apparent story i
Brandon Homlquest translating Gastón Fernández from the Spanish
there are palm trees in the hotel dining room in Río. Midday, he’s just arrived. Three on each broad side of the table, one of them him, one on each end. There are eight of us. I don’t like palm trees.
Do you like the music?
Sometimes, once in a while, I feel like nothing’s happened. Eyes closed, a feeling as of floating, or having already floated in the shadows and being sure of having known caverns in the air. There’s a photographic machine on the Colombian’s bed, he’s a kid they say, do we get to see him...? known dark caverns in the air. Waiting on Hugo who has his back turned, wearing a thin, white shirt and a dark sweater with buttons and his eyes are large, black and sad very quickly, I haven’t paid attention to him. In Río I think I see a last image, a photographic machine on the bed, remembering the wooden castle in Prague we’ll invade at year’s end or the fogged photos that I’ll take in Bruges (I dropped it many times and he laughed) Do you like the music?........................................................................................................
.............We thought it was a three-storey house in Place Ladeuze, I was killing mosquitos, where we lived above him there after all these staircases and then me more distant but I came back every morning to see him and we saw each other and we talked and we extended to one another the black hand of Christophe. Christ up there with his arms extended. Up. There’s an eternal, mutual silence, penetrating and grave on the road downhill and we sat down at four in the afternoon to have spaghetti in tomato sauce for lunch, he doesn’t eat, he says he doesn’t eat he says that to me, and watches me eat. Hugo. There are three hands, the soil and sap of three pink flowers, on a bus, with muddy shoes and initials on a board. We went into the Musée d’Art and came out laughing with Henriette, not Charlotte, and we go on laughing in front of a little sideways painting by dead Manolo, Betty Boops, it seems like we can hear music at five and we cross Africa reading informative bulletins, then nothing, nothing. We’re in the belly of the white whale and we went up to a three-storey house to extend the black hand of Christophe. There’s Christ with his arms extended, up there, and there are three hands, the soil and sap of three pink flowers on a bus...Place Ledeuze, we’re in a three-storey house. Jean Kott, le Figaro Littéraire. Christophe is here. Hugo’s portable radio and the grain of his face, les inscriptions.
Then we began to live deeply.
“Wear the black one, it looks better and it’s more restrained.” I realized he was listening to me. He didn’t know I was listening to him. Every day, the slow, rhythmic brushing of the black cloth on his arm against the black cloth on his hip told me that he’d already come, three soft blows, spaced out, one day I didn’t want to open but I opened, it was a just before the return and after Prague and he had seen the light under my door. We looked at the toothless girl from the patisserie, once in a while we directed our eyes and steps toward the poor cavern behind her closed lips. I think she loved us in silence and without asking herself why, and we saluted Blanca of the dirty mouth. One day, when the afternoon’s leaden gray and the smooth song of the winds began, toasted leaves fell from behind windows and formed beds. Then water fell and formed puddles; and the winds ran and formed fugitive strands of hair. We ate and drank of them in silence. We also ate meat and drank colored milks in silence. I think everyone loved without knowing where. He read to me sometimes, like parents, to put their children to sleep, tell them enchanted stories and I listened, as if from far away, “Río is behind me.” I feel it run over my kidneys and how I bind them with their flowing, rigid chain of lead, inviting me to the slow voyage of death, like all of you...beings...One night, while we slept, snow soundlessly fell and formed a white lawn for the first time. Saturday the 12th of February the sun came up at five. It hasn’t snowed since Sunday in Ottignies. He didn’t know what I did that Sunday, after a Saturday of classes (at eight in the morning it had snowed lightly all night for the first time). G F on the roofs of all the slumbering cars, on all the sleeping windshields and windows, memories of a childhood had in fragments. Important happenings: not a soul in Ottignies; waiting to run into some damsel in distress; slow, silent march; something similar to a forest or a private estate, a castle among the trees, a sharp silence, a scream, a rifle, a shot, blood on my back, then nothing; in la Gare, waiting for the train, distracted reading, sudden and subconscious remembering of the time, the train in front of me, paper and pencil. All in four hours with light snow for the first time. He’d be sleeping at this hour, white over a white sheet and under a white sheet, a dark brown ruana at his feet. And a jumble of books, Kandinsky to the left, Brueghel to the right, clean sheets for twenty-five francs. Saturday the 12th of February the sun came up at five. It hasn’t snowed since Sunday in Ottignies. Saturday the 12th of February the sun came up at five I tell you. It hasn’t snowed since Sunday in Ottignies. Saturday the 12th of February the sun came up at five. It hasn’t snowed since Sunday in Ottignies. It snowed a lot. And it fell over our white shoulders and wept, while she wrote her first letter on a thick white envelope (tu sais, vraiment je t’aime). It snowed a lot.
I wonder if this developed on the surface, since it seemed that we’d let ourselves fall soundlessly into an endless, dark, slow depth like a ship in the night that moves smoothly and without speaking. We fell with our bodies weightless. That night, the lights on the tables went out and two Egyptian handclaps brought forth six slaves carrying illuminated golden fountains, who came in through sideways doors to feed the hungry, quench the thirsty, clothe the naked. Endless, dark, slow, do you hear music at five, undefined, lukewarm...?
Falling into endless depths, without memory, dark, slow, it seems at some moment the night’s velocity and wind moistened his eyes. Music was heard at five, imperceptible, vague, ethereal, made of long phrases that repeated and ended making a strange and mysterious alliance with the density of our temples and the silent murmur of the air. He smoked. Music was heard at five, a fantasia. I think we had listened to it before some place. I don’t remember where. Maybe in my house, two years later. It was the same feeling of calm, a neutral hour, weightlessness, (we wore shorts on account of the heat, those shorts we thought were bathing suits, white socks and slippers, we were enormously bored. One slept in dark glasses. Took notes). The air was heavy, and there was a long corridor that ended in the little dining room and on the side a door that opened on the big dining room; first they told us tie required but we went without ties, they rang golden, vertical bells whose sound continued in the air a while and then disappeared, then we got up slowly and we ate, we never went in the bar, I sat with Marie-Ange who taught me to draw dogs with no tails. Then her mother appeared and she disappeared with her. I remember it was the first time I was able to converse with someone seriously. She was very beautiful. I think once she called me by my name and once the night wind moistened my eyes. Then nothing. It must have been six years ago.
We also thought of writing a book. The Anthology of Smell. It expanded slowly in streets and armpits, in dining rooms, slowly, and cinemas, slipped through windows, eyes, doorjambs, invaded salons and souls, trains, and raised itself in holocaust to the skies, where birds slumber. It passed beside us and lived with us. We never thought our laughter would die so cruelly, cut off by the snow. Then we visited empty Chinese exhibitions where Kang-Mei, daughter of Ho, awaited us, and she never ceased to teach us how to unmask men. Then we talked. We talked. We talked. And we listened to the bored bells at the Library fall and roll, and we drank ink noon and night, and we did nothing but begin, every day, to live deeply. I traveled. I traveled with a black umbrella. I talked to him. I knew the languages of Babel, the towers and arches, the plazas, the fields, four Vikings, temples and seas, night during day and women smoking pipes; I also made friends on the train with an Englishmen and a dog who licked imaginary wounds from my left hand, the most beautiful one I have. Sitting on a colorless sofa, a blond hair brushed my thigh with modest audacity, and we drank silence and hot spiced wine in the shadows. I met Noel in Paris and further on graves under a white lawn, I saw Brueghel and Bach as children, and I spoke to her at length while crossing the park, in a hurry, remembering parties that we by no means wanted to remember, when she shone with the brilliance in her eyes and I was holy. Do you remember me? My name is Somnus, son of anguish and memory, grandson of life. The old man who invited us to share his lonely table said this to Christiane and I, in Prague, a little later, New Year’s night. He had a pink piglet in his arms that he had to touch to live. He said nothing more since he left us alone though he didn’t move from his place. Christiane bit her nails and wore a pink sweater, and died a little every day. She didn’t speak, and the day she died most was that night the train took us to Prague, all standing, very close together in the long corridor, all standing, very close together. No one spoke. He didn’t speak. There were no free compartments, Guy no longer served for our jokes, maybe we were sitting or standing on him without realizing it. Nicole. As the sun came up, we found free compartments, their occupants disappeared like invisible gnomes in the night’s cold. Hugo was chosen King. When we got off in Leuven there was autumn sun in January and we carried Modigliani under a black umbrella.
(I always think I remember that we walked in the yellow, phantasmagoric clarity of the streets at night, and that our faces turned pale (like theatrical masks, like the paleness of coming death) and that we went to the Vita. I think one night I seemed to stay behind while he spoke with her, it was the month of January, I seemed to end the night on the summit of some white rocks in the park, listening, whistles below, on the road. Veiled by the waters, my eyes seemed to hear that we always get an F for effort and we spend whole centuries in Marienbad. Then we come back to Earth, which rejects us, and we suffer much without knowing where. It says to us, from far away, “Vous etes, comme une ombre, et vous attendez, que je m’approche...”) It was only later that we died.
Lima, october 1968
To Eduardo López Jaramillo
Brandon Holmquest is a former editor of both Calque and Asymptote. He writes and translates poems, and is currently based in Chicago.
Gaston Fernandez was born in Peru in 1940. In the late 60s he moved to Belgium, where he spent the rest of his life, working as a museum guide and art historian. He died in 1997.