No. 6


Giannina Braschi  

Translated from the Spanish by Tess O’Dwyer  


I am walking in my boots, plodding and trodding along, and the faster I go the more perspective I lose because I never look back to see what I have left behind.  I say I am southbound—and that is where I am bound to find my destiny—southbound.  But a sudden impulse drives me back around the apple of the north, westbound where I am bound to be spellbound—gazing at the infinite point of the water’s horizon—entranced by a mannequin and the shoes it is wearing—wishing I were that mannequin—watching the wind blow the newspapers away—watching a mouse run into a sewer.  And passing by a rat and watching a thief pass me even faster, cursing at a madman, but everybody passes on their way to no return—or knows that even when crossing the same river twice, the waters will be different each time—but water will be water no matter what it wants to be—or how it wants to go with the flow, swim, dive, die—cease to be what it was yesterday—cease to feel yesterday sailing across its back, sticking a knife in today’s back, those creatures from yesterday turned to ask us: why?  As if why would tell us why we are not what we were yesterday.  I have circled this apple plenty of times—and still nobody knows who I am.  Going in circles around the same apple sometimes makes me yawn because I’ve discovered nothing new, nothing that makes me think.  But I can’t blame Adam’s apple which always makes me think—I blame myself—it’s my own fault—for not renewing in my heart of hearts the winding ways where my youth flowed away.  Lazy, fickle and rash—eager, tired and brash—spiteful, truthful and resentful—or thoughtful like an autumn tree that turns green in the middle of spring—sprouting clichés that sound like words I’ve mixed with red wine where the vines of my desires grow thick—and the grapes inspire me to think again and I look in one of the mirrors and see someone else looking back at me.  But who am I if I don’t recognize myself in either face—maybe they will recognize me, after I’m gone, because I can’t stand standing still for a single moment that dares to try to hang me on a wall like a self-portrait—I can’t bear being myself, the person I just was, the one I no longer am, the one that left with the moment that no longer is, and I ran and ran because I did not want to be trapped inside myself, because I did not feel right running inside a body that was not my body, what body, maybe I’ll start a fire and burn all my things and memories that have trapped me inside a body that isn’t me anymore—because I was never really inside it when I was running away from myself—not because I hated myself, but who am I to love myself so much that I would want to stay inside myself for so long—why wouldn’t I want to blast past the earth’s orbit like an astronaut—or the dead—who leave us behind and never come to visit—because they want to leave the earth, like you, like me, like all immortals who thirst and hunger because such sudden death never ceases to burn or fly or soar—I can keep talking because the water keeps flowing and I keep walking and if I don’t stop talking I’ll keep talking like I’m walking and blaming myself:  why me—why now—and why not yesterday.  Why me, why now—and why not when I wanted to be me—and didn’t find myself wanting to be me—and for not finding me inside myself I blamed myself and wondered:  why me?  And why now—and not before—it is me—and it is only now that I can blame and beat myself up for the crime of a missing identity that I never committed—and now that it’s beating in my chest with its own sense of guilt, blaming me and forgiving me for never feeling guilty about anything except the oppression that oppresses me, and it’s not my fault for being oppressed by my own guilt that forces me into a corner, with my back against the wall, against the masses, pointing at me with furrowed brows, calling me the oddball, the exception to the rule of blaming blame—for not having done what I was supposed to do when I was supposed to do it—for having done it after time ran out of time—and time passed by.  I passed by—I come and go the way I went—the same way as before and after—where I will never find myself behind bars—looking out.  It’s a nice feeling to be outside passing this same place twice, but now that I see it again, I can’t tell whether I’ve been here before or whether I’m dreaming again—I don’t remember being here and that is why I came back, to see if I would recognize it, memorize it, or forget it, dreaming of the memories of being there or simply being, forgetting what I was passing I was less and now I am what I was and that is enough.  I already forget who I am and become the forgetfulness that forgets that it already forgot who I was.  I am what I am without being who I was, without being sincerely sincere, I cure my thoughts.  Take two aspirins and call me in the morning.  First you have to get up before you can go back to bed again.  No matter how late the thoughts keep me up at night, swarming and buzzing around my head, even when I count to 100,000 and shut my eyes as tight as I can, I still hear them thinking—rise ‘n shine, sleepy head, it’s time to get out of bed—and as long as they are still thinking, I am still breathing—but nothing in life or death is worse than being tormented by your own thoughts day and night, nonstop, around-the-clock—I tell some of them—can’t you wait until morning?  Now is not a good time.  An idea sticks in my mind, but I can’t think it through right now—so it hangs there, thinking in midair, while others try to push and shove it out of the way, it hangs there tough—timid and livid—it’s the best one so far—my first choice—even though it’s hanging over my dreams, keeping me awake and disturbing all the other ideas that won’t let me sleep either—first thing in the morning I’ll have to write it down. As if thoughts were as self-absorbed as assumptions or presumptions, presuming categorically false and phallic assumptions and supposing or presupposing supposed suppositions assuming nothing about anything and presupposing preposterous presumptions, forcing themselves of valid ones that bow to the Boss obediently—because he is the Boss—that’s why—because he bosses them around mindlessly, because if he stopped to think he would shrink from the sheer force of his impotence—the Boss of force, not the whim, ah, if only the whim were more forceful when it comes spiraling down on top of them so precipitately, oh good Lord, you sound like Neruda with so many categorically presumptive adverbs that leave the mind on a precipice precipitating precipitately, you don’t need so many ly’s to precipitate, if you go straight to the point without beating around the bush and spread your wings and fly, you’ll fly like a straight arrow and hit the bull's eye, and you’re brilliant, sparkling like a flawless diamond (sorry, but I love little flaws), you don’t know what I’m talking about, but that doesn’t stop you from contradicting me, to make me lose my train of thought, if I’m not as hardy as a party that parties hardy until the bad mood fades, because it runs out of breath and withdraws its claws, the claws of its paws, the bedrock of its foundation, there, between a rock and a hard place, it catches a catnap, but it’s not a cat napping, it’s a dog panting and it steps into the cat-trap with all four paws.  The truth has no subclauses or subterfuge, crutches or canes—it’s not arthritic or grouchy—it howls at the infinite like a dog and expects miracles to fall from the sky—it won’t drown in a glass of water, fall for sugarpills or hobble around on a cast and crutches.  I’ve often preached in my sermons (not to sing my own praises or eat pistachios like a caged canary swinging on a perch)—I’m already gone but I keep going—away—from all sorts of cages—I seized the Opportunity to walk out that door and never look back.  No, I won’t say no to subjunctive clauses or to double brackets that close when they’re supposed to, or to singles brackets that stay open, searching in vain for the cat’s four paws of the subjunctive clause in the wolf’s jaws where they’ll never see the light of day, and I won’t say no to the heart of darkness or to the dark of day, and I won’t say no to either side that thinks it speaks the infinite truth because neither one crosses the dividing line or because two parallel lines never meet their grief.   I have to retrace my steps to find something I lost—places I feel good—because I can’t feel myself anywhere—only in brief stages where nothing feels good—and it’s not that I feel bad—it’s that the wanderer in me only feels good in continual motion—crossing frontiers without settling frontiers—in hotels—where strangers meet without ever meeting—I feel good when I’m lost—that’s the truth—when I’m really lost, I don’t feel lost—I feel the dynamics of my movement or the method of my youth—I don’t speak to anyone—people disrupt the creative process—sniffing and poking around—coming and going—and leaving danger and mountains and houses and fountains and restaurants behind—leaving everything behind—and when I leave, I’ll leave you all behind, the way day leaves night, and night leaves day, and lanterns leave  darkness—with the light of my owl eyes—and it’s not that there aren’t any truths or things to believe in, or that I haven’t been chained down myself, it’s just that my being walks around life like a night watchman—I don’t know what I have to say, I make a mistake, scribble it out, and say it another way—and I still haven’t said what I have to say because I still haven’t voiced the rush I feel when I’m walking—the flurry, the scurry, the hurry to cut the ribbon and rip open the gift—not that it’s important or urgent—what’s important is that I continue to leave behind what happens, what has to happen, what should have happened by now, what has to go, because I left it behind, because it couldn’t go the distance, it stayed behind and lightened my load, unburdening the burden of my suitcases, the spiritual baggage of my being that sends its being onward with trumpets heralding the season of Advent and the Annunciation, the Coming, and I’ll be right up front when the Coming comes because I went looking for it on my own two legs and I said goodbye to all the setbacks, how strange, I rose to a higher state of being without elevators, carriers, transitions or transports—I got there on my own two feet, with my own two eyes, with my own sixth sense—but I can still feel a knot inside me—and that’s why I’m still here writing this—I’ve got to find it and keep moving—away from what I’ve stopped loving—what was never mine—when I leave everyone behind—with no regrets about leaving them behind—they stayed behind for one reason or another—they must have been taking care of something—some sort of problem that someone left for them to solve—for someone else—not for themselves—for the Coming—because I wouldn’t stay behind even for my own sake, because I wouldn’t feel sad or sorry for myself if I were left behind and possessed by my possessions.  I flee from roots like a vampire from a cross and I flee from the saying that one nail unnails another nail.  Why not unnail every nail and Christian Christ from the sacrificial cross, save them from all their sacrifices and say: Quit your job, leave home, and walk away from any kind of name that nails you to a sacrifice in the name of the human family.  That’s why I’m heading for a far away place where all that matters is that I’m leaving the place I was born and raised—once and for all—the place I first saw myself in the mirror—and I’m sailing away from what I’m saying in a boat with four paws, paddling to a place that nobody knows, as long as we’re going somewhere and we’ve lost sight of what we left behind—we gave so much importance to what we left behind and look how small everything looks now that we’ve left it all behind—it keeps getting smaller like when we were children on the verge of adolescence—it was a stormy course and we boarded with suitcases for other ports—as long as there are no frontiers—as long as we don’t know where we’re going—as long as we’re going far, far away—there’s nothing too important to leave behind on this journey—goodbye—to unimaginable frontiers—where the frontier is the only image imaginable—because there is nothing suspicious lurking beyond the frontier—so what if there are walls, forts or bunkers, men of all shapes and sizes, or even vines tying us to the earth—I always look beyond the sea’s horizon, where I want to be, where no one has ever been, the other side of the rainbow, beyond my wildest dreams, dreaming, walking, doing what must be done, and what happens to the man who flies to the sun and goes down in flames or meets the messenger of his destiny, an angel with big wings who carries him like a stork back to the place he was born, grows and dies, or achieves something during his travels—enduring the journey—with many more rivers, bridges, and chimeras yet to cross—I stop and think about where I came from and which way my thoughts are heading.  I’m heading south to the Statue of Liberty to light my being in the continuous presence that I am and to find my being at peace with my being without being or not being everything I am and I am not being today—I am not being a being I am not seeing in my being because it left my being behind—it said goodbye so many times—flying swiftly away on feathered disillusions—as if it were chased away by guilt—for being without me—if I say I’m in a hurry without it, I mean a hurry-scurry, like here’s your hat where’s your hurry—I’m getting out of here—and I’m leaving—because I haven’t finished going once and for all, because something or someone comes back searching for a part of my being when I’m about to cross the frontier—I left the keys at home—so what—I’m never coming home again—you left one of your suitcases—you shouted—so what—if I left it behind it’s because I don’t want to be a card-carrying member of a suitcase committee that never quite leaves the way suitcases do, without hurrying to get lost in customs, without losing face for losing its way, naked impudence of the being that leaves everything without finding anything.  Goodbye.  Good-bye.  Goodbye.  If it’s 5 o’clock on Friday—and you’re done for the day and your Boss walks over and gives you work at 5 o’clock—let him do it himself, leave it on your desk, turn off your computer, and walk out that door.  If he oppresses you, analyze your oppression.  Don’t you feel oppressed by your own destiny.  Don’t you want to achieve something for yourself.  Where’s all that pressure coming from anyway—from your oppressor’s  responsibilities—or from a higher calling to make something of your life.  Haven’t you heard the higher calling.  What are your guts telling you to do—assuming you have guts—or your lungs—or the twinkle in your eyes.  Don’t they feel the presence of a higher being—a higher someone or something—calling you.  If not, what do you have—I ask you—a Boss who picks on you—day in and day out—take it or leave it.  If you allow mediocrity to oppress you, because you know it’s mediocre, and you simply allow it, you’re twice as oppressed—by mediocrity and the Boss—and that makes you twice as mediocre. You’ve been acting like a sardine for so long that you’re starting to think like a sardine—you think your canned existence is your only existence—and now you’re starting to stink like them too—and them like you—because you’re all stuck together in one big clump—the one who works the most in the least amount of time makes the most—the one who makes the most under the most pressure has the most talent to be put down—the more they put you down, the more you let them—and the more you let them, the more the pressure builds among the canned rats in sardines that scratch and gnaw from ugliness—soggy and cold—more dead than alive.  If you allow yourself to be packed into a can of sardines it’s because you are a sardine—made of salt and oil just like all the rest, plumb dumb, deaf and numb, made of fatty acids, fatty blood like soggy salty salt—canned sardines are all the same—they send bad vibes and give you hives—they’re just like flies, but at least flies have wings and fly.  That’s the problem with you sardines—you let yourselves be canned, you don’t have wings, and you don’t fly or sting—you don’t buzz or bite your Boss—you just squirm and stink of your own rotten death.  Why did you leave your life of Bacchus.  Why did you change your crown of laurels for a crown of thorns, china for plastic, wings for cans, joy for sadness, life for death?  Go ahead and turn, Millennium, turn and leave the pain behind.

(The text was used in a black and white short video by 
Michael Somoroff, 2005 as “a meditation on walking”.)



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