Illusions, Poetry and Dark Times
The other one, Borges, is the one to whom things happen … It would be an exaggeration to say that our relationship is hostile; I live, I keep on living, so that Borges can weave his literature, and that literature justifies me. Spinoza understood that all things want to go on being themselves; the stone eternally wishes to be stone, and the tiger a tiger… I am forced to survive as Borges, not myself (if I am a self), yet, I recognise myself less in his books than in many others, less too than in the studious strumming of a guitar … Thus, my life is a flight and I will lose all and all will belong to oblivion, or to that other
– Jorge Luis Borges, ‘Borges and I’
May 23 will come in 2020 too. One year is a short time in time and space and no one is immortal. Indeed, as Borges said, “Immortality is commonplace.” Like immorality. Like barbarism. Like the sickness of a mind. Like the addiction of tyranny.
One summer must follow another like the cracked lips of May. Pray, let the rain arrive, heal our wounds, and let the cool winds sway. Open the windows. Let the lilies bloom tonight, like red stars over the night-high, and Lucy with her diamonds in the summer sky.
When hate flows like an unceasing, melting volcano in the political subconscious and in the reality of everyday life, and when ‘new normal’ means that evil is stalking the land, all is slippery in the sand, and a sick man has become a brand, it’s time to forget your name in the catalogue or your byline etched on the stone, and learn yet again to walk firm and steady with the ground beneath your feet.
It’s time to ignore the midnight knock and choose to whistle in the dark, listen to a forgotten symphony, become solitary and free, touch the bark of the ancient tree. It’s time to become invisible like Aureliano Buendia after the massacre of hundreds of peacefully protesting plantation workers in the banana republic of a tinpot dictatorship. They wiped out the clotted blood and washed away the evidence. Even the earth became parched in silent complicity, and the wind changed its toxic smell. They re-wrote both the written word and the folk and oral traditions. They changed the dialect and the dialectic. They said, the massacre did not happen. No one was killed. The plantation workers did not happen. There was no peaceful protest. Nothing happened!
Hence, when nothing happened, come and see the blood on the streets, as Pablo Neruda wrote, in ‘I’m Explaining a Few Things’:
And you will ask: why doesn’t his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land?
Between one summer and another, open your windows for the western disturbances, and prepare for one hundred years of solitude. Like Ursula, the eternal mother, learn to see every meticulous detail, every dust particle, substances, metals and liquids, clothes moist with humidity and fragrances, fingers sensuous and soft, like light eyes waiting for a beloved.
‘The dawn is no longer an illusion’, said a wall graffiti decades ago, when the dictatorship had become infinite in El Salvador. ‘Be a realist, demand the impossible’, said posters in Sorbonne, May 1968. In May 1983, in the scorching summer of sine die campus, memories of jail etched on our bodies, we also repeated another Sorbonne slogan, on the walls of down campus, JNU: ‘Give Flowers to the Rebels who Failed’.
In this failure, there is no failure. There is only the silence of the graffiti and brick walls washed by rain. There is this lingering liberation crossing zigzag across the next street corner, and the yellow pages of the book with a leaf and a storm inside. The wind sings the song of the faded cotton shirt smelling of skin and the leaves of grass, and you resurrect the lovely Brechtian poem, repeated a million times like remembrance of things future:
In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark time