Neruda’s The great urinator

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Pablo Neruda, From Selected Failings (Defectos Escogidos) 1972-1973

The Great Urinator (El Gran Orinador)

The great urinator was yellow

and the stream that came down

was bronze-colored rain

on the domes of churches,

on the roofs of cars,

on factories and cemeteries,

on the populace and their gardens.

 

Who was it, where was it?

 

It was a density, thick liquid

falling as from

a horse, and frightened passersby

with no umbrellas

looked up skyward,

meanwhile avenues were flooding

and urine inexhaustibly flowing

underneath doors,

backing up drains, disintegrating

marble floors, carpets,

staircases.

 

Nothing could be detected. Where

was this peril?

 

What was going to happen to the world?

 

From on high the great urinator

was silent and urinated.

 

What does this signify?

 

I am a pale and artless poet

not here to work out riddles

or recommend special umbrellas.

 

Hasta la vista! I greet you and go off

to a country where they won’t ask me questions.

 

Montaigne on introspection

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If no one reads me,

have I wasted my time, entertaining myself for so many idle hours with such useful and agreeable thoughts? … I have no more made my book than my book has made me — a book consubstantial with its author …

Have I wasted my time by taking stock of myself so continually, so carefully? For those who go over themselves only in their minds and occasionally in speech do not penetrate to essentials in their examination as does a man who makes that his study, his work, and his trade, who binds himself to keep an enduring account, with all his faith, with all his strength.

Indeed, the most delightful pleasures are digested inwardly, avoid leaving any traces, and avoid the sight not only of the public but of any other person.

— Michel de Montaigne

Muñoz Molina on the novel

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The novel subjects itself to its own limits and at the same time opens itself up to an exploration of depths that are within and without (the writer) and that only (the writer) was meant to discover. You’re writing even when you don’t write. Narrative imagination does not feed on what is invented; It feeds on the past. Every minor or trivial event that one experiences or discovers in the course of an investigation can be valuable or even decisive for the novel, occupying a minimal but precise place within it, like an uneven cobblestone …

… The novel has developed on its own with the unlimited richness of reality and the blank spaces I haven’t been tempted to fill, spaces in the shadows that cannot be illuminated …

…The novel is what I write and also the room where I work. The novel is the fine-point pen that ran out of ink one day when I wrote for five or six hours without stopping and filled an entire notebook. The novel is made with everything I know and everything I don’t know, and with the sensation of groping my way through this story but never finding a precise narrative outline.

— Antonio Muñoz Molina, Like a Fading Shadow. Translated by Camilo A. Ramirez. Published by Editorial Planeta, S.A., 2014. Translation copyright 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York.

one in the chamber

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Neither mood nor biology shifts according to a calendar. This body runs on its own time. The mind operates in several time zones at once. Electricity powers the heart. I eat almost nothing, fueled by liquids and books and nerves. Love, too.

I try to read the dictionary every day—at least a page. I wish I had the dedication of Malcolm X, who copied the dictionary repeatedly by hand to teach himself to read. He was in jail at the time, a petty criminal whose initial way to the light was religion. He learned that Allah’s message was a necessary truth that had somehow eluded him, had been stolen from his youth. This knowledge became an impetus to act, requiring more study. He became a teacher. His internal truth continued to evolve, much like the reader and the writer of these words.

*

To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. — Emerson

*

There’s a case, there’s a man and a case, and that man and his case penetrate time and space. Reader beware, keen reader beware, what you’re reading is rare and took care to prepare.

amateurs

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For several years I kept my eyes open. I moved through the visual realm. Now the light is dim, the will is weak. The cabin freezes, for I don’t hoist myself up for firewood. All the birdsong has gone. The world beyond my door is grand, sublime, but silent—frozen, smothered in snow. At night, the moon and stars provide more light than needed to navigate the empty world, to stomp through drifts of un-shoveled snow to the wood pile. Wolves watch me from afar, their eyes like pointed stars in the shadows. It must be a dream, I think. All of this: the night, the cold, the wolves, this life—

*

A: Your license and registration, please.

B: …

A: Your license and registration, sir.

B: …

A: Can you hear me, sir?

B: …

A: Sir?

B: …

A: (mutters into radio device)

*

You’ll catch me singing in the shower, sad songs. A shower is expiation, catharsis. A shower is amenable to tears.

*

A: Will there be anything else for you, sir? (smiling)

B: No, thank you.

A: Would you like to try any dessert? (smiling, wiping table)

B: No. (smiling, shaking head)

A: How about one of our delicious smoothies? (smiling, wiping table)

B: No.

A: They’re 30% off right n— (smiling)

B: No, thank you. (smiling, forced)

A: Okay, if you need anything else— (smiling)

B: …

A: … (smiling)

*

“The hour of death comes sometimes with agitation and suffering, and sometimes with resignation or even in sleep. Some people report, from near-death experiences, that they see a great light. However, there is no great light, other than in the minds of some of the dying. According to certain conjectures, they perceive such a light because the brain is starved of oxygen, or because there is stimulation, as life wanes, of the temporal lobe, as if the body, on the very verge, were to play a final trick on us.

“Regardless of whether death is resisted or accepted, its aftermath follows a regular course. The body is now a corpse. It becomes first rigid, then bloated. It soon rots, stinks, and begins to be devoured by vermin and bacteria, unless it is promptly burned. From having been revered, the body turns into an object of revulsion.” — Roberto Mangabeira Unger, The Religion of the Future

*

A: What type of writing do you do?

B: All kinds.

A: Do you get paid for it?

B: Some of it.

A: So, would you say you are a professional or an amateur?

B: … Both.

A: I used to write poetry when I was a kid.

B: …

A: And a little in college.

B: … (nodding)

A: … (blushing)

B: What do you like to read?

A: I don’t really read. I wish I did. Don’t have time.

B: … (nodding)

A: Wish I did.

B: … (nodding)

A: Don’t have time.

B: … (nodding)

*

“Amateurs uphold ideas that oppose professional authority. They express concerns professionals don’t consider, don’t care about, often won’t acknowledge. An amateur is more likely to be someone who rocks the boat. He or she isn’t on anybody’s payroll and never will be. To that degree, an intellectual ought to be an amateur.” —  Andy Merrifield, The Amateur

*

Mid-afternoon, when the day is hottest, that’s when I want to burrow deep into the cool earth and wait out the sun. The sun allergy affects both good and bad days, as well as days in-between. The sun is the primary source of life-giving energy on this planet. It is also a menace to all creatures in seasons of extreme heat. For me it is a daily curse, and summers are damnation. I am most free and comfortable once the sun has set. I wave at other night creatures on my crepuscular walks. I sing at the moon. Man and creature both scuttle from my approach.

Characterization

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A: Characterize yourself in two words.

B: Hm. No.

A: Perhaps in three words.

B: I think not.

A: One word?

B: No.

*

I wake at dawn, unable to sleep for the discomfort, the mental fatigue, the sunshine bright at the windows—too bright. Anxiety digs into me, burrows, multiplies, dies again. What’s the point? I wonder. The wife and daughter sleep. I do not speak but move slowly, cautiously, downstairs to the kitchen for water, then onto the couch to read the newspaper. My scent lingers about me like bad perfume. What have I become? I think. Again, I do not speak. The world inside me quakes. I am alone.

*

A: Do you seek to feel normal?

B: No.

A: Do you seek attention?

B: No.

A: What do you seek?

B: Freedom.

*

I write in the notebook by the light of a candle, the flame quaking above and beyond the page. The phone alerts and disturbs my mental trajectory. I have grown to hate the phone, my forced attachment to it, the dull, conformed wretch I become each time I reach to gaze at its screen. The screen glass reflects an external world rather than the authentic, co-opted, internal world.

*

A: Are you prepared to submit?

B: No.

A: Are you prepared to be forced to submit?

B: …

A: Are you prepared to be forced to submit?

B: …