Tabula Rasa

let the poets cry themselves to sleep

waiting

I’m waiting
in eternal gestation

in a crystal womb
feeding on dead cells

I’m waiting
in eternal ellipsis

for the golden bowl
to crush

for the orb
to implode

I’m waiting
for the future to set a starting mark
and the past to be blank

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Neon sign

He gets through the door
on his way out of the store
in such a haste
he almost looks like a child
who just broke
his mother’s vase
instead of a forty-year-old.

His left hand is so tense,
grabbing the plastic black bag
that gives the impression
of some kind of Pandora’s box;
whereas the right one
clumsily drops his car keys.

His face shows a mild sense
of amusing guilt,
looking almost purple,
as if the secret hiding in his bag
suffocated him,
while it’s actually a blending
of the dark of the night,
the red of his blush,
and the blue of the neon sign above,
the one that reads
sex shop.

Why is it?

Why is it
that every time I see you
a golden aura surrounds you
like divinity protecting you
from a tormented soul in the underworld?
why is it
that every time I imagine your scent
and come back from the realms of the mind
I sense a smell of rot
coming from no one but myself?
why is it
that your words are worthy of a poet’s pen
whereas mine stumble across meaning
and fall upon regret?

Why is it
that I know the answers of the questions above
yet still don’t care and will anyway be there?

Why is it?

The song

A song that used to bring
infancy memories back to life,
fed on the miasma of wistfulness,
is now the medium for that
first and only time I saw your face:
the begetting of a new life:
a sudden change
in the stream of my consciousness.

I listen to the chorus
and enter the museum of past things
and see your every detail
in the intimacy of stillness
so inward and secret
you’re not even aware of me
— as if you ever were.
The hands mimicking those of the singer’s,
wet from grabbing the ice cubes in your drink,
and sweat from the summer’s night
and your handshaking everyone;
the lips, slightly wet with
saliva and booze.
This all makes me blush once more
even in its unawareness,
even behind the shield of memory
reinforced by time.

Nos Cortaron La Luz

Nos cortaron la luz, porque el tarugo del Chino perdió el dinero que le dio mi má pa’ pagarla. Nos cortaron el agua también porque allá afuera andan arreglando el drenaje y que Hay que esperar a que seque el cemento, patroncito, dice el señor; que No más dos horas. Eso dijeron hace tres.

Así que no hay luz, ni agua. Y pues ni internet. Y como el teléfono es d’esos modernos, pues no jala porque no hay luz. En la casa vivimos varios — ocho pa’ ser exactos — y siempre hay un ruidero todo el día pero hoy que nos quedamos sin servicios parecía como si no hubiera nadie… sólo el silencio y el temor de que pronto se hará oscuro. Todos andaban mudos, no sé si del asombro; como conejos encandilados, como si de repente hubieran viajado en el tiempo a alguna época muy antigua en la que no había ni luz ni internet ni agua ni nada. Los celulares tienen batería todavía pero la apechugamos como una reserva de pan en pleno apocalipsis porque luego llega la noche y ¿qué hace uno? de por sí la hora de la comida estuvo bien tensa y hasta todos terminaron antes porque nadie quería usar el celular así que lo único que se podía hacer era concentrarse en comer o mirarle la cara al otro. Y ‘ora tú, le dice mi má a la Peque, ¿qué te pasó ahí? No nada, le contesta la otra toda nerviosa. Cómo que nada pero mira no más el méndigo moretonsote que traes… Ay de seguro fue el desgraciado de tu novio, verdad. A la Peque se le llenaron sus ojos de lágrimas. Después de un rato confesó que se lo había hecho el cabrón de su novio desde hace una semana, pero nadie se había dado cuenta hasta que se fue la luz y les hizo ver mejor las cosas.

Después de un rato salí a preguntarle a los señores que andan arreglando el drenaje que si ya pronto vamos a tener agua que ya acabamos de comer desde hace una hora y lo trastes están todos sucios y las pinches moscas ya nos enfadaron. Yo creo ya en una hora más, patroncito. Pos ojalá porque si no la Peque se va a tener que ir a trabajar sin bañarse; es mesera en un bar usté cree pero ya no lo entretengo don pa que termine pronto. Sí como no, me dice el don muy amable pero yo no quería su amabilidad, yo quería que le apurara que esta vida rústica, contemplando y añorando la civilización desde la ventana, no es pa mí, ni pa mi familia. A ver si mi pá consigue un préstamo para poder pagar la luz mañana… Chino tarugo… Pero no le digo tarugo por haber perdido el dinero, porque eso es no más una mentira que le dijo a mi má para que no se espantara. A la hora de la comida, después de lo de la Peque, el güey confesó que lo usó para pagarle a su novia un aborto porque no usó protección — Chino tarugo — tarugo pero bien buena gente eso sí por apoyar a su novia que ella decía que no quería ser mamá, no todavía. Yo creo que cuando dijo eso fue cuando mi má entendió y se compadeció de los dos, más de la novia porque dice que esas clínicas luego son de mala muerte y ninguna mujer debería pasar por esa situación como si estuviera cometiendo un delito. Qué van a saber los hombres, dijo, del cuerpo de una mujer y de dar vida si lo único pa lo que son buenos es pa quitarla. Nunca la había oído hablar así y nunca la había visto llorar, no frente a mí. Fue el silencio el que hizo que el Chino y ella desahogaran sus gargantas.

En fin, ya es de noche y la negrura y el silencio ya no son tan sofocantes. Ahí’stá el celular pero no sé qué hacer, no sé en qué gastar el cuarto de batería que me queda. Uno diría que entre más opciones haya más fácil debería ser escoger, pero no, es todo lo contrario. Así que me entretengo en oír a la Peque, que acaba de llegar del trabajo, llorar en la cocina; a mi má decirle a mi pá que mañana se van al ministerio a arreglar lo del moretón, y mi pá le contesta que su compadre le paga mañana un dinero que le debía y con eso paga la luz. Al final sólo se escucha el lavabo en la cocina gotear: plic, ploc… plic, ploc; y me imagino al silencio como un anciano cansado de su jornada laboral, sentado en la cocina, mirando las gotas caer. Plic, ploc… plic, ploc.

I dreamt it felt like my mother had died

I dreamt it felt like my mother had died.
Neither did I see nor hear nor knew at all,
but I dreamt it felt like it.

I ran through the unfamiliar streets
Of a city I thought I was supposed to know.
There was my sister as well as her friend
As well as mine. We ran and I was last.
I was carrying my mother’s favorite fruit:
a pineapple but it was heavy as boulders.

My sister had my mother’s French dictionary,
which, dropping the pineapple, I snatched.
“Tu ne comprendras jamais!” I exclaimed.
Then I ran, faster and faster and I was finally first.
I ran, faster and faster, but I was still lost.

When my sister reached me I stopped,
Turned back and saw our friends’ pitiful faces,
as if witnessing dementia and grief themselves.
I turned around and saw a bookstore;
it was the one wherein Mother bought Wuthering Heights.

“I’ll be near here, but don’t follow me please!
I’ll be near here, but get lost already!”
I said to my sister.

I ran and I pant then I halted at a store.
There I saw my mother’s dress.
It was white like an angel’s and I could even hear a chant.
Then I remembered.

Then I remembered, still dreaming,
That I was an only child,
That my mother didn’t speak French.
Then, where was I?
Who where those people back there?
Why am I lost?
Who died?

I dreamt it felt like my mother had died.
Neither did I see nor hear nor wasn’t sure at all,
but I dreamt it felt like it.

Quicksand

Time’s an eagle
flying in circles,
freely, swiftly,
above the quicksand
where I’m stuck.

Its trace is
an ouroboros of
bad choices and regrets;
love lost and naught regained;
a serpent that chokes
yet swallows anyhow.

Sand that looks like gold
but feels like minute razorblades
—galore as the thoughts
that keep me awake at night—
cutting me deep through my pores
until this muddy substance
swallows me completely.

No harm; just the ceiling coming down.
No hope; just another dawn.

Review: ‘Death in Venice (& Other Tales)’ by Thomas Mann

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“What do you mean, Diotima,’ I said, ‘is love then evil and foul?’ ‘Hush,’ she cried; ‘must that be foul which is not fair?’ ‘Certainly,’ I said. ‘And is that which is not wise, ignorant? do you not see that there is a mean between wisdom and ignorance?’ ‘And what may that be?’ I said. ‘Right opinion,’ she replied.”
— Plato. The Symposium (trans. by Benjamin Jowett).

Fuzzy Logic is a paradigm often applied to Artificial Intelligence, though its applications may vary. It’s a kind of logic that was introduced in order to contrast boolean logic, wherein a variable’s value is strictly either 0 or 1. Therefore, in fuzzy logic a variable may fall in the range between 0 and 1, showing a more accurate approach on how, in the real world, things are (or at least should be). For example: according to some, a 400 page book may be mildly long, but for others, it may be slightly long, whereas for someone else it may be short. We classify things this way, in fuzzy logic, not just as either black or white, big or small, zero or one, right or wrong — and not even completely heterosexual or completely homosexual, in regards to sexuality. Thus, it shouldn’t be a scandal that a straight man feels attraction towards another man (age aside), like it happened to Thomas Mann in 1911 when he took a trip to Venice where he met Władzio: a boy who inspired the writer’s subject of beauty, his Phaedrus, his god, his literary inspiration and fascination. Whereas Mann wasn’t actually as absorbed as to stalking the boy throughout the Piazza di San Marco, he certainly was compelled by him, according to his wife. So one may say that this did happen. On the other hand, bringing back my introductory efforts to state that emotions aren’t ruled by boolean logic, Death in Venice is often regarded as a beautiful approach to queer literature — beautiful as we scarcely find in great classics — even though the author thereof isn’t exactly queer.

Mann transferred his experience in Venice to Gustav von Aschenbach, a 50(-ish) year-old writer and widower, who after an opening scene decides to take a trip to clear his mind in order for his work to bloom again. The aforementioned opening scene is that of a mysterious man in a cemetery and Aschenbach’s lugubrious omen and sudden decision to go to Venice; and from this point on one falls under a sort of sombre ambience and an ill spell that won’t leave the reader until the final paragraph. Many things happen, delightfully described, but as for the main thread, at his arrival at the hotel, and more precisely, at supper, Aschenbach meets Tadzio, a young boy who catches his attention immediately and its then when the plot begins to unravel into a deadly and dreadful ending. Mann keeps symbolisms constant and fate also plays an important part, as when he intends to leave Venice due to health issues, his luggage keeps him from doing so. He also makes allusions to greek mythology, especially Plato’s Symposium, relating Aschenbach and Tadzio to Socrates and Phaedrus in a reverie of sorts and exposing the greek philosopher’s ideas of beauty, love and the god thereof — that is Eros, who resides in the loving rather than the beloved. Also, Mann, in my opinion, tried to un-taboo the love between two men whose ages are disproportionate using Socrates’s ideal of love and to remark that there’s nothing despicable about the beauty of the senses that resides in youth drawn to the kind of beauty that is rather spiritual and resides in maturity — that love as we know it is rather fuzzy than boolean, and it is always beautiful and somewhat artistic. The dark side of it lies in the abuse and the excess of this passion, when it becomes dangerous not only to oneself but also to the beloved, having both well-beings at risk, like Aschenbach did keeping the truth about Venice to himself, in a frenzy and feverish delusion that his love for Tadzio was still pure.

Nothing is more bizarre, more ticklish, than a relationship be-tween two people who know each other only with their eyes—who encounter, observe each other daily, even hourly, never greeting, never speaking, constrained by convention or by caprice to keep acting the indifferent strangers. They experience discomfort and overwrought curiosity, the hysteria of an unsatis-fied, unnaturally stifled need to recognize and to exchange, and they especially feel something like a tense mutual esteem. For people love and honor someone so long as they cannot judge him, and yearning is a product of defective knowledge.

Death in Venice is doubtless an incredible masterpiece, not only because of its lyrical and delightful prose and because it challenges the reader to bring down the barriers of taboo down, but also because of this sense of personal approach that makes a great work great: that is, the writer’s ability to touch and kindle our souls — like Mann himself wrote:

“But even on a personal level, art is, after all, a more sublime life. It delights more deeply, it consumes more swiftly. It carves the traces of imaginary, intellectual adventures into the features of its servant.”

The rest of the stories are magnificent as well — not as engrossing as the Venice but still worth reading in order to appreciate how most of their characters share the same artistic, obsessive and solitary nature of Aschenbach; like Tonio Kröger: a literate young man who struggles with life in the arena of literature; or Spinell, a lonesome writer in a sanatorium, found in Tristan, the novella that would later develop into The Magic Mountain. Overall, there’s bleakness in Mann’s world, but then again, there is always beauty to be found in the bleak.

Thomas Mann captivated me literarily but also personally, and part of me died with Aschenbach in his efforts to reach beauty, taking my memories and experiences as nourishment. In dust I became and I shall float by the ill weather of Mann’s Venice, eternally tracing beauty and love, to which, I think, I’ll eventually approach by the way of literature.

“Never had he felt the pleasure of words more sweetly, never had he knowm so deeply that Eros is in words as in the dangerously delicious hours when he sat at his crude table under the aiming, with his idol in full view, the music of that voice in his ears: he was modeling his little essay on Tadzio’s beauty, forming that page and a half of exquisite prose whose purity, nobility, and quivering emotional tension would shortly gain the admiration of many.”

Review: ‘As I Lay Dying’ by W. Faulkner

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About a year ago a friend of mine got me this job in which I had to work for some sociologists who made researches about Mexican immigrants in the US. Basically, my job was to transcribe their recorded interviews, which I personally found pretty enjoyable — it was like listening to all those life stories, sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes a blend of both. So the task was entertaining and the pay was good. However, like any job, it had some difficulties at first. I got to realize how significantly communication can differ from spoken to written, with all the words we mispronounce, the structures we shorten and the grammar we defy, which is basically the beauty of how language keeps changing; but for me, it was puzzling at first trying to find a way to make some sentences readable for the researches who would later read them, and to know what punctuation mark would suit better. That’s when I realised about the importance thereof. I think the people I worked for were quite satisfied with my job and I was grateful that such an experience helped me see some of the importance that resides in language itself. Language: our means to express things, to bring ideas into a general understanding, to tell something: events, messages, stories that become masterpieces of literature, &c.

Now, to talk about literature is to try to pour all the water of the sea into a sand pit (borrowing St. Augustine’s metaphor for the Mystery of The Trinity). But one of the literary styles I like the most is what’s known as stream of consciousness: a device that depicts the human mind and the way it constructs sentences — sometimes long, sometimes short; sometimes they’re ramblings, sometimes they are brilliant aphorisms built on experience. We see that in Proust’s subtle and delicate prose; or Joyce’s, raging and cunning; or Woolf’s, rhythmical and alluring. Then comes Faulkner, playing with words and sentences no more than we often do, unconsciously and fluently. We let words come out and in such a process we disregard by times whether we construct a sentence or rather deconstruct it. This may be a hard task while reading a novel, since we are used to straight plots, a strict grammar and a coherent syntax. I’m not saying such stories are bad, not at all, but we usually don’t speak premeditatedly in real life; instead, while telling excitingly something we digress so much and sometimes we disregard the due arrangement of words, and just like everybody has their own handwriting, thus everybody has their own pronunciation and their own language idiosyncrasies. Now, imagine what a stream, nay, a torrent of consciousness results when a whole novel, such as As I Lay Dying, is narrated by many different people — sometimes a child (a perfectly portrayed innocence), sometimes a lonesome woman, sometimes a so-called queer young man, sometimes a wrathful son, or even a regretful minister. It’s a mess, definitely, but, alas! what a delightful mess brought from Faulkner’s pen to the whole world; while the fact that the author never changed a word of his manuscript and wrote it in six weeks, only naturalises the ambience in this work.

In Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying words rise in rebellion, making it a hard reading experience, but it pays off, it really does once you get used to it. Sentences bring grammatical protocols down and they drag the reader throughout the whole book through their own way. While a conventional prose would take you by the pavement, Faulkner’s takes you by the gravel. The point of arrival is the same, though: the Bundren’s tremendous vortex of love, rage, sex, life, family bonds, solitude. You may have a chance to catch your breath in the surface intermittently, but you’ll eventually be sucked in by its engrossing effect and experience their emotions quite vividly. It’s such a passionate work that makes me feel passionate about literature……… Sho. It’s a durn masterpiece! Aint it?

He had a word, too. Love, he called it. But I had been used to words for a long time. I knew that that word was like the others: just a shape to fill a lack; that when the right time came, you wouldn’t need a word for that anymore than for pride or fear.

Film Review: “Young Man at the Bar Masturbating With Rage and Nerve” by Julián Hernández

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In 21 minutes Mexican filmmaker Julian Hernández introduces Christian Rodríguez to the viewer. However, it’s the former who actually introduces himself from the very first frames: from his pseudonym, his skin color, his body type; but he also brings to the table his rate: $1,500 per hour. Therefore, if the title of the short film hadn’t already rung a bell, this little preface may tell us what this is going to be about: sex — at least partly.

Christian goes on with an overview of his life: his origin — a little town in the Mexican provinces; his childhood — describing himself as an extremely effeminate, obviously homosexual child. Thereupon he relates what growing up as a young gay man would be later; what it’s like to endure insults but at the same time having to cope with one’s sexual identity all by oneself in a close-minded and conservative society. Just picture it. If it’s a tough task in the big cities, how do you think it is in such small parts of the world? He relates this, however, with such fluency and, well, it’s not humorously, but he doesn’t play a victimized role either; he is rather the testimony of overcoming, something that didn’t occur to him just suddenly but by moving to other parts of Mexico, widening his experiences, following his passions, and, well… just living.

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So this short film is partly about sex and sexual identity but there’s still one very important remaining part which makes of this film, in my opinion, a beautiful movement in itself. I’m talking about dancing — dancing as entertainment, as art, as expression, as the means to earn a living. Thus, Christian states his fervent love for dancing, though not in a professional way, he says, until the time when he moved to Mazatlán to pursue his studies and heard on the radio about some dancing contest (which he wins, by the way). It’s then when one of the judges of the contest invites Christian to work as a dancer at the hotel where the event took place. “That’s when everything begins for me,” Christian says. While he narrates all of this we can see some kind of class he’s giving — and he certainly is such great dancer, if I’m asked! It happens in a plain, small and dimly lit room at a gym; but Julián Hernández’s vision renders vividness and colorfulness to the cinematographic experience through the music, the dancing shoes, the intermittent shots of the rapid movements of those cheerful bodies as if celebrating human anatomy.

This is when opportunities start coming from everywhere and Christian is invited to work as a professional dancer. ‘Professional’, what a word and how struck he was by it. Nonetheless he makes up his mind about attending an audition to which he was invited. Albeit concurred, he wins the contest and he’s given an opportunity to professionally begin his career, not as a dancing-man, but rather as a dancer. Like in the above paragraph, while this narration takes place, a reverie of sorts shows up, wherein our now professional dancer runs a captivating performance to some sort of Ligeti-like atmospheric piece of music.

Subsequently, Christian moves to Mexico city, being 22 years old and with a made-up mind about waisting no time and getting to build a great career. Intermittent reverie frames take place once more and Christian performs for his audience once more. Unfortunately for him (and many others) art is simply unprofitable, and that’s when dancing and prostitution blend. The bright side, I think, would be that Christian takes it pretty well, claiming to have no other vice than sex, just many people are weak for alcohol or cigarettes. His habits and procedures as an escort are depicted quite faithfully and we can even witness (fictionally) how a young man hires Christian for his birthday, for which the latter gives him a ‘nice present’ — that is a striptease that ends up in casual sex and a shower. Intertwined with this brief episode, we get to know more details about Christian’s secondary profession.

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Lastly the viewer is ushered into a gay bar in Mexico city where Christian performs live at a bar — a performance which seems to include some sensual movements, including that of a fictitious masturbation (fictitious, as far as we know). He finally expresses his love for it, for his two vices in an ideal mixture for him: dancing and sensuality.

There are many erotic scenes in the film, but I think it’s not that hard to watch for someone who isn’t used to it. It’s not more explicit than any other contemporary pop music video that many regard as normal these days. On the other hand, speaking of so-called normality, there are many films that are supposed to be made for a straight public to help them understand the kind of sexuality that resides outside the pale: either homosexuality or transsexuality or bisexuality; but my point is that such tags as “gay-themed films for straight people” would be unnecessary if more people gave a chance to films like this. Of course most of this kind of projects’ public are gay people: those who can relate to it, people who look for their spot in the history of art. But it’s not exclusive whatsoever to them. This film, for instance, is a magnificent way to get to know about something we’re not offered quite often; and instead of being prejudicial, we have the opportunity to realize what’s behind all of it. This film works as a lens to see life through someone else’s eyes while Hernández is only rendering the eyeglass. Because personally, albeit its shortness, few lengthy queer film have ever made me think of it as a proclamation of homosexuality, specially in Mexico, and of the struggle of making a living through art, regardless of the artist’s sexuality. Unlike Julian Hernandez’s previous work, this is not slow-paced, but it’s rather like a flashing daydream; unlike his previous films, this is not an event in someone’s life, but a whole life told in a picturesque play of colors and movements; it’s told in 21 short and worthy minutes.