Thursday, September 23, 2010

Farewell to Tundama Ortiz


Niet om afscheid te nemen,
Of om mij op reis te begeven,
ben ik het station ingegaan,
maar om tussen de mensen te staan
die voor een bestemming leven,
om ergens heen te gaan.

[To the train station I went,
Not to begin a journey myself,
Or even to bid you farewell,
But to stand between all people
Who are living for some goal
For a somewhere to go.]

- Ed Hornik, 1960

"Does he learn like a god or like a stone? I can't be befouled, it's a tale about seduction", led astray from my own metaphors of preoccupation, I couldn't be sure at the time of what he meant, as Tundama greeted me in the jolts of the day when I could no longer turn my attention to the choices between trees, but it was him perhaps the only loyal comrade in my Prussian battlefield where the language of the powers that be laid slain and beheaded under the sign of a volcano. The sights had been very pleasurable in spite of my cold feet and the numbing greys that hovered over the hole in my shoe as a healing malaise, replacing every wound with a different color of sore - Ten years back I had assembled myself just as comfortably as Raphaël in the certainty of the instruction of the wisest minds, weighing heavily toward the obligation of truth and rowing against a tide of possible questions that kneeled down before the curiosity of men with arrogant defiance; the fissures in the skin of the poet had grown thinner and thinner, watered down by the raving impulse of laughter, he could not longer afford the mad frenzy of the notebooks and found little pleasure in this wisdom, that of its own accord now resembled more the map of a shipwreck than a travel plan. Yet so many thousands of kilometers, I thought, the places remain unchanged by the will of man more than by the time, this merciless and godly enemy of the body.

It was an illusion in its own right to re-live the past merrily and without tiredness, awake in the nightmare of the mirror without falling in the water, chancing alike into the eyes of friend and foe rather than a self-inspection and in avoidance of guilt - guilt not about death, you're guilty of nothing but unhappiness. But how beautiful these illusions are when they do not come at the expense of contemplation but in the exercise of the most cruel maturity of language already blinded to the flamboyance of the demands of history and ever returning, even ten years later, after a battle fought with the war, to lay peacefully on the grass that grows toward the present and is prescient with gifts of adoration offered not to the men of this earth but to the Janus-faced skin of god and stone as they interchangeably surface on the edged nails and fingertips of the miracle, they're objects of pleasure and praise that dance in tiptoeing motions around the corpses of older words that seemed once ideal, that befouled the unrest and mishappened as sciences of an undercover life, the secret would lift its veil once and offer the mysteries of reality as it were - bereft of interpretations and clean from intermediaries, be them heroes or saviors, unfolding and branching out as a tree of love ripe in fruits and overgrowing the fallacies of Paradise. This all seems stale now, beauty has proven a perverse companion of youth when it appears not as a gift of the gods but as a remedy and elixir against the displeasure of walking over the sharp edges of the stones.

Tundama was just like that, fleeting as a bird but without the presumptuousness of flight, no longer concerned with the therapeutic rhythm of knowledge for life - it seemed as if the world was no longer in the obligation of letting himself be used for survival. In this language of paucity and slow depth, the words didn't descend from above as a gift from heaven but rose from below as in the transformation of the stone into a glyph forgotten somewhere inside the thick forest of womb-shaped trees in an ancestral mountain, its whole grammar had been once already destroyed and its beauty ransacked for the sake of hearsay. The luxury of his abode was all too perplexing for me coming out of my own little inferno, my wooden prison cell from which I was able to move out freely into a house of strangers, yet it reminded me a bit of myself when I was running against the time of the universe before I had learnt the walking ways of the simple and wet earth; more than anything the shelves and the books and the scars from the wounds in the pages and to the side of the lungs, I was no longer in the posession of any books being a traveler as I now am, but there was no feeling of animosity or jealousy, only the rather felicitious contentment of looking outside a window that doesn't stare into the accumulated fat of the kitchen ceiling and the thread of hangers for laundry that seems to extend infinitely into the pierced heart of heavenly bodies that somewhere up there in their own abode, hold the lives down below in the kind of contempt typical of very talented writers.

There was so little time and so little distance yet in the restful space of the shelved room, if told about it, one would be inclined to believe it was an airport affair, but so tied to this earth those brief moments were, so appropriating of this land, no walls separated the room from the rest of the universe, so that even the airplanes would resemble little birds flying from mountain to mountain over and over and tirelessly with the only effort in mind to lay a nest along the paw-looking branches of a tree without science and on the banks of an ancestral lake. The universe, however, seems to last for a long time, impossible to conceive of in the limited scope of cab rides and lunching times, crushed under the weight of something as simple as a wristwatch, crushed under the heavy weight of all the lightest wristwatches in the world! The jerky and expressionless talk of nervous travelers sketching a plan to conquest the world in a distant time, to conquer the wristwatches and the crush down the effect of a thousand pages in an hour and within the course of a simple conversation in which no philosopher would take the pleasure of distinguishing truth from untruth and rainfall from storm; I kept wondering where the blue would end on that day, pretending to sleep through the restful city lines, imagining another time, once again, thousands of kilometers behind and ahead, in times of unrest.

The street that I thought narrow, had become impossibly wide and the options manifold, it's just that I didn't know of a somewhere to go, only in order to escape from the silence that the conversation with Tundama had turned prohibitive and sinful, nihilistic even; images of other kinds were conjured up in the short ride home, I could have perfectly made myself at home in his little palace never to return again to my little inferno, but in the abscence of a battlefield, of a favorite reader, there's no mischance or mischief, the pages that were once destroyed with the intention to wage a war against the wristwatch were now blank and filled by footnotes written by a man several years my junior, those pages were not bloodied thus I couldn't destroy them or water them down as mistakes, they rather marked another age in the world, one that it takes much effort to live happily with: how to survive in a world where there's no longer war, how to survive when survival is no longer required and when the power of enticing of the man who was once a soldier is now a marblestone of pleasures for art rather than an evil god. The problem is not the abyssmal void left by a God gone in retirement but the weakness of current evils, the fact that even without the friend of an hour and a half, one still has to write something, oh god! This is what we learnt though, that writing is not bleeding, it has to be sustainance and livelihood without swallowing up the whole world, this is why we still look for the goddamn tree, in ancestral lakes, in places older by ten years or in friends younger by as much, because there's absolutely no point in returning to Paradise, there's no point in writing for the end of the world; it is after all an issue, that we still want to be read.

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