Tabula Rasa

let the poets cry themselves to sleep

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It’s 7:47 p.m.
A couple of minutes ago
the sky wore a roseate veil,
and peeking,
invitingly,
through the window,
gave the house a sense of peaceful melancholy.

It was as roseate as the day of exodus itself;
when I was melancholy too
with just a slight variation:
I had then upon my shoulders
a weighting sense
of the interim
of a moment I wanted to last forever,
always carrying the burden of incertitude.

Today I’m melancholy like a mountain,
forever lonesome,
forever seeing people come and go;
yet forever waiting,
peacefully, unmoved;
yes, forever waiting;
for something
                    — for what?

After a while
the sky took its veil off
like an elegant figure trying
garments on
as best suits;
going from cheerful
to peaceful
to gloomy.

It is a shame
the ethereal moment was so brief.
It is a shame
its hope seemed to last
only
     a
       couple
         of
           drops
falling in the kitchen sink.
It is a shame
I’m just the same as the sky.

It’s moments like this I bottle
in order to give myself a certain solace
by sometimes sniffing it,
sometimes passing out on it,
hoping that over the night
an ocean of it will break through the windows.

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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

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.