Ancient stones are not only stones and dust, as I’ve always considered ghosts as their most intimate inhabitants, entities fully inserted in the most inner part of old monuments and past constructions, quietly furthering, remembrances of past lives, and councils to the living; one just need not be frightened of, but rather intimate with them.
I caress the surface of old buildings, skin of older women, the ones born women while the heart of their fathers expecting a son and whose hands have attempted to stifle without having the courage to kill them completely. Time is the same on these monuments; it uses them, cracks them, covers them with sand, collapses them, then disperses and clears everything.
Stone, humans: same fight. Fight against the end. As if life consisted in all the forces opposed to death; is not architecture opposed to gravity, to the fall, to pure and definitive annihilation?
On the walls, graffiti as skin tattoos. They say these different lives, episodes, these stories might have been thought dead with those who lived them, but they survive. To us. As lives snatched, as separate words and phrases that we have to redial.
The ruins fascinate and scare me, since my childhood. I fear a complete disappearance, I fear that all that has been preserved until now will vanish without any trace. How could I become so materialistic, me, the one from the desert? How do I get attached to things but only count the people? I remember this sentence by Anne Carson: Sometimes I dream a sentence and write it down. It’s usually nonsense, but sometimes it seems a key to another world.
However, I dream of a morning, opening my eyes and hearing a voice saying: “I made some tea.” This sentence has the same tremendous effect on me as Karen Blixen beginning her story with: “I had a farm in Africa.”
I often drink tea. Never green (it makes me sick), always black, tinged with milk. I do not know which moment I prefer: the one when my fingers dip into the dried leaves and curl in a metal container? Or the one where the hot water pouring on leaves that gives rise (slowly but surely) to an acrid odor Or maybe the one where the hot liquid touches my lips, when I must concentrate to keep my eyes open so as to not imagine kissing a loved and distant one?
One day, do you remember, you had written my name on petals of rose that you threw away by the balcony, while kissing each one, eyes closed. I dreamt that the wind arranged the petals into a rose again, and a man with such delicate fingers picked it up, stood for a moment, under a light snowfall, and pronounced my name uncertainly. Since then, on the streets of your city, he looks for me: the woman with the name on a rose made of its own ruins.
That afternoon, I hope you remember, in the middle of an arid landscape punctuated by dry greens, we had seen a man take out bricks from a derelict temple to construct a new one. A temple made of a temple, you had whispered into my ears, not wanting to disturb that strange man. I wanted to ask him why build the same thing again, why not something new, but you had stopped me. Against annihilation, you’d written to me just these two words, later that day.
As a child, in my school, we would find fragments of bones in the sand, and we would play with it. Sometimes, a classmate would declare that the building was built on an old cemetery, that there were dead bodies still to be found under the ground, though someone else would say that it used to be a burial ground for animals. I still don’t know if the bones I touched were human or not but on nights when it rains just a little in the desert, I caress my own skin and body. They will burn all this after death, nothing would remain except the whispers of my name in the air. Not even a flower would bloom from my decomposing body. I want to be buried. I want my fragments to be found in the sand.
Inside old monuments, between indents, in ancient bars, on the skin of each building and every woman, the man searches for the foreign word. He goes mad, my love. It was just a dream but this morning I received a postcard from the man who doesn’t exist. It read:
Poetry has this force and power to fulfill each moment of life with something that is out of daily-life, something almost divine or, at least, lightly superior to a single human being, as if poets were at the middle step between Earth and Paradise.
This was first published in Kindle Magazine, where I write a monthly column on cities, memory, etc.