* gabriel garcia marquez: a lyrical alignment

This week’s poem is a lyrical alignment from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s prologue to his short story collection Strange Pilgrims.

In his prologue – entitled “Why Twelve, Why Stories, Why Pilgrims” – Marquez details the journey of his stories, how some have traveled with him for years and others arrived unexpected. I remember marveling at the openness with which he shared his patience with the ineffable act of writing as well as the depth of his memory. He finishes this “story behind the stories” with a short account of a dream he had. It is this account that I’ve decided to lyrically aligned. What moves me most about Marquez’s account of his dream is the innocence of the revelation on mortality he arrives at by the end.

I had a similar revelation while watching Terminator 2 as a kid. Another dream, this one on film: the main character, Sarah Connor, imagines herself standing at a chain-link fence, watching kids play. The entire scene is without sound. Then a nuclear explosion goes off in the distance, which she seems to be the only one aware of. The viewer watches as the blast from the explosion lays waste first to the playground, kids,  and then to Sarah, who screams to herself in silence. Young, I replayed this scene over and over before I slept, each time trying to imagine the nothing implied by the silence and black screen at the scene’s end.

Looking back on it, Marquez’s dream of a party is a better scenario 🙂

* cosas de rosas *
* cosas de rosas *

“…I dreamed I was attending my own funeral,” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

a lyrical alignment from Marquez’s “Strange Pilgrims”

walking with a group of friends
dressed in solemn mourning
but in a festive mood. We all
seemed happy to be together.
And I more than anyone else,
because of the wonderful
opportunity that death afforded me
to be with my friends from Latin America,
my oldest and dearest, the ones
I had not seen in so long. At the end
of the service, when they began to disperse,
I attempted to leave too, but one of them
made me see
with decisive finality
that as far as I was concerned,
the party was over. – You’re the only one
who can’t go – he said. Only then
did I understand
that dying
means never being
with friends again.

***

Happy againing!

Jose

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* the 100th post

Bright star – would I were steadfast as thou art —
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores…

(John Keats, Bright Star)

With those six lines there, poetry had me.

I read those as a kid and was floored.  I mean, first there’s the language: what’s an Eremite?  Steadfa- que?  But you go down into the words waters, priestlike task, ablution, shores and they take you into the ocean with their sounds.  I was hooked.  I didn’t know what I was looking at but I wanted to be around it, be part of it.

Of course, I didn’t realize this til much later, when I returned to Keats in an official I AM NOW GOING TO READ POETRY adolescent way.  Coming across this poem again, I went back to that silence of being a kid with something – can’t name it, don’t know what it is – but something there in these words is soooo cooool.

Eloquent I am not.

That said, I wanted to do a more personal post for this, the 100th post.

And what’s more personal than stars:

* insert crickets sound here *
* insert crickets sound here *

Sure, they’re all the way up there and on a completely different timeframe than us.  Yet, when you look up – or rather, when you let yourself look up and really look up – there’s something…I don’t know, nice about it.

Again, eloquence.

Here’s me trying to say it better:

To a star in Texas – Jose Angel Araguz

Little light weaving through, I cannot
make out much tonight, and I know this here
means nothing to you, so

skin, tell my stories; heart, fill the sky.

**

I don’t know exactly what that last line means but I’ve been kinda living by it ever since I wrote it years ago.  Something about how just being here is enough.

Stars.  The word, plural or singular, is so riddled with cliche, you could be talking about nothing.  And in a way you are.

Stars are, for me, things of persistence, pseudo-Venn diagrams of presence and absence.  They are one of the few things that people will – nearly universally – stop and let me themselves be awed by.

How do I know this?  Through reading poems.

Here’s Rilke’s take on it:

Lament – Rainer Maria Rilke

Everything is far
and long gone by.
I think that the star
glittering above me
has been dead for a million years.
I think there were tears
in the car I heard pass
and something terrible was said.
A clock has stopped striking in the house
across the road…
When did it start?…
I would like to step out of my heart
and go walking beneath the enormous sky.
I would like to pray.
And surely of all the stars that perished
long ago,
one still exists.
I think that I know
which one it is —
which one, at the end of its beam in the sky,
stands like a white city…

(trans. Stephen Mitchell)

**

Happy standing!

Jose

* sharing toys with Takuboku Ishikawa

Tanka are my sad toys.

Takuboku Ishikawa

Takuboku Ishikawa (1886 – 1912) said the above statement at the end of an essay, explaining how he approached the form with the intimacy of a diary.  They were “sad” because he wrote them while unhappy – they were “toys” because they were useless to society.

This outlook is better understood within the context of Ishikawa’s short life which was burdened with illness and poverty as well as a frustrated ambition to be a novelist.  He felt his gift for tanka was useless and felt his novels and essays were of more value.  This misplaced ambition opened up in him the possibility to really give himself to his tanka.  Despite his outlook, he is known to have said that on “unhappy days…[there is] no greater satisfaction than to write tanka.” *

* luchadores, yo *
* these were my sad toys *

Since landing in Cincinnati, I have been busy revising poems and putting together a new manuscript.  In working through this notebook from two years ago I came across my notes from first reading Ishikawa’s work.  His ability to channel restlessness and desperation into short lyrics moves me to this day.

There is also that spirit, that high, of going on a good writing jag .  Ishikawa had a famous three day writing spree where he only stopped to walk through graveyards.

The  poems I wrote after reading him delve a bit into the past – into childhood – back when I would play with the toys above – little luchadores I would keep in a box under the kitchen sink.  His directness with the line – which can be grasped in the lyrics below – helped me wrestle past myself towards a clearer line.

*

excerpts from “Sad Toys” – Takuboku Ishikawa

like a stone
that rolls down a hill,
I have come to this day.

*

Fallen leaves of late autumn, destined to decay!
Following them in sympathy, I hurried to start my journey.

*

Not knowing where the wind has gone that blew it from its twig,
This stray leaf, bewildered and lost, has fallen on my sleeve.

*

her black pupils
absorbing only the light of this world
remain in my eyes

*

as boys born in mountains
yearn for mountains,
I think of you when in sorrow

*

waiting til I was dead drunk,
she whispered to me
those many sad things!

*

these poor thin hands
without power
to grasp and grasp hard!

*

bristling over the way
my moustache droops,
so like the man’s I now hate!

*

Happy drooping!

Jose

* I found some useful information on Ishikawa for this post here.

* cynicism via Adam Levine & Philip Larkin

This show changed my life.  I was a cynic.  It brought back the joy…
(Adam Levine)

*at cynics not-so-anonymous*
*at cynics not-so-anonymous*

This week on the Influence: Philip Larkin!

FIRST, though, a confession: I watch The Voice.  There I said it.

Sharing this information in a public forum is tough.  Indeed, admitting what T.V. shows one indulges in can be as nerve-wracking and potentially embarrassing as…uhm, I don’t know – writing poetry.

Growing up in Texas, some of my homeboys back in the day didn’t take kindly to my versifying ways (I say it this way because it wouldn’t be polite of me to share exactly what they said of my ambitions to be a poet).

And yet I forged on – not out of any well-thought out conviction that I had been born with a direct line to the Muse – I forged on out of a sheer inability to do anything else but forge on.

It is this reflex, this connection that cannot be denied, that gets me to the page each day.  This reflex has its roots down where everything I enjoy resonates – from what I eat to what I read – and, yes, what I watch on T.V.

What moves me about Adam Levine’s words above is that simple admission: that he was a cynic.  One spends years entrenched in an art and risks slowly growing competitive and desensitized, unwilling to see beyond the niche one works out of.  One must seek ways to push beyond such limits, experiences that bring back the joy of what you do, that bring you back to why you do it.

Nothing beats finding a new writer you enjoy – someone who raises the temperature in the room you’re in, that has you smiling despite yourself as you read each incredible, engrossing word.

Afterwards, you judge.  You gauge how good it is against what you see as better.  You go back to your page to catch up, to outdo.  But for awhile there, you simply read.

Watching Adam Levine & co. listen to music and talk about it passionately has taught me a lot about humility and generosity.

Across the Street

Philip Larkin, too, has been a model for humility.

His poem “This Be the Verse” is infamous for its bitterness and warning against ever becoming a parent.  He HATED this poem being what most people recalled when his name was brought up.  While being popular, he felt it also made him seem less serious.  People often miss when the bitterness gives way.  He was a man of strong opinions – who knew what he liked – and it is that strength and nerve that guided the many illuminating and well-crafted poems he left us.

Here’s another poem about “mum and dad.”  I love how it leaves you at that moment of not understanding something fully but feeling it.

Ultimately, what we like is what we feel.

***

Coming – Philip Larkin

On longer evenings,
Light, chill and yellow,
Bathes the serene
Foreheads of houses.
A thrush sings,
Laurel-surrounded
In the deep bare garden,
It’s fresh-peeled voice
Astonishing the brickwork.
It will be spring soon,
It will be spring soon –
And I, whose childhood
Is a forgotten boredom,
Feel like a child
Who comes on a scene
Of adult reconciling
And can understand nothing
But the unusual laughter,
And starts to be happy.

***

Happy starting!

Jose