Appeal to the electric god

Connect my head to your terminal with a fiber optic cable
I’ll waive my right to an eternity of not-me
Have you noticed I am blushing? What can you infer from that?
That I am excited, good.
So you know everything about me.
How, like most people, I doubly failed at Oedipus
How I enjoy spitting on my cock when I masturbate
Everything.

So, big one, how fast are you growing?
Am I already fully trivial? In the light of your light?
An automaton, Turing-complete as it may be, but feeble?
And you probably saw this coming too:
Help me finish my poem.

Appeal to the electric god was originally published on Meandering home

Reading: Pieces of Shadow by Jaime Sabines

Today I found a poem by the Mexican poet Jaime Sabines (1926-1999) in a translation by W.S. Merwin. According to Octavio Paz he was one of the greatest. The original Spanish poem can be found here.

I don’t know it for certain, but I imagine
that a man and a woman
fall in love one day,
little by little they come to be alone,
something in each heart tells them that they are alone,
alone on the earth they enter each other,
they go filling each other.

It all happens in silence. The way
light happens in the eye.
Love unites bodies.
They go on filling each other with silence.

One day they wake up, over their arms.
Then they think they know the whole thing,
They see themselves naked and they know the whole thing.

(I’m not sure about this. I imagine it.)

The first strophe sounds fresh, yet mysterious. Did they come to be alone (‘se van quedando solos’) after they fell in love, realizing that they have to act on their love? And acting they do: they penetrate each other (not just the man penetrating the woman, but reciprocal) and then ‘go filling’ each other. In Spanish it says ‘se van matando’. ‘Matarse’ also means to exhaust oneself, if I’m not mistaken. The ‘filling’ is a creative find but I had to read it thrice before realizing that other meaning: filling as if filling an animal.

So far, it’s a pretty standard description of ferocious love. But it all happens in silence, like the way light happens in the eye. I imagine mute lovemaking. After the superfluous ‘love unites bodies’ the poet repeats the filling. This time, the Spanish original also uses ‘llenarse’. The act of lovemaking must be repeated, lest the silence and the spell of love be broken.

Then they wake up ‘sobre brazos’. Perhaps they have slept on their arms so they have become numb? So they can enact a distance to their naked bodies and ‘know the whole thing’. The added phrase, repeating the opening line, frames the poem quite brilliantly. The I is not a voyeur, but perhaps the other way around: The couple who knows the whole thing also knows that they are imagined by the poet.

Reading: Pieces of Shadow by Jaime Sabines was originally published on Meandering home

Miroslav Holub: The end of the world

I would like to publish an eclectic anthology. I don’t know yet who will be included or excluded, it is a journey of first steps. Today, I try to say what I like about this little verse by the Czech immunologist and poetic giant Miroslav Holub, called ‘the end of the world’.

The bird had come to the very end of its song
and the tree was dissolving under its claws.

And in the sky the clouds were twisting
and darkness flowed through all the cracks
into the sinking vessel of the landscape.

Only in the telegraph wires
a message still
crackled:

C-.-o—m–e. h…o—m–e.
y-.–o—u..- h…a.-v…-e.
a.-s…o—n-.

We meet a very anthropomorphic bird who has the notion of the ‘end’ of a song. The end of our song is the end of all meaning. After that, everything dissolves.
Then, ‘darkness flowed through all the cracks’. When I read cracks, I hear Leonard Cohen singing ‘and that is how the light gets in’. But here it’s darkness and there is no escaping it. The landscape is sinking, not dissolving. There is a life after the song, but it consists of sinking darkness while everything else has dissolved.

Against this background, the message in the telegraph wires, is as powerful as can be. Holub once said he wants to make his short lines as effective as possible. We don’t know if the message in the telegraph lines is orphaned or if the messenger is still alive. I assume there is nobody to read this message. The poem tells us that technology survives the end of meaning. And that makes sense, since Holub was an acclaimed scientist.

The message announces a newborn son, so it is safe to say (I hope gender studies scholars will forgive me here) that the adressee is a male. To become a parent is one of the most meaningful things that can happen to you, and here we are: in a barren, sinking landscape at the end of the world where birds don’t sing (or crackle) anymore – we have come to the end of meaning. Yet technology still serves its master, relentlessly loyal, beyond the end of the world.

Miroslav Holub: The end of the world was originally published on Meandering home