Venice, 2016

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Gorgias and Iasone talk shop

Gor: Here you are, reclining on your boat, under the shade of your favourite palazzo.  You strum your guitar like never before, a wistful tune of Spanish origin, yet I know you know this lagoon and have never left for South American shores.  And while I am searching a way to flee this place, to move on and never come back, you teach the delicate waters to resonate with sweet words.

Ias: My dear Gorgias, it is a mystery to me what has procured this peace and I do not see this inspiration stopping soon; for a long time in my life I have enjoyed the altars of Bacchus and willingly served his cult.  As a young man, my mind would be softened by words and the images created by another.  Now, this aura reigns my soul again, so it seems, and has allowed me once more to play on my swift boat.

Gor: I certainly do not deny you this privilege, friend, but instead I marvel at your composure, while all around us there is frenzy.  I have driven my boat around these canals for weeks on end, finding only a few thin tourists.  I saw this one man standing out in the crowd, with a very pretty woman, much his junior, and who looked like a fat sale.  We exchanged words, and he was about to embark, when he tumbled, clutching his chest.  He fell like an oak on the stones in front of the church, shouting something about the goodness of his mind.  Died before the ambulance could reach him.  But tell me, Iasone, what has brought on this blessed state of mind?

Ias: I have been reminded of the city of Paris, which I once thought just another tourist trap like our own.  Many years ago, I visited this place and brought my choice lines of poetry to dress them up in more cultured rags.  At the time I was in the habit of comparing bitches with pussies, mothers with daughters, oaks with acorns.  But then I saw this global metropolis raising its head above the international playground, like the chestnut trees reaching towards the skies on its wide and famous boulevards.

Gor: And what brought you to Paris in the first place?

Ias: Freedom.  I discovered it late in life, before my beard had made me wiser and while in my eyes change could be achieved through violence.  Then I was held between Italian cities, cultivating my bitter gardens and milk-white pretentions, exerting physical force over the undulations of an unremitting ideal.  I did not care for freedom; I thought not of material accumulation.  And though many a time rich ideas would leave my humble threshold, the return I was seeking would not give back, and my right hand, stained with brassy ink, could seize no profit. 

Gor: At the time we crushed this afternoon a cup of amber wine on the San Giacomo, I wondered why you wept to think of these former streets from a Parisian perspective, and wherefore you glutted sorrow on sunk grapes; you have been absent from this Bay.  The fountains, the palazzi – they missed you.

Ias: What could I do?  The high tides would not free me from manacles, and She, my god, threw herself from the cliffs, as I missed her kiss; and we both missed the synchronicity of waves.  And then I saw something more, something concrete, the thing now for which our tour travels from place to place and from which near seven years ago I was given the first statement of change: “Boys and girls, feed your verses as before, and rear your mighty tomes”.

Gor: Happy you now must be in the lofty Pyrenees, though the streets are emptying and tainted algae make a parasite of our youth.  Fortunate soul, to gaze upon the Seine under the cooling shades of our beautiful city’s canopy; your days are spent in the demarcations of swift Culture, drinking from the cool taps and listening to the flock’s gentle lowing.  And what’s more, Italian borders are never too far away, and upon Hesperian sheets you can be lulled whenever you choose, while sea dogs and Sirens, your own delights, will never cease their plaintiff melodies.

Ias: You inspire me again: sooner wine be turned to water, pigeons to tigers, or the exiled Syrian to princes once again, or the Union to tatters, than I shall turn my gaze from those streets lit up.

Gor: Come, my friend, it is time.  San Francisco calls, the Dominican Republican waits on us and all of France yearns to hear the words of our review.  I will miss my rural home and the country side that surrounded me, a child.  The birches that point directly to Heaven have shaded me for such a long time; they have seen me grow, but I them never.  Now a dismal soldier threatens, and barbary stands ready to ravage our well-tilled soils.  Look at where war has led us, faithful citizens of an eternal republic; it was for this that so much ink was spilled?  Go on, fellow writers, with your happy lines.  Look at me in my ruin, as my once cherished house crumbles in despair; songs I’ll sing no more, what an exile I’ll die and my over-polished crop of wailing words will fall short before the dawn, languishing by the willows and sickly cypresses. 

Ias: But you will stay here the night.  The Venetian moon is rising and we have all we need for the moment: wine, wit and wisdom.  The tavern awaits us, the crowd longs to be pleased and the smoking pipes caress our hoary throats. 

Publicités

Padua, 2017

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“Formality,” you said, “is not something I’m familiar with.”

I would recall these lines at the very end of Padua 2017, remembering the very first time our eyes met when I became enraptured.  After the pleasure of meeting others in the piazza Gasparotto, the hub of the following events, I had to content myself with knowing only your eyes, l’innominata.

I met a woman on Friday night who said this: “When you have known someone, physically, violently, intimately, a part of that person becomes you and never leaves.  I know I will love ***** forever, even though we said goodbye four years ago”.

I replied with a similar story and tried to impress her with John Donne: “Letters more than kisses mingle souls”.  She looked me straight in the eyes and said she agreed.

Our eyes kept on meeting.  She clutched a cold bottle of water in her hands and I drank Venetian bitters.  I think of the Saturday afternoon conference, about artistic eruptions, with the three old sages; the elderly academic struggled to open a bottle of water in front of a crowd of students.  Every morning of the tour last week in the UK, I drank a bottle of local water in the morning.

You read your poetry through the cobbled streets with pride.  At the open mic, you read two poems.  One of yours and the other from an Italian writer I cannot now remember; my mind is too filled with Latin writers to remember Italian ones.  To quote 3615, I understand them, but I did not understand them.

You spoke with such sincerity of purpose, climbing the mountainside of psychology to an understanding, personal, of a T.S. Eliot poem.  I warned that, you might be able to climb the mountain, but scaling down the other side is another trial in and of itself.  You just wanted to jump off in a bat suit.

You laughed when you swept me off my feet in a scooter by Galileo’s ivory tower, and symbolism flooded my vision.  The painter repetitively capturing the same scene for years – does he notice the excited laughter from the birds?  Is April his kindest month?  Were we nothing but the invisible sound from a wind chime, seen as a passing movement?

Our eyes kept on meeting.  I wanted you to dance to deep house electronic music, escape the wild conversation of outside to cover our ears with harmony and give rhythm to our feet.  Earlier I had tried to dance, but my feet just carried me back to you.  At that moment, though, you preferred the solitude of poets to the union of dancers.  Our time in the sun would come, as I remember wanting to say to you.

We played our game with sweet precision.  We laughed when told a joke; we greeted when let in; we parted when obliged.  Did I see another Suitor?  A claimer to those eyes that made a servant out of this pen, a fellow captive to the loving servitude a Cynthia can create?  In which case, I will have to change tactic.

We played at being intellectuals in Paris, even though we were in Padua, scootering our way around those cobbled streets.  I held your sides, feeling the soft silk of your shirt rub your skin.  You said that everything was chemical nowadays, even the libido.  A jolt in the road confirmed this.

We did not yet write our four-hand poem – la più bella poesia è quella che non ho mai scritta.  But we did sit down, side by side, at a station piano and improvise for a little moment, and I felt your classical training, you who talk about an unfamiliarity with formality.

Our eyes kept on meeting.  We offered our souls in two-minute repartees between poems and walking, walking and poems.  Between poems and walking, I discovered a side of writing that was truly social.  Between walking and poems, you suddenly became the reality of your own desire.  Between walking and poems, we were, between poems and walking, between walking and poems, we were, between poems and walking.