams, on the road to life

Alert to my subconscious movements at the wheel,
Around me, with me, leaps the car I borrowed.
I smile at the symbol, at thinking of it, and at turning right.
In how many borrowed things do I move through the world?
How many borrowed things do I drive as if they were mine?
How many borrowed things — oh God — am I myself?

To my left, a hovel — yes, a hovel — by the roadside.
To my right an open field, the moon far off.
The car, which seemed just now to give me freedom,
Is now something I’m shut up in,
That I can only drive shut up in,
That I can only tame if I include it, if it includes me.

To my left, back there, that modest, that more than modest hovel.
Life must be happy there: it’s not mine.
If someone saw me from the window, they’d think: Now that guy’s happy.

Maybe a child spying at the upstairs window
Would see me, in my borrowed car, as a dream, a fairy tale come true.
Maybe, for the girl who watched me, hearing my motor out the kitchen window,
On packed earth,
I’m some kind of prince of girls’ hearts,
And she’ll watch me sideways, out the window, past this curve where I lose myself.
Will I leave dreams behind me? Will the car?
I, the borrowed-car-driver, or the borrowed car I drive?

On the road to Sintra in moonlight, in sadness, before the fields and night,
Forlornly driving the borrowed Chevy,
I lose myself on the future road, I disappear in the distance I reach.

And in a terrible, sudden, violent, inconceivable desire
I speed up,
But my heart stayed back on a pile of rocks I veered from, seeing without seeing it,
At the door of the hovel —
My empty heart,
My dissatisfied heart,
My heart more human than me, more exact than life.

On the road to Sintra, near midnight, in moonlight, at the wheel,
On the road to Sintra, oh my weary imagination,
On the road to Sintra, ever nearer to Sintra,
On the road to Sintra, ever farther from me…

In The Collected Poems of Álvaro de CamposVol. 2 (1928–1935) . translated by Chris Daniels

 

Ao volante do Chevrolet pela estrada de Sintra,

Ao luar e ao sonho, na estrada deserta,

Sozinho guio, guio quase devagar, e um pouco

Me parece, ou me forço um pouco para que me pareça,

Que sigo por outra estrada, por outro sonho, por outro mundo,

Que sigo sem haver Lisboa deixada ou Sintra a que ir ter,

Que sigo, e que mais haverá em seguir senão não parar mas seguir?

Vou passar a noite a Sintra por não poder passá-la em Lisboa,

Mas, quando chegar a Sintra, terei pena de não ter ficado em Lisboa.

Sempre esta inquietação sem propósito, sem nexo, sem consequência,

Sempre, sempre, sempre,

Esta angústia excessiva do espírito por coisa nenhuma,

Na estrada de Sintra, ou na estrada do sonho, ou na estrada da vida…

Maleável aos meus movimentos subconscientes do volante,

Galga sob mim comigo o automóvel que me emprestaram.

Sorrio do símbolo, ao pensar nele, e ao virar à direita.

Em quantas coisas que me emprestaram guio como minhas!

Quanto me emprestaram, ai de mim!, eu próprio sou!

À esquerda o casebre — sim, o casebre — à beira da estrada.

À direita o campo aberto, com a lua ao longe.

O automóvel, que parecia há pouco dar-me liberdade,

É agora uma coisa onde estou fechado,

Que só posso conduzir se nele estiver fechado,

Que só domino se me incluir nele, se ele me incluir a mim.

À esquerda lá para trás o casebre modesto, mais que modesto.

A vida ali deve ser feliz, só porque não é a minha.

Se alguém me viu da janela do casebre, sonhará: Aquele é que é feliz.

Talvez à criança espreitando pelos vidros da janela do andar que está em cima

Fiquei (com o automóvel emprestado) como um sonho, uma fada real.

Talvez à rapariga que olhou, ouvindo o motor, pela janela da cozinha

No pavimento térreo,

Sou qualquer coisa do príncipe de todo o coração de rapariga,

E ela me olhará de esguelha, pelos vidros, até à curva em que me perdi.

Deixarei sonhos atrás de mim, ou é o automóvel que os deixa?

Eu, guiador do automóvel emprestado, ou o automóvel emprestado que eu guio?

Na estrada de Sintra ao luar, na tristeza, ante os campos e a noite,

Guiando o Chevrolet emprestado desconsoladamente,

Perco-me na estrada futura, sumo-me na distância que alcanço,

E, num desejo terrível, súbito, violento, inconcebível,

Acelero…

Mas o meu coração ficou no monte de pedras, de que me desviei ao vê-lo sem vê-lo,

À porta do casebre,

O meu coração vazio,

O meu coração insatisfeito,

O meu coração mais humano do que eu, mais exacto que a vida.

Na estrada de Sintra, perto da meia-noite, ao luar, ao volante,

Na estrada de Sintra, que cansaço da própria imaginação,

Na estrada de Sintra, cada vez mais perto de Sintra,

Na estrada de Sintra, cada vez menos perto de mim…

11-5-1928

Poesias de Álvaro de Campos. Fernando Pessoa. Lisboa: Ática, 1944 (imp. 1993).- 37

 

I chose part of this poem to say goodbye to someone today. I did not go the funeral. “Do you want me to go?”, I asked. He didn’t. I didn’t know his father, I have never met him, I heard stories of beautiful cars and saw fading photos of a once happy life.

 

Photo: Not really a Chevrolet at Bastelicaccia, Corsica, August 2018

GLOSS ON THE COMING OF AUTUMN

The body does not wait. Neither for us
nor for love. This groping of hands,
researching with such reticence
the warm, silky aridness
that twitches from embarrassment
in movements quick and random;
this groping attended not by us
but by a thirst, a memory, whatever
we know about touching the bared
body that does not wait; this groping
that doesn’t know, doesn’t see, doesn’t
dare to be afraid of feeling scared…

The body’s so hasty! All is over and done
when one of us, or when love, has come.

Translation: 1997, Richard Zenith

 

GLOSA À CHEGADA DO OUTONO
O corpo não espera. Não. Por nós
ou pelo amor. Este pousar de mãos,
tão reticente e que interroga a sós
a tépida secura acetinada,
a que palpita por adivinhada
em solitários movimentos vãos;
este pousar em que não estamos nós,
mas uma sede, uma memória, tudo
o que sabemos de tocar desnudo
o corpo que não espera: este pousar
que não conhece, nada vê, nem nada
ousa temer no seu temor agudo…Tem tanta pressa o corpo! E já passou,
quando um de nós ou quando o amor chegou.

© 1958, Jorge de Sena
From: Fidelidade
Publisher: Edições 70, Lisboa, 1988
Photo: Urbino, April 2018

From time to time a smile is turned upon us

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A smile that blinds with blitheness, overspending
Upon this gasping sightless round of fun …

Das KarussellJardin du Luxembourg, Rainer Maria Rilke

Photo: San Diego, 2014

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

you may not believe it

but there are people
who go through life with
very little
friction or
distress.
they dress well, eat
well, sleep well.
they are contented with
their family
life.
they have moments of
grief
but all in all
they are undisturbed 
and often feel
very good.
and when they die
it is an easy
death, usually in their
sleep.
you may not believe 
it 
but such people do
exist. 
but I am not one of
them.
oh no, I am not one
of them,
I am not even near
to being
one of 
them 
but they are
there 
and I am 
here.

 

The Aliens, Charles Bukowski

The Last Night Of The Earth Poems

Let deeds match words

Between April 4 and 9 1994, we decided to make a Spanish road movie traveling from Porto to Cordoba via Cáceres, Trujillo and Mérida and getting lost in Alentejo on the way back. This was a dream road trip, just for the sake of driving and getting away. I still keep the photo diary of this trip and still remember P’s army green bomber jacket, everyone’s Timberland boots and my outrageous yellow pants printed with purple grapes that I had bought in Guiné Bissau two years before, and the silly photo shoots wearing a blue African hat my mother got in Senegal. I still have the pants I don’t know what happened to the hat.

cof

 

Armed with a yellow Let’s Go Budget Guide to Spain, we had nothing pre-booked and just chose where to stay by opening the book to whichever city we were in. This lack of strategy didn’t work in Mérida. All the recommended places were fully booked. Someone told us we should look for Pepita who rented rooms to tourists before this was an organized activity. We found her place after J walked all over shouting her name. I remember Pepita as a black haired larger than life fortune teller. She kept us awake for hours after dinner, the four of us sitting around a skirted table trying to be polite while at least one of us was feeling uncomfortably scared. Nothing happened, of course. Maybe some people rent rooms in their homes because they need some company.

cof

 

At the time I didn’t like the city. I still thought I would come back for the classical theater festival because you can not enter that Roman theater lightheartedly. Unless, like J, you start resenting your friends for forcing you to visit a “bunch of rocks”. This year I came back. After seeing a Facebook’s friend selfie waiting for Seneca. I returned to Mérida with someone who’s “against Romans”, whatever this might mean. I did not bother asking.

I went to the theater on my own. I’m a firm believer that everything grand or small you really wish to do, should be done in solitude. This might seem stupid but it has worked for me so far.

mon

 

I did not, as planned, manage to see a Tragedy. The importance of this was also explained during the Prologue to La comedia de las mentiras when Calidorus ( in this adaptation, the Slave) makes it clear that we are in fact going to see a Comedy and even though he would have very much preferred to have been a “tragic actress” this was not his role for the evening. Pepe Anton Gómez and Sergi Pompermeyer decided to do some kind of “mash-up” of Plautus‘ plays because even though Pseudolus was the first one on their minds, also Miles Gloriosus or Mercator, seemed suitable and the obvious solution was to take the way of the original author and base their own work on a series of previous works. Much in the same way Plautus inspired Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors .

mon

 

I arrived early so I could focus on being there. Observing people come in and find their seats, and greet their friends, and obliging couples who’d ask me to take their photo against the amazing backdrop of the theater. Situations like these always take me back to my English finals. The text was about photography reducing whatever was important in the world to your own existence. Now, these amazing places seem to be reduced to photo sets. The family of four seating next to me has their photo taken as well. It takes the mother a few minutes to analyze her own expression with care before sending the photo to a WhatsApp group named “Forever Young”. Yes, I know, I’m a horrible snoop. The actions of others, and their conversations have always been a source of never-ending fascination. The theater is filling up and there’s a beautiful massive choreography of abanicos trying to keep flawless made-up faces looking fresh.

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I spent the next two hours in absolute concentration for fear that my knowledge of Spanish might not be enough to follow a comedy. I somehow have the idea that tragic emotions would not be as language bound. I think I manage to pick up most of it. The Exode sings the virtues of lying so that life actually keeps moving in a quasi-Broadway musical act. I walk alone back to the hotel. I had not managed to keep the plan of seeing a Greek Tragedy in Mérida but in some way I still kept a promise made to myself. I’m almost certain I don’t do this as often as I should.

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The first time I went to Mérida I was still sort of madly in love with the owner of the green army bomber jacket and ironic smirk. These days, the love of theater tends to move me more than anything else. Also Extremadura has a way of connecting all the dots. It reminds me of childhood cartoons and of the freedom of life on the road and the possibility of accidentally getting lost. This time around, I truly enjoyed being in Mérida, I might not have traveled alone but still felt that this trip was only mine.

In case you’re interested

The Mérida International Classical Theatre Festival is the oldest of its kind in Spain and takes place every year between July and August

This time I used booking.com and stayed at Deluxe Hostel & Suites. The building was originally used as accommodation for railway workers in the 50s and is now equipped with a delightful salt water pool with massage beds. The best thing about it it’s the incredibly nice, helpful and truly amazing staff.

I was only in Mérida for three days and did not get to visit the Museo Nacional de Arte Romano or the El Costurero. I did visit the Conjunto Monumental, tickets are €15 and you can use them at your own pace to visit the Teatro y Anfiteatro romanos, the Alcazaba árabe, the Casa romana del Mitreo, the Cripta de la basílica de Santa Eulalia , the Área Arqueológica de Morería, the Circo romano and Área funeraria de Los Columbarios.

I only have two meals a day, breakfast and either lunch or dinner (plenty of snacks and coffee in between) so I have only been to three restaurants:

  • Pepe Ossorio (Plaza Constitución, 10) Nice upscale restaurant, Mediterranean/ fusion cuisine. Not my favourite kind of place but the food and the service was nice.
  • La Tapilla Sixtina (Calle Hernán Cortés, 39) Friendly tapas bar, huge portions, the food was quite good and the staff was great.

  • Sapori d’Italia (Calle del Museo, 21) Italian restaurant owned by an expat from Naples. Nice enough.

One day I’ll be able to travel and do no shopping. This wasn’t that kind of trip.

Martín. La Libreria de Papel (Calle Sta. Eulalia, 46) Very helpful staff and although I’m not a big fan, the selection of graphic novels seemed pretty impressive. I bought Mario Vargas Llosa’s Elogio de la educación and Marcus Aurelius’ Meditaciones. 

Arena 77 (Calle Sagasta, 23) I walked past when it was closed an there they were, the grafia sandals that looked just like the Stephan Kélian ones I used to have, probably around the end of the 90s), and which did not survive through the 00s. I came back to get them and was lucky to meet Carmen, an artist who works in restoration, has lived in La Habana and Sevilla where she owned a restaurant, in Lisbon where she was working in the México pavilion for Expo’98 and who now owns this store selling handmade pieces of beauty from Marrakesh and Colombia and Africa via Cádiz. Everything is made my women and everything is brought to Spain with no intermediaries. I bought a beaded bracelet made in Colombia, a bag lined in a beautiful wax print african fabric as a gift for my mother, and the Marrakesh raffia sandals just because they are like recovering a piece of the past.

Martina Boutiq (Calle José Ramon Mélida, 4) Stocks Antica Sartoria and was having a sale which served as the perfect excuse to buy an embelished white lace bomber jacket which is, obviously,  a “foundation” garment. The ladies working here are are just lovely.

Along Calle José Ramon Mélida there are several archeological reproductions and souvenir shops and I could not resist the most typical of the abanicos. What can I say, I’m truly kitsch at heart.

bty