One Art

This week’s “Economist” magazine includes a review of a new biography on one of America’s greatest poets ever: Elizabeth Bishop. 
Highlighted above is one of my favorite Bishop quotes, from her poem “One Art”:
“The art of losing isn’t hard to master;

so many things feel filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster”

Magical Thinking

For a few weeks this book has been on my mind. Didion, Didion, Didion. And her “Year of Magical Thinking,” written during the first year she mourned her husband’s sudden death. 

This for me has proven to be a year of magical thinking, a year of metamorphosing concrete barricades into trampolines via transformative thought. 

Magical thinking works. Didion said it first. I look forward to going through her words. 

Once a Shipwreck, Always a Shipwreck

So I read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Relato de un Náufrago” (“The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor”) in one sitting. I had my doubts when buying it beacuse I tend to find that all shipwreck stories are the same. Sun, thirst, hunger, dead fish. 

Indeed, my favorite part of the tale was Marquez’s introduction, which included the stupendous description above of the Colombian historical context at the time the story was published (apologies to non-Spanish readers).

And, while no one can say that Marquez’s shipwreck tale is bad, it’s a story of sun, thirst, hunger, dead fish. It does interweave an interesting message, however, of the difference between the fear of dying and the fear of death. 

Death, actually being dead, does not scare the narrator. Death is a form of salvation, the end of water hell. But the act of dying is immediate, terrifying hell. The options are not good: sharks, imagined carnivorous turtles, burnt lungs. 

Fear of going through such terrible experiences keeps the narrator from letting himself die, no matter how much he claims to want the out of death. As a result, he stays alive. 

With this story Marquez confirms that our extreme cowardice when faced with gore, pain, any form of death by dying  is so effective that it finally makes us brave. 


Yellow Tomatoes

 

I once thought I could know anything

 

The death knowledge of the Buddha

The clarifying call of Gabriel

Former lives and abetting suns

That enthrall worlds more able than mine

 

I too never doubted my time supply

To be the daughter to the dying father

Who buries without the blow of love regret

 

But my father is dying an excessive death

With a wounded body

That aligns rare moments of life

To the faint efforts of his mind

 

And I do

 

I offer my happy baby’s dance

Ask about our mayor and the bad president

So together

We can wave our related heads with a laugh

 

I bring home the foods he likes to eat

Chocolate sugar-free

A bag of sweet yellow tomatoes

That falls when his good hand forgets to grab

 

And when he insists on phoning my mother

Makes a promise that he won’t speak drink

I dial

 

I do I dance

 

Far from the Buddha knowledge of the giving death

Deaf to the recurring chant of Gabriel

Books by my bed and worlds of grace

That I grasp

But lack the good hand with which to grab

 


 

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