L’Oubliette, or Plan A (2010)


Le cri de cœur brisé written and illustrated by David St.-Lascaux

Terra © Ga. 4.570002009

Please do be 18 years of age or older.

* * *


Dedicated to Carmen, pour avoir sauvé ma vie délicate, encore une fois

and to you, of course, with an always extra pint

* * *


Duas garrafas vazias em Alcobaça
Diana, gilded bronze, the Met
Évora: La lune est faite de lait, ce soir
Inêz, Alcobaça
Palácio da Pena, Sintra
It is decidedly so

* * *

On ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.
One doesn’t see clearly, except with the heart. The essential is invisible for the eyes.
– Le Petit Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

* * *


New York, 19 November 2009

Well I followed her to the station
with a suitcase in my hand….
Love in Vain (Johnson)

I didn’t go to Portugal to be liquidated. True, I had an inkling, knew there was a risk. First, a month before, she invited me, then, two days later, told me that she’d prefer to travel solo. Of course she would: she always will. Explain that, please. It’s like the restaurante check: it’s symbolic, like the theophagy of the wafer and the wine: she (she masks her real identity online: we’ll call her The- and That Girl) proves to herself that she’s her own woman; that she’s independent, of me and everyone. Alis volat propriis. A Ten Euro Note has new meaning: It’s actual proof of her power to purchase her own freedom from obligation, from attachment. It makes her potent, in control. Muito, muito, sim, obrigado.

* * *

Lisboa, 11 November

Time, with You

Time is precious;
Time flies.
Tell me something I don’t already know.

Here’s something, or rather someone:
I want to know you; we need some time.

Will you give me a little?

16:00: The answer is no. The Girl breaks the author’s heart on the hard stone steps of the Igreja da Madalena (Cette Fille, no doubt, His biggest fan).

Évora, 11-13 November (photo: NASA)

I wake up early next morning, walk to the Roman Temple, standing in the fog. It’s all here. The lichen mottled marble maid, seated, stylus poised, with her blank tablet, the chevalier with Damoclean sword holding the masks of tragedy and comedy. And the Burmese cat slinking out of the privet, intent on mouse or moth or sparrowlet. Then off it skitters, spooked. Don’t pet the cat, Carmen said; let her come to you. Uncanny: At Choupana, the restaurante, she said that my talking at her made her uncomfortable. As if I had a choice. I did it to prolong the pain – to keep her from walking out. She did anyway, if slowly. Let me come to you, she purred, she slurred, in lispy susurration. The French have an expression for this: Y a pas de danger. Fat chance: I have my pride. Though Francophilic, I’m a phony. Although my nom de plume is French, en fait, je ne parle pas français, unless you count the summer term to wrap up college, needing a gut (check that: I learned voo-lay-voo coo-shay ah-veck mwa from a song, and the one with les mots d’amour, les bras prenants, les yeux baisantsla viande rose, I think, or something). The summer in which I discovered that pink lipgloss goes welly well with a black collarless shirt, sage green velvet jacket, ripped crotch commando bluejeans (life then so limitless and free) and smudged eyeshadow (she was entirely made up to kiss me off, down to every actress’s cosmetic detail, down to the 4 mm eyeliner and almost-labial-trompe-l’oeil-invisible coral lipstick, her streaked and styled salon belle coiffure, protective unitard with dramatic plunging neckline: guess she wanted to look her best for such a special occasion. That’s what I like about SF and Boston women: They don’t hide behind farding, don’t think we’ll be herpenotized by their batting gazes, don’t need to cover up an eye or else we’ll fall under their feminine spells. Though I admit that Nefertiti was one fine-looking [if emaciated] woman, with plaster-smooth brown skin and some serious kohl around her opaque bituminous mindshafts). The shirt bought at the DAV for a dime, and later, a new one at a Manhattan clerical supply store in the Flatiron building. That‘s New York for you: This town has everything (and they didn’t even ask for my priest’s badge). The junior prof, a skinny straight long-haired older woman (she had to be at least 25) handled the mildly provocative, ok, outrageous lipgloss with the casual acceptance that defined the summer of ’73. Bowie and Roxy Music were in high gear; Glass and Reich were creating music for the mind; within a couple of years Joey and the Ramones would be amping up; Lynda Benglis pinning-up with a fleshy phallus; Patti Smith reading Kimberly, singing Gloria, and the Sex Pistols God-Save-the-Queening in London. It was a time of total creative freedom: You felt that you could do anything, that people weren’t just made of pixel dust.

* * *

La lune est faite de lait, ce soir

The moon is made of milk tonight…
will you reflect on me
when she is rising mid-November?

I’ll be the breeze, caressing breeze
slipping through your shining hair;
I’ll be the tide, recurrent tide
up and in and everywhere

I’ll be the night’s candescent light
to bathe you in nocturnal glow,
I’ll till you till you are fulfilled,
a quarter million miles below

Or when you’re in a foreign land,
hand-in-hand with wanderlust:
I’ll be a silver sleeve of moonbeams
to shower you in dreamdance dust

or if you ever need to be reminded
that you are loved from afar
the moon is made of milk tonight
and I am wishing on a star

I asked the moon-eyed woman sitting beside me on the subway if she liked poetry, and carefully tore La lune from this manuscript. She read it, said something inaudible, and asked if I wrote it for someone. She thinks I write: ergo, I must exist, I think. As she got off, she thanked me for the poem, the one she got from the strange guy today. Does the Girl ever love poetry. She reads reams of it, anthologies, rose petals fluttering into a canyon, a poet (not I) wrote. She, votary, maintains poets’ poverty by leaving offerings of petty cash, play-money patronage folded into origami rabbits, in dusty bookstores; they then her captives, tongue-tied trussed-up prisoners, bound in tattered cardboard clothement, awaiting her eager mind’s golemic activation (אמת and מת, truth and death, personified), confess their choicest plumbed creative crimes under her tight twisted screws, at which point she embeds them in her mneme trove and then, mercurial, moves on, they fixed, forgotten butterflies impaled on her mind’s mounting pins, their splendacious wingdust dormant, unreflected. Or mythologic messengers, their angelic waxen feathers eventually to molt or melt midair (she brought you Jack the Gilbert’s Icarus). Collected, sim, muito, muito.

So here I am, standing in the Jardim Diana, near the quiosque where the trabalhadores and the polícia plunk down their Euros to buy their bebidas. Standing in the thinning fog, Diana’s ruins contre-jour against the sun, her marble statuary bod crumbled long ago, zephyred away into the Évoran countryside, to stonedust, eluvium. Even gods die. I can assure you that this doesn’t make me feel any better. I didn’t come to Portugal to shatter my poor heart. I told her I wouldn’t be ok. Of course you will, she said. Of course you’ll recover. I thought you said you love life, she said pointedly, hijacking my words (to remind me that she’d read them: to revel in the ravishment of living. In the mood I’m in today, I don’t know what on earth possessed me to even think that.). That’s fucked up. That was cruel (her word, claimed she didn’t want to be. Yeah right: she was entirely made up). Was this revenge? For what? Pourquoi? (I know, Jean, mon ami, I shouldn’t ask.) And the November garden, fallow, with its modern marble sculptures of modern marble lovers, put here just for me, for this red-letter day – her antimatter valentine. My karmic retribution, no doubt, for not having nearly enough existential pain in my life. Carmen told me to work, to get it (not her: she’s gone) out of my system, to engage in the catharsis of creativity.

This aimless fog persists. I don’t care if it ever lifts. Why did he leave me?, Hera, a stranger, asked me on the rocks in Maine, of her long-to-married-now-ex-husband. Because we think we’re going to die, I told her. Because we want to live. And so: You’ll be fine, she fondly said (she signed her emails so: I took her at her word). You’re free. You left your wife for me; your misfortune (:50), to quote Mr. Gable, your cross to bear – she actually said that (she packed so many cruel thoughts, vocably expressed, explicitly, in just two conversations) you’re free, you won – she actually said this: You won. I did? Yes, your freedom, she said. To do what I want, no doubt, any old time, just like the song said. She wouldn’t know: she’s fuzzy on anything before 1992 (verbatim), when she was 12. It’s her birthday Thursday next. Carmen, whose birthday is four days before, said oh G*d, she’s a Scorpio, so congenitally confused, so phœnixlike, always self-destroying, failing, and rising from the ashes. And always magnetically attracted to Pisces (of course that’s me, on the Ariean cusp, no less, the point of rebirth from death. Or maybe for me, just more death. I‘m tired of life, of living. It’s not that I’m au désespoir; it’s just that my voracious lust for it is so exhausting. You’re selfish, she said, one of her many rationalizations (it was like her head was transparent: You could see the synaptic switches tripping sequentially – a transitory chain of falling dominoes, culminating, inevitably, in a de-existential dénouement). (And it’s true: creatives must seem sometimes narcissistic, self-absorbed, and pay the price in isolation.) You don’t appreciate me, my needs, my need to be alone, to travel my life alone, to spend my time in solitary solitude. I haven’t written for years, she said; I won’t collaborate with you, she said, although she told me earlier on the phone that she wanted to write with me.

I must’ve looked like sh*t that day, jet lagged from New York and London. She didn’t recognize my boys Giorgio and Hugo, and frankly, neither would they have recognized themselves. But no, she had already decided before I even got on the plane. It wasn’t spontaneous. It was that email, wasn’t it? The last one where you said she should meet you at the Roman Temple wearing only the nervous expression she had said she would, and nothing else, that the tourists will be enraptured, and with you on the pedestal, moi aussi. Despite two months of frisky banter and the prima facie evidence of my porn flick novelette, that finally spooked her: this was about to get real, not just keyboard kisses in the air, Flirtation by Insouciant Fingertips. I was about to exist, despite Camus’s dénégations agonisées. Don’t pet the cat, Carmen said. She wouldn’t let me touch her hand, even, the first time. The second time, just barely. Hands are a big deal, especially, apparently, mine. Mine are those of Michelangelo’s David, the stoneslinger, the poet. Both hands and words can slay; my hands are veined and warm and soft, loquacious, locative, persuasive, thieving, conquering immoral hands (she thinks) – they’ll burglarize your psyche, your youness, your feline, feminine autonomy. They’ll masturbate your cherished clit, come-hither beckon to your frabjous G, finger fuck you in your illegal tendered pubic place, deploy a digitus impudicus to squinch into your timid, avid sphincter (oh they will, believe me, I sincerely promise), shake your vestigial REM-sleep twitching tail awake from soundest slumber – to what enjambed goosebumpin’ hipthrust Skene-and-sweat-soaked mindlost gush and moan oooooh-blivion you surmise all. too. well. And then you’ll be lost again, to another man, you’ll be helpless again and you’ve vowed to yourself (even tattooed it on your forearm as inescapable reminder) that you’ll never let a man tell you what to do again, do that to you again. Carmen says que será, será (that’s Romantic, and I’m no phony when it comes to Latin. They’re the best lovers, statistically). Why is every woman sylphid, why does every one remind me of her? Why did she tell me of her dream of rotting flesh, an anorexia-like confession, the one with a roomful of women who were all ok, even if their flesh was rotting off their bones? Menses and the moon, childbirth and aging, adipocere (grave wax): she said it sounded so musical, so Italian (ah’ dee poh cher ee), so very – ooh – love-lee (come to think of it, that’s how she described my first book of poems for her – le bouquet de la nymphe, the one I handmade with the cover print of flirting jeune homme et femme, ludic, with allusive, allegorical monkey and fish, slate blue on pale cream fiber-flecked paper, its (turns out too-too) optimistic, futuritive frontis:

So may this bud of love, by summer’s ripening breath,
prove to be a beauteous flower when next we meet.
Good night, good night! as sweet repose and rest
Come to thy heart as that within my breast!

Of course I went to the ossuary in Évora, the femora, humeri, ulnæ, tibiæ and jawless calvaria. These clowns had no esthetic sense: at least Hirst’s skull has a full, necrotic smile, and a glittering tiara, the third eye ajna chakra (containing, as it does, the potency of music, speech and words – how conveniently germane) embedded in his forehead. Now that’s pavé, bébé. So to the ossuary vault: I went alone, without her. No I didn’t: she was there in my anticipation; she went there later, and walked on the same floor I just had, my footsteps no doubt still warm, just like her Flickr page (relax, I shan’t return), how she went to the herbaria in Prague and San Francisco – the ones with the carnivorous plants (maybe you’ve seen them) – her (and so very much also my) morbid taste. I doubt she thought of me. The first words out of Carmen’s mouth – she’s fine; it’s you I’m worried about. Jesus, Carmen, do you have to rub it in? Welcome to the brave new world of dating: Women do it all the time, she said, like the nature show on television where the Indonesian birdmen put on their displays for a ladybird (like the peacock in Évora’s public garden, abristle for the peahen: he didn’t simply pine to be her poor Platonic factotum, her utile eunuch escort; his present plan to jump her bones, tout de suite). They’re not sure why she picks the one she does, they say. That’s because they’re scientists – fucking stoopid, Martian dweebs who can’t grasp Venusian irrationality. She does it polyamorously, open to anything, to ensure the possibilities of selection, survival of the species, because she’s birdbrained, because it won’t matter one hundred thousand years from now. There’s no system, no rhyme: she’s in the mood at that moment, and that’s all. Meanwhile you had a bad day, a final day. You’ll be fine, she said; she’s right: I’ll recover. She referred to me in her most brutal, medial (the literal turning point, in retrospect) email in the past tense (this narrative regrettably constructed in past tense itself, without intent of such interpretation), and in every single email about Portugal she talked about her, not our plans. Hint, hint; big clews, those. Now it’s my turn: she was one fine-looking woman, although with an almost skeletal, dangerously underweight [like mine] dancer’s / model’s body (sometimes I forget to eat, she says [like me], like a guilty felon: but when I don’t, I’ll eat your heart); she ate a meal in front of me: no doubt her metabolism is like mine [we’re the same, she said]. She can handle it – emesis, I mean. I always wanted to watch that sometime.) (I first met Miss Nervosa in London in ’76 – nice bird – girlfriend of a friend. I admit I snooped: The bloodstainless panties in her drawers; the concrete poetry banged out on a manual typewriter; her brother’s scandalous behaviour exposed in the shy and subtle British tabloids. Amenorrhea, for the benefit of my gentlemen readers, is not the end of a prayer to the god of snot, or a sacred Asian candelabrum. It may or may not be a piece of this puzzle, either [I myself a bag of bones, having lost almost twenty pounds stressed over her, and fast-receding shoreline shocks of hair, to top it off]; her expressed libido a decoying tactic?) You don’t know me, she said. Did you know you talked to me about your life for five hours one night?, I asked (that was telephone time, her reflexive return).

What she did to me was wrong, I told Carmen and Randall and Uxoria. I’m a good person. I didn’t deserve to be treated like that. She’s a flake, said Randall, so move on. What do I really think?, Carmen asked. That it’s fucked up, and that you shouldn’t set yourself up for any more abuse from her. But get it out of your system. You have a notebook, of course (of course), so do it. So I’m sitting at the café of the Residencial Diana, the Moon Goddess everywhere, it seems, my fate. There was no moon in the Portuguese sky at dusk last night. I know: I looked for it. I always do. Waxing, waning, crescent, full or new, I need my moonglow. La lune est faite de lait, ce soir, the love poem I wrote for her, one of my better efforts (please, no Carmen Possum wisecracks) (you love the muse much more than her – or anyone, Carmen half blurted, half speculated, surprised by her own thetic jaculation, my noesis her noema). The moon is made of milk tonight, and I am wishing on a star. I gave her the moonbook so she couldn’t look at the moon ever again without thinking of me – a phantom phanopoeia. You can predict that won’t work out so well – for me – now I shall always think of her under its mermanic lamplight, hoisted by my own… well, you know. Isn’t that ironic?

There was nothing spontaneous about her performance, including its feigned and deadly seriousness. It’s wrong… Rehearsed. You’ll be fine… Planned. You won… Aussi. It’s a beautiful country… Quadritto. I wonder what it’s like to think this shite up, to practice it, to memorize your lines, however simple. Including the chess contingencies and the universal filler: You’re manipulating me, you don’t understand me, I don’t want to hurt you, I don’t want to be cruel (Translation, à la Mallory in Natural Born Killers: Do you still like me now, Jack? 8:23) Look, I just gave you a handmade book of amatory poems I wrote for you on your birthday: the least you could do would be to give Us (the Royal Unrepentant We) a miserable peck on the cheek. ([Voice in the head, aside]: My megadating friend Randall: Sorry, but they’re nothing special to her, don’t mean a thing to her; in fact, they’re just more incriminating evidence of how annoying your overbearing unwanted advances were: Didn’t she tell you that she wasn’t interested in what you have to offer her? Shut up, Randall.)

That sure backfired: How can I not think of her and the book of poems “pour That Girl” (Darling Fascist Bully Boy, That Girl is my favorite thing you’ve ever called me, she wrote a week before she dumped me, this cut and pasted from her email. Oh, and subject line of another, signs point to yes, the same week before). She sounds confused, my sister said. How droll and understated, how kind, when she stood in front of me at Choupana, she said she walked in at random, that she didn’t even see me until she was standing in front of me; could she sit down? I ripped the wine red napkin into shreds; she told me to stop: she understood the metaphor. She told me she didn’t want to be cruel, that it must seem cruel to me, did it seem cruel, it mustn’t be cruel: cruel would be so very cruel, even if she only said it once. She said it at least twice: she savored it, it must’ve felt so very hot, so very good indeed (her words), to her, to be cruel to a kind-hearted, innocent manchild (and once-upon-a-time étudiant of nihilist Max Stirner). I don’t deserve to be treated like that. Look at your targets, Carmen said – she’s a thousand miles away, attached, exactly half your age, and the last one an engaged lesbian, for Christ’s sake. Are you trying to prove that you’re unlovable, my poor boy? But Carmen doesn’t understand: I really fell in love with her. She said we are the same, and so we almost are, except that I’m not interested in what you have to offer me, she said. Carmen said I offer her nothing, except to take her life from her, to steal her life force, her élan vital. (Didn’t she already tell you what she thinks you are? Didn’t you say she called you some kind of psycho sex fiend, disturbed, or something?, Carmen asked.) That was psychobabble. But that she wasn’t interested in what I have to offer her? Wow. And the necessity to crush me? Courageous. You act as if I haven’t met other intense guys, she said. I guess she wanted to impress me, to cut me down to size. Oh really? I let that pass; she already said my ego is too big. I agreed to use inaudible when bragging to her. Imagine me, an interchangeable part – just another clever wordman who slashes out bloodsplattered sheets of intellectual erotica with a rapier, when she can take her Amazonic pick-of-the-litter of cheap and easy literati – just another one of Cohen’s lousy little poets, not a real man, but rather an alimentary alphabetic soup of strung-together Lettrist letters, phonemes, morphemes, tangible artefacts of lofty aspiration, soon to be randomly rescrambled for her next game, and she won’t miss me. She’s fine, Carmen said, she’s back to Plan A of her trip, alone without encumbrance. Emma agreed: It was simple metanoia. You represented risk, uncertainty, just as you asserted in your nymphic poem, a rebuttal to her salvo, Raleigh’s Reply to Marlowe:

Raleigh, Rebutted

St.-L’s Gentle Plea to the Reticent Nymph
(In joy: no date)

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love
(Christopher Marlowe, before 1593)
Reply to Marlowe (Sir Walter Raleigh, before 1599)

Again I say, come be my love
And let the cynics hovel’d live.
Sure, there are shepherds, I concede
Who lie to lay, but I’m not one.
In truth to you my troth I pledge.

Time drives and cold and blah blah blah;
Once burned one shouldn’t doubt you doubt.
But worry not, material things
Are not my purview, nor my wings,
But wealth in loving kindness gained.

Our flowers may fade, but what of that?
The reason more to live and love.
Dried posies have a beauty fair
And fruit, uneaten, goes to rot
While spring and summer do return;
And bounty’s seasons every one.

You think to be a pragmatist,
You think me risk, chaos and ruin,
Impossible, expendable.
Out of my league, past tense: So sung
(A heart that beats near breaks at that).

And true, in winter, we will die,
as the actress Raleigh did
(A master of the obvious;
If only he had stuffed his pen
I mightn’t have to plead like this.)

Kissed coral lips, your movèd mind
In joyfulness of heart and soul
Let’s straddle rocks, white rivers rage;
Let’s twine a pair, the pleasures prove.
Come live with me and be my love.

And what would’ve been so simple: She could’ve said, when we met: I bet you’re tired. Let’s get a cup of coffee. Let me tell you about my trip so far. It’s good to finally meet again, this second time, in person – really. We’ve got so much to cover. Let’s talk about the Calvino I recommended that you read. Let’s let’s let’s and yes yes yes, and you have a car: let’s go see the Almendres Cromlech megaliths – that will be primitive. We can strip and go naked; bodypaint each other’s skin with red and black erotoglyphs; pretend we’re prelinguistic troglodytes – you the Antlered Shaman of the Churning Cave and I the Tulip Queen of Moonlight Caterwaul – our lips’ lallation loosening our minds. We’ll imitate infinity: da-dance away the dizzy hours in ditsy analemmas among the firelit menhirs, our trunks contort in idic undulation, our spasmodistic rubber limbs aflail until we finally forget everything, collapse in throes of throbbing, moonmilk ecstasy; tu es fodido, sim! But instead, the long face, the no, the can’t, the mutual defeat, the wasted opportunity, never to return, the loss; Oh, Carmen, it’s very real to me in spite of your awareness that she’s fine, I’m nothing special, that I wanted it to end much sooner, but couldn’t; don’t ask me why – I can’t explain; it’s just a feeling – a feeling that it’s wrong.


Marvão, 13 November

Gone and left me; is she gone to stay?
She’s gone, but I don’t worry.…
– Sitting on Top of the World (Vinson/Chatmon – Mississippi Sheiks)

Marvelous Marvão. Honey, if you had traveled by chariot with me, relinquishing the reins of control, we could’ve switched back and forth together up and up and up to castles standing sentinel at the World’s End, the Fathomless Frontier, where we just might glimpse, on the horizon, the coalescing treasure of Tomorrow and, opposite, an evanescing Yesterday, its sunset trailing phosphorescent cerements. You could’ve heard the rooster crow at noon; you could’ve stood on granite, walked the ramparts, smelled the scented woodsmoke, seen longneedle pines be shivered by the montane wind, and goshawks soaring; scanned panoramic vistas from lithic belvederes, walked steps that Arab, Spanish footfalls printed, touched the ochre lichen, cacti, pansies, indigo morning glories not yet furled, domey minarets and stone trimmed towers, whitewashed. Oh, I know, you did; you were here, too (it’s in your wordcloud), saw all these in your own viewfinder, all by your very self, your own life to live on your own terms, sans encumbrance, the troublesome nuisance of my undesired companionship – quelle inconvenient. But it’s all random to her anyway; nothing matters; nothing signifies; nothing endures. We’re all just killing time (if injuring eternity), and people who get in our way. I’m not interested in what you have to offer: she said that. Olá! I told her that I’ve learned that you can’t have too many friends. I’m sure that was disturbing, too, made her uncomfortable. Her voicemail is always full, so at least no need to worry about her in that department, although she volunteered it wasn’t the case (another gratuitous lie – she has friends aplenty). She’s gone, but I don’t worry…. Now strum your sad guitar, now blow your angelic harp, my Howlin’ Wolfish man. I sang that pacing like a tomcat on the cruciform roof of the Se in Évora the morning after she dismissed me: she was probably having her café da manhã, beginning her bom dia. I sang it anyway, out loud, my voice blanketing the air of Évora – believe me, I can project, and I can damned well sing the blues – at any time I please… cause I’m sitting on top of the world. You could’ve sat in sun among the marigolds with me, the cypress, juniper, run your pale soft hand, my dear, over bronzed copper oxide bark, rolled sticky pitch between finger and thumb, inhaled its café violin’s horsetail bowstring’s coniferous aroma; I would’ve held it to your nostrils – no charge, no giving of it up by you required, no compromise, no pussy, sere or otherwise. You could’ve. We could’ve meandered in the topiary garden, every step bringing something unexpected, something new. What I mean to say is that we could’ve heard the magic music of each other’s voices, beheld the splendor of each other’s smiling faces – the crowning glory of creation; we could’ve breathed air together. In the underground garage, going to the car to get her presents from my suitcase, she acted as if I was going to jump her – I! My friends shook their heads: she’s young, they said, doesn’t understand you. You wouldn’t have had to wish, as I did – as I do, to rather have been born a cabbage butterfly or ruby-throated hummingbird imbibing nectar, the spiky deep magenta raceme, the speckled tropical leaves; you wouldn’t have to colha flores (por favor) or pise a velva; November’s pale hydrangeas would’ve greeted your birthday from their terra cotta, the yucca in its Dalían surreality would’ve waved its twisting tentacles at seeing us together.

We want water where there is none. You’re going to dry wells, Carmen says, so aptly, literally, you even get in the bucket and go down yourself. That’s self-abusive. She’s fine, Carmen said. She’ll see all these things: they’re everywhere. Who needs you, or anyone? It’s you I’m worried about, said Carmen. But my friends don’t understand me, just don’t listen. I like intensity, and anyway it’s all material. Don’t fraternize with poets if you wish to be a private person; don’t broadcast; and above all, don’t talk to strangers. I wanted to make her famous, and she didn’t want to be. How Un-American. Pour-why-fuck-ing-ever-quoi?, my conscript Matryoskan syllables inquire tmetically.

I walk the parapets in silence, sheltered from the gusted sky – lugar nenhum azul. A sparrow, my unpeacockish alter ego, flits into an empty fruit tree; apt metaphors abound. Then a small flock starts up in unison. They always seem to know when it’s time to go, so actually, easily spooked. I guess her instincts told her something she was compelled to obey, to run away, to flee, to preserve herself. And I, at the empty, mountaintop castle, surveying eternity, absence, the throngs no longer present. I myself now in the watchtower, in the keep where they stood their last stand, to the bloody death. Their shrieking silent now, their lifeblood washed away, infusing the Alentejo soil with its ironic tinge, but I hear them anyway. Oh, that’s my voice, my wail, my despair, my helplessness. The cannons, rusted, empty, are me, my useless hard-on testament to fickle femininity, to empty wells. When calculating contingencies, the mind turns over fuck you, but my mind doesn’t work like that. I wish her well, I wish her mind would let her live, let her say yes to me, set her – really – free. I finally find a way to the highest turret after a brief spell of vertigo and gaze again upon a world I hoped I wouldn’t see – a world without her – as far as I can see. If only I could ride the sinusoidal waves of time backward in a caravel, backward to the day before, and remain frozen there, in blissful expectation, never have to live another day. So both of us are lost. She doesn’t care, says Carmen; she’s inured, inoculated; she’s been here before. She even planned the kissoff, the contingency: It’s a beautiful country was her planned, casual line, so easy to say, soo clever and sooo effortless. He’ll fend for himself; he’s a big bad boy; he’s been rejected before, haven’t they all, if not by me then by a sister? Otherwise too much copulation, too many unwanted babies, too many men abandoning us. What’s good for the goose is good for the goose. Turnabout is fair play, gander. She’ll never be the Portuguese Nun, whose nunnery I visited in Beja, walked to the empty well in its cloister’s garth, looked down it to the place she drew her water while she wrote her accusations of abandonment to her French marshall, her Portuguese Letters. The Portuguese die of love, Cervantes said, but I’m not Portuguese: I didn’t come here to die – of anything.

She couldn’t have been harsher if she had flayed and gutted me alive in vicious vivisection torture in extremis. And she did it with such a straight face, with such sangfroid, aplomb. I’m no misogyne: I don’t believe in frigid, but to borrow a metaphor, that was just so icy cold. Pise? I’ll piss wherever I please, so thank you very much. Back on the A-whatever, bolstered by the bleating Miles Davis (Bitches Brew: this album saved my life, it kept my mind off her; ironically, I brought it for the road, for her), motoring past Castelo de Vide: another ruin, an empty shell inhabited by asynchronic zombies, interloping ants moved into an abandoned, preowned palace. I can relate to that. And the faux erotic Alentejo landscape (where time itself stands still, the guidebook warns: you could become enambered here). A barren boulder-strewn savannah: take a tip from me and skip it, and skip Spain while you’re at it: I flew over to Madrid, a sterile airport. I have no doubt that the Capital City Itself, with its oil painted Prado (wherein lie Goya’s double trouble striptease Majas), and Barcelona and Seville and Salamanca and Majorca are all worth it. Everything is perfect, no doubt, if you have the time and money. She directed you to the wilderness, to Christ’s arid pinnacles of satanic temptation – and I definitely not him in terms of internal fortitude or inner strength. He wasn’t looking to get laid – ever. Enough penitence: I need to get laid (both literarily and figuratively). As Carmen says, you’ll forget her so fast when you’re getting some. You know she’s not the only chatte there is, the only beaver (which term she inexplicably detests). Toss in disorder and she as dry as my postmenopausal wife: now that’s delicious irony.

And the book of poems I gave her, and her birthday present: She didn’t even say thank you: I read it on the train, she said, and nothing of the lump of coal, the black stone that you gave her, the Trojan Horse with you inside – not worth mentioning. That was all she wrote, so to speak. But it must’ve flattered her; an Internet-Imaginary fool tells her that he loves her, and she just vaporized his Very Real Heart. That must’ve made her lovebud tingle: so many nerves endings to stimulate, just like when she went to meditate, the blood collecting in her pubes – who knew, before Vipassana and Angier’s Woman? Bet she couldn’t wait to get to her pensão to diddle (herewith in rhyming Portuguese: ela não pode esperar || para se masturbar). But bad news, honey: even that gets old – I know, it’s why I’m leaving Uxoria – I can’t do it any more. I read a villanelle in The Atlantic by a poet who says: Your 20s and 30s and 40s – oh my: you’re immortal. Then the other shoe drops. Emma says you don’t even have the capacity for empathy until you’re 50: you could care less. So maybe Carmen is right: The Girl needs to live and learn, and you are from another time, like the castle and its inhabitants, never to connect, only to coincide, to coexist, no catalytic reaction, no fusion, the people oblivious, the castle keeps its counsel, except the cats, hunting mice and birds to kill, to bring to the door, to impress you in their feline fashion. And what’s your Plan A for 50, doll? More randomness? That G*d, or chance, will providentially provide? You’re smart, good looking and immortal, right? Maybe you’ll remarry another man of means, become a curator of men’s soft hearts, a rarified circulating librarian, a human incunabulist, reading poetry by the candlelight of tapers molded from your victims’ adipocere, shelving their dessicated leather organs, their scraped and salted vellum, rubricated by their blood, in forgotten stacks, their desperate scribblings documented in banks of catalogs of unleafed cards, collecting dust for scholars to exhume a thousand years from now, hidden there among the midden, motes and shards and pelvic fossæ. Or, for complete control of your life, and although I don’t recommend it, the librarian above my personal, executive office earned tax-free income as a hooker, plying her venereal, vampish trade during business hours, the aging Jags and Porsches furtive in the lot behind the house; we had to move our meetings downstairs to avoid their drivers’ climactic auditions. You could do it virtually today, with no human contact necessary. You may already be – you did, after all, invite me to make inferences about [your] life. The rules of your game.

Óbidos, 13-15 November

Ode to a Poetess

In A.D. 1689, Miss Aphra Behn passed on at forty-eight
of amatory-itis, which is to say she died of death,
that is, of loving life too much.

She got it.
She lived, she said, a life of poetry and pleasure
where charming and inspired shepherds
and joyful yielding nymphs were free
to pursue their passions,
and even Inhibition knew life far too short to stint
She asked her darling Sylvia: [When you are dead,]
What will your duller honor signify?
and, to further press her case,
The sun and Spring receive but our short light,
Once set, a sleep brings an eternal night
(this a recurring sentiment among the plumbing sentient)

Miss B a rover and a spy
She wrote of harems, rakes, adventure and intrigue
in times of plague and fire and deadly war
and time in English debtor’s prison
She lived.

Miss Woolf suggested flowers for her grave
(she gave, she said, her sex the right to speak its mind)
What was she like? We see her curled confidence
her open chest, her dressy dress
While in her work, we wis her Wit

But then she died, despite of It.

She said (again to make the point):
When the fresh roses on your cheeks shall die…
Eternally they will forgotten lie

Carpe noctem
was her mantra
she lived, she said, a life of poetry and pleasure.

Silly Girl. We could’ve climbed the streets of Óbidos together, drunk cherry-red Licor de Ginja from the high heel glass slipper, or the prancing horse, or a burlap hedgehog, quilled – I’d’ve bought you one, just for a laugh, no strings, no expectations, no compromise to your putative instinct for self-preservation. And the gallery with its triune alchemical boxes: intense rubedo red powder, gray-white albedo lumps of clay, and nigredo charcoal coal – thick sticks of it, jutting from the wall. My life for you, my love, depicted in a psychic artist’s sculpture: my perforated, pulverized escarlate coração, our mutual, ultimate cadaver status, my carbon gift to you – all there before my very olhos. Will you walk in on your birthday, at random, and recognize me only when you stand before it, past the capsized charcoal boat, its bloodbath spilling out around in spreading carmine billow? Was it necessary that I die for your imaginary sins? And upstairs, at the opening party I didn’t really crash: it was open to the public, water dripping from the ceiling on the stones – flat black pans, another weighty allegorical triad: charcoal, iron red and cyanotic gray – her hips, perhaps, her breasts, her eternal feminine form. And the bloody bullet holes in paintings on the wall: she did machine gun me, I realize. Rat-a-tat-a-tat. Die, she said, I’ll render you to rot. Die. Cristina, the artist, her stunning self, my season’s peer, wrapped in a raging red ripped shawl of strands of pressed-like-paper fabric, told me that I should be happy, that I will be alright, that I’ll recover. She spoke to me of Jacques Lacan, of working in the mountains of China and India, that we benefit from suffering. I told her that I’ve suffered enough (I bet her father didn’t beat her black and blue). The scars we carry aren’t always visible (as the lady says: You should see [mine]), if you know what I mean (AITYD); time heals, and unreveals. Her work was called intervalos do real. Sorry if this interval is a bit too real, Jack, or Jill, or whoever you are, dear reader. I guess I’ll never know, now, will I? Your secrets safe from me.

You don’t understand me, she said, you don’t listen. Au contraire. I listened for eight hours, all ears. I came to Portugal to listen. That’s what my daughter said when she was nineteen – that I didn’t listen, didn’t understand. Thank G*d she’s twenty; now she limits her rejection to disclaiming the appropriateness of her having to listen to me crying about the twenty-seven-year-old (horse lingo, like fifteen-and-a-half hands; she and her mother insist on backdating my jilter’s age; it makes her tawdrier) with whom I’m trying to cheat on Mom. Oh never mind: reality is relative. Anyway, at least now I won’t have to listen to any juvenile shite about how I don’t understand you. So if you say I don’t, just please open your mouth and educate me. I’m sure I have the emotional intelligence to grasp your unique self – no woman ever like you, for sure (that’s what I get for using that lame line, saying that I think you’re rare [Recantation: You're Splendid, Fine and Rare. And that’s the Real Truth: You Are.]: poetic justice, as it were). You could be having dinner in Óbidos, tonight, darling, vinho branco, Luso, melted queijo and sage herb butter, the sensate if insentient things that wasted money can buy: physicalia, material comfort. (Stein said she said she wrote a rose is a rose… because English prose had run its clichéd course, so the words material comfort are hard to write, but still, they’re nice, and will suffice to make the point, n’est-ce pas?)

After spending last night at an empty restaurant in Évora (the dried up “Waterfall”), I figured I could splurge on Friday night and – oh my G*d – this melon vichyssoise is sinful, creamy with white cheese and flakes of ham (The Portuguese have ham and cheese with everything, even haute cuisine, so where are all the pigs? They’re either hiding in their houses, playing poker, or carcasses hung in abattoirs, or flying through the Blue Nowhere.). Let me come to you, she said, so said my shrink, so said Carm, and so on. Like I’m going to wait for her, like the Portuguese Nun, like the passive beloved, my vagina lubed and dilated in submissive anticipation? [It was I, after all, who first proposed this, à la Elvis, King Creole: it sent you off the rails, the thought of you gotta pay me. {4:23}] To wait in futile pain, like Marianna, whose convent I pilgrimistically visited, my mandatory tapas, my voluntary suffering, my masochismo, my limp defeat? She promised me music she had stayed up all night to collect for me: Good things come to those who wait, she said, but so far she’s failed to deliver; forever is more time than I have, I say. It would’ve been kind. I went there, stood in the cloistered garden, looked down the empty jump-in well. You might as well. You weren’t here four billion years ago, won’t be here in a hundred, so what’s the point? Nothing signifies. Right, I said to her at the restaurante last night; she said she picked the place at random after telling me not to follow her to Évora, that she didn’t see me till she stood in front of me. She couldn’t admit that it was meant to be: she only does random: it’s her signature, it couldn’t possibly have meaning, she can’t handle meaning: meaning causes pain, like memories, like fists, like real feelings (which must be under her complete control). Just imagine meeting A Guy Who Really Thinks the World of You because You Really Are So Exquisitely Configured, His Exact Complementary Orgasmically Soft Pigskin Glove Fit, His Very Once-in-a-Storybook-Lifetime One, Yes, without needing a Reason Why, Yes, without understanding your private parts and places, the places only you can go and I couldn’t ever understand, or you would become vulnerable to me (that means woundable in Latin, as in having your heart broken, or the way your open wound aches when you’re making love, that I could never understand, being a man); wouldn’t want that, when it’s so easily avoidable by simply not permitting my existence, let alone letting me get close enough to touch your hand, your heart. So more white wine than I can handle, wishing she were here, not really.

In the end, a rationale is required: she needed me to misbehave, to do anything she could find objectionable, to justify her actions. She said I didn’t listen, didn’t understand, said I wouldn’t have asked her if she liked my love letters if they were real. I told her that saying those things would never make them true, even if they made her feel better. She needed the rationale to dispose of me, and I guess I need one too, to nurture back my heart. But in the end I love her. As she said to me on the phone, that will be your cross to bear. But I’m not Jesus. I’ve suffered enough. If I ever see her again, she’ll get one word before I turn my back and walk away: Die. No she won’t: I don’t think that; that’s dysfunctional contingency, reptilian survival stuff. Emotional frustration. She must have some prodigious pangs down deep inside to have done me as she did, to fail to take a rasped tongue lap from the silver platter sweet cream saucer, the transbordante champagne chalice, when all she had to do was put on her beautiful smile and say yes, we can, let’s do. We could’ve stood on parapets and smiled at the sun; we could’ve crashed the opening, our hearts’ hot hemoglobin pulsing through the triumphal aortic arches of our newly rediscovered City of Atlantis, mud between our toes the native ooze of our corporeal Gaia, the charcoal from the flames of pleasure, of companionship, and maybe someday something more. It’s all in the eye of the beholder – context is everything. Just that this should’ve culminated in a beautiful new friendship, consummated honestly, incontingent, fresh and unperformative, in spontaneous acts of kindness. The sea bass was indifferent, the sautée too heavy, but the haricots verts took me back to when I was 27, at a French place in the West Village where the portions were perfect for an anorexic, or lithe spirit like myself. She’s skinnier than me, and that’s not good. It’s not genetic. She wore a pained expression (and her catcall thrilla promenade ensemble) and shook her head no the entire time we were together, at everything I said. I’ll walk the walls of Óbidos tonight after dinner; walk off the wine, her memory, my wretchedness, my rotten life.

My lizard’s tail of a heart will soon regenerate; I’ve done that before; I’ll be fine; I thought you said you love life, she said. She might as well have said you’re not worth even knowing – it’s what I heard. Message received. She’ll resent this book, her words apparently again being used by another writer. She doesn’t want to amuse, to be a muse, Pygmalion’s Galatea, relegated to mere transient, crumbling clay. Oh well: A woman’s work, to misquote Miss Stein, is never done. She wants to be the sculptress, the pouncing huntress, Apollo, not Daphne, Zeus, not Io. She wants to be the Lover (don’t ask her how that last worked out), not the beloved; the hart-slay (you her maudit staggered Actæon). Let me come to you, she said, in showers of gold; you’ll be lucky to have me. And don’t send her any more poetry – at least not if you mean it. She’ll turn it all to dust and say it’s all your fault. We misunderstood each other, she said, through the glass, darkly. Foah shure. She’ll rip your heart apart, saying she doesn’t want to hurt you (much). As my daughter says, a man can never be a feminist – Condorcet, Mill and Dewey notwithstanding, because a man can never be a woman, have her chemistry, her hormones, her experience. Give me a break. I can’t be a woman, granted, but no one can justify what she did to me except as sordid evil. (She said she was tempted… lead us not into temptation… but apparently not that much… deliver us from evil… and that wasn’t my objective, or agenda, anyway. In cold analysis, who needs me, or you, or anyone, as a friend? Are we not inherently self-contained? People are like insects, abundant, they number in the jillions, they’re available for the taking, especially when you’re young and pretty. Let them come to you, I say. [I don’t mean this; I'm just saying.]) It was cruel, and she so described it. That’s fucked up. And every one of my friends said Go. Go to Portugal, see this wonderful woman you’ve met; it will be so good for both of you. Guess my friends were naïve, didn’t understand the agenda of the turning 29 (this the best year of her life, or so alleged by my French Friend; it’s all downhill from here, she said; dites-moi, mon cher lecteur: Is this true, or not?).

Only I did consider the contingency of being dumped in Portugal: I just never thought she’d do it preemptively. I guess she wanted to be noble, that what she was doing was the only honorable way, in person, or to see me crestfallen, put in my place. Except that when he’s traveled four thousand miles, and hasn’t had any sleep in 26 hours, it’s just plain and simple cruel. It’s clubbing a baby seal (and Pier Paolo Pasolini ammiratore [ah' mee rah tor' ay]) to death because you can, heartlessly, with no compassion, no empathy, no humanity, in cold blood. It’s plain and simple murder in the first degree. And what was accomplished? Well, she’ll never have to deal with me again – couldn’t that have been accomplished just a tad bit more humanely? So flourless dark chocolate cake and a white chocolate mousse, with lime peel and specks of orange rind, respectively. With a fairy wand of golden syrup and a generous espresso with a truffle to wash it down. “Fuck me, kid?” As the priest in the joke says. “No, fuck you.” I may not be rich any more (in fact I may be crashing hard), but I know when to spend. If you want to come, say so, and do what’s required. Just don’t blame me if you don’t want to. As Cristina, the artist, said to me tonight, it’s all in our heads. So true, Cristina. I’m glad I met you; look me up when you’re in New York, when you need my intellectual erotica, my performative poetry, my sincere sentiments too real to be believed by mortals used to settling for less. Honey, we could’ve walked on air, enchanted, across the sleepy sky; we could’ve held each other’s Blakean angelic hands in metaphoric surrogate. We could’ve lived, so really lived, and yes, it would’ve required an effort: the effort to form the single word yes with your lips (it was you who, to begin with, called me a whistle) and tongue and pharynx. One syllable and we could’ve taken off and flown to heaven.

Could’ve, ‘cuz I’m gone, not really. Good luck finding me again (you do have my address); I’m not, despite your brave assertion, interchangeably replaceable. I’m not a standard issue man, or even a non-standard one. I know who I am, and just because I don’t flaunt it, doesn’t mean that I’m oblivious. (While the rest get put in boxes, little boxes, one and all.) Except to you, to whom I am obliviated. That was required, to justify your essomenic deletion. From the shelves of sua biblioteca de homens raros, your Circean swine, under your complete control, enchanted, snorting, filthy losers, pink and hairy and cloven hooved. So I’m going to read somewhere, someday soon, written by you. Or as she said, someone will publish you, eventually (what a nice thing to say; perhaps I wasn’t listening closely enough. [This is inappropriate, sour grapes negativism: She meant it well; she meant it tenderly, I know. Forgive me, You: This is just a fiction, a mentation, for fame, or money or, more likely, neither.]). The moon is made of milk tonight, I wrote for her; it didn’t faze her. How can I slay you, I wanted to recite, but never had the chance. She made sure of that. I would’ve done it here tonight, in Óbidos, City of Poets, the gift of kings to queens; I would’ve stood up and read it aloud in front of everybody in the restaurante. It’s entitled self-explanatory, and it is. Amo-te, it ends.


how can I slay you?
I’m doing everything I can
to melt you into jelly mush
ensorce you with my juju touch

how can I sway you?
you seem immune to linguid words
to floral deeds, to everything
(I’m doing everything I can)

how can I slay you?
your voice says yes
your words say no: Encouragement!
I want you so

how you have slain me
not lain me, or laid me
but made me the slave to your whim
and I brim with desire

to slay you to lay you
to love you above you
below you within you
et bien sûr without you

is lightless is airless
yet you are so careless
my heart is so artless
so lost and you’ve slain me

so how could I slay you?
I want you to make you
to crave me all over
to ache with desire

we’re playing with fire
your body my lyre
I’ll quench you
I’ll kill you but only a little

so how can I slay you
and kiss you and pet you
and rub you and know you
and quell you I tell you

I love you I love you
I love you I love you
I love you I love you
amo-te I love you.

We now know how it actually ended: gratuitously, most cruelly. All’s fair in love, war and indifference; you just say no and kill all joy, because you can. How cheap, how tawdry, how pathetic, how defeatist, how final. I’m finishing the fucking wine tonight, emptying the bottle. Big deal, a split, but I don’t drink; I’ll stagger up Óbidos’s damned cobbles, like lovers and the lonely lost (could that be me?) before me half a thousand years. She would’ve been here tonight, but didn’t want to. She didn’t want to be with me; she didn’t want what I have to offer, which Carmen hyperbolically claimed is nothing, except to steal her entire life in my selfish self-interest. I beg to differ. Miss Behn (Bee’ an, explained my English Matron seatmate on the leg to London) was blunt about it: life is short. How does she know she’ll live to 30 – that she can skip four days with me? Memento mori, say the drumstick legbones in the ossuary, say the skull and snake in blue and white azulejos in the foyer of the Igreja da Misericórdia in Évora, say an infinite stream of Catholic paintings; contemplate the face of death, the uncertainty of everything but this. And you couldn’t spend four hypnotic days with me, couldn’t bring me just a sugared thimbleful of happiness, couldn’t let your mind’s cerebral skin be petted to distraction, couldn’t have your holy hand held by Michelangelo’s manumitted one, a synaptic sculptor’s baume de vie, his soothing, palmy tendresse? You couldn’t bestow upon yourself even these minor indulgences? This supermoral realm of lunar bliss? The Roman Temple rapture, lying on the mossy slab in moonlight, you, Diana, spread and wombanly, naturally conceiving the future of the human race. You couldn’t be with me? That’s what she said, my English Matron, Our Lady of the Fanjet Plane: Men must try to be creative; for them it’s forced. Women do it naturally, effortlessly. But you, you fight it, lost (you shouldn’t call it wanderlust, darling, ‘cuz there’s no lust in your wanders).

Her Flickr pages swell with friends (she, posed coyly, almost Bellocqan, in ogive slouch wrapped in a three-button ruby felted minicoat with faux ermine torque, her hair a helmet cloche, and nothing – but nothing – apparently underneath, her hands clasped, barely, in her lap [choice white meat from waist down to her matching thigh-high hose, touching, tentative, evoking thatch {she told me she’s not shaved, not being of that generation – a huge relief; a detail, you’ll agree, to fuel a man’s procreational proclivities}, her index finger pointing to her gap, itself vertically forming the moundline of an underlit film-grainy textured brown-tone triangle of darkened air], no detail unperfected, one eye ever-so-slightly, barely detectably crossed [it must take years to master this], even her feet pigeon-toed in lick-me, pull-me, zip-me-down in guilty pleasure high heel taffy chestnut boots for full, erectile erotic effect, in the basement of a library devoted to Space, Time, Infinity and Dark Matter [to name a few{!}], her Consummate Sexual Qualities, couldn’t be cuter; a shame the photo wasn’t nude – check that: it’s certain from her ingénue-ish expression [and the unseen presence {you-know-who} she’s limpid for behind the camera] that this is the first of a stunning pictorially pornographic series that you would pay dearly to possess; in the next, she unbuttons the top button of the excessive, solitary coat [she told me that she has small breasts – really, but that was strictly for my information] and it’s all over for you, your crowing cock [Swallow? Of course. Otherwise, what would be the point?, she sweetly wrote – she did!], your hand, your pants, the floor); and then the set from Carolina, where there’s her cousin’s back, in the distance, running gaily ahead. Thank G*d someone’s having fun. I wonder what your cousin’s smile is like. I bet it’s only half as beautiful as yours. You withheld even that from me. Give him nothing, you calculated; you wouldn’t even let me see you smile. That crushed me most, the dagger in my heart; put that in your playbook for future reference. Maximize their pain; tell yourself it can’t be helped. Guys hit on women and are beaten off. If he was more experienced, he’d have gone away quietly a month ago (how de trop). No matter if he loves me; that’s illusion, love is just a lie, made to make you blue. Avoid that at all costs: let other people feel pain: always preserve Number One. You’re all that matters. Don’t trust anyone. He doesn’t understand: he’s 57, expired, detritus. No matter he’s a poet; they’ve been ripping you off for years, amusing themselves at your expense, ruining you, manipulating, orchestrating, psychosexually burglarizing your life as if it was just fodder for their creative cannons, their self-indulgent onanism, shrunken head baubles for their cannibal waistband belts, notches on their scalping tomahawks, and your angel-animal dreams nothing to them except headhunted material. How insulting of them all, until the day you met him and couldn’t bring yourself to admit that this is different, this is coup de foudre (correction: you turned it into coup de faux). This arbor of pure ionic lightning; this dreamer of the only proper, impossible, beautiful thing – you; this bough bespangling poet-man, why you were born, his hot star now incinerated, reduced to a shriveled meteoric cinder; he having come, that day, in plasmic jets of blinding molten white magnesium between your flapping button-bursted open blouse bare breasts, your wobbly knees, defenses down, your panties gently pulled aside, your parted lips and thighs and lips, your firmly fingerprinted minge, your chinrest cunthair cushion for his glossolalic dart, your little peaking latex doll, his rigid cockshaft’s fucking cockhead’s reckless rampage, sunk in to your Very Yes-oh-Yessy juicy jessy jilly aitchy ’aunchy inchy ‘ippy-lifted lufted ‘ilt, your bee bedancing heated hive, your perfumed dripping pollinated honeycomb; you took him standing up, enchanted (he never even knew you had him), your stripped street-naked soul enfurled in the sticky sheets (comme vous le disiez), from Asteroid Bee Six One Two. Poof.

But now your seeker is silenced, and you’ve escaped. You can continue on your curious path, your independent cat’s journey, never knowing what’s ahead (you embrace the foolhardy, raptly, you say; what you didn’t say is that you don’t embrace the sincere, the real, opportunity). Will you realize this someday, or do you already? Relax: it won’t matter, and this question is academic abstraction, a mere thought experiment, inconsequential. You’re safe to proceed on your solo travels, or with your bright pink, squeaky-clean, curly-tailed, chiseled claymation Ken Doll guy, unencumbered by conscience or consequence, implication or emotional risk. You’ve won, you’re free, aren’t you?, she said. You left your wife of thirty years, and she completed her divorce – her marriage three years – three weeks ago. Was her guy with her that night, the night before she and he (her ex) and the attorney vultures met, the night she didn’t sleep? He doesn’t ever need to marry her: he simply waits for her to come to him; the subject drives her into agitation; she wouldn’t even consider marriage, she says, she shakes her head in rhythm as I talk, presenting first her left, her right side, in profile, then full frontal phiz, torturing me with her beautiful brown eyes. I’m free, indeed, to peer into them; she looks piercingly into mine, glazed and pink in lacrimonial distress, triumphant. Advantage Woman. She’s Fearless; she’s won; she’s fine; Die, her eyes say; Cease to be. You’ll get no monody from me. Her lips quiver under the pale pig’s pink-coral grease. She got the color right, even if her eyeline is too wide, a Japanese actor’s exaggerated stagecraft presence. As if her milk-and-honey clear chatoyant eyes couldn’t hold their own with mine all by their very semiprecious cat’s eye gemstone selves.

Of course I want her. You’ll always have a home, I told her, when she told me she was orphaned by her divorce, that she felt that she had lost her home. I feel like I have no home, she said, but she meant him, her husband, gone, she and he mutually erased with no offspring to hold them together. She’ll never see him again, even when she’s next in Berkeley, where he’s pursuing his pataphysical Ph.D. in, of course, Oudenology. So she’s laid at least one poet (I ask you, kind reader, can one poet ever be enough? After all, the New York Post’s checklist of men to avoid dating specifies poets, who are, We Learn to Our Delight, a depressed genus – the Post’s highest, inadvertent recommendation). Randall and my daughter just assume I’m here to get laid (but they don’t understand love, patient and kind, enduring), to cheat on Mom, so don’t ask for any sympathy, my daughter deadpans. Just have fun, Old Uxie said. Buck up and get on with your life. That’s Uxoria, simultaneously cold and sympathetic – I guess I know her after 30 years, sure wish she could love me, but some of that’s my fault, taking two to tango – or not. What’s the point if they can’t ____, and won’t ____ ____? I don’t know: maybe sex is overrated; maybe Dean Young is right (she introduced his work to me): maybe there’s something deeper we love, such as the muse. Or morphine sulfate, 10 mg, just for example, or 10 mg Dilaudid – that oughta do it: a ten-x featherbed, 27 gauge, q.l., median cubital. I could use a dose of that right now (or a fallen angel fellatrix, a sodomitic mistress who lets me call her by your name in consolation as my autonomic penis pumps its leite lua pegajoso deep into your tummy, oh _______, my muse, I love you most, love every cuntsleeve inch of you, love every What you symbolize). My daughter explains the neural pathways of opiates, identical to those of First Love, forever altering one’s brain, replacing sex, crowding out the neural route to human attachment. In the waxing gibbous phases of love, the first is called attraction or infatuation, but I call it lust, my daughter says (the period of limerence and parataxic distortion). It’s followed by cocooning, she continues, when the couple vanishes to friends, and then it’s all over – they’re hooked and the only way to break the bond is through conscious override (e.g., one fails or self-destructs, admittedly a later norm – but not in one’s 20’s or 30’s or 40’s – oh my no).

Calmez-vous, she wrote, knowing that within the hour she would drop the final boulder on my head. I’ll meet you at the church at four (she must’ve savored the poetic irony in our divorcive venue), which is when she told me she wouldn’t travel with me. She took my presents, and told me not to follow her when I ran to her one time. In another four hours, she sat down in the restaurante 120 km away for a reprise, repeating for herself the sadistic thrill. The Portuguese die of love, he said, famously. I didn’t come here to die: I came here to cum. I would’ve rather had a magical time with a magical woman in a magic land. This cancelled: more’s the pity. What this all means, I leave to you, my reader, better socialized, more experienced, more urbane than me, a child, naïve, trusting, fearless, optimistic in Marx’s heartless world of harsh self-interest. The saints and martyrs call out from their chipping, incense-smoky polychrome: Remember to die, they mock, remember her, don’t forget her imperative, deponent verb, mortal. We’ll teach you some Latin. FVTVETE VOS, I say to them, in dulian veneration. FVTVETE OMNIA. PERFVTVEAMVR IGITVR. [If you're rusty: Go fvck yovrselves. Fvck everything. Let vs therefore be totally fvcked.] They’re dead anyway, and their heads are made of solid wood; I mvst be hearing things.

I’m running out of pages in this journal; my thoughts have flown like gushers from this silver pen, aglitter in the restaurante’s lambent candlelight. Dinner for one?, they asked; sim, muito. Cozinha das Rainhas, it says, Cuisine of Queens (emphatically not Coisinha das Rainhas, which you can translate yourself). I ate alone, without you, matchless, my fire extinguished.

I walk up the street’s stone aisle on the backbone of Óbidos’s citadel, toward the church, as the Royals did before, petals strewn before them, wedding bells pealing. A few stars blink behind the stranded clouds; you can’t smell the Atlantic from here, but it’s close. I kid myself that I was close, that she almost held my hand, almost talked with me, almost became mon Intime-Ultime, almost let me get into her pants (Gotcha… So you think this is what I want, your sex [and my how I restrain myself] your chattel currency; you deem my mind a sink, demean yourself in my mind’s eye a vapid v-word viand, and I in quest of your ambrosial metaphoric cooze personify a crude neanderthallic insult? Oh please, when you are so so Very Something Else, so truly are The Very Elsen Thing I lust for in my Little Princely Charming Life, sim, sim; I’ll eat you out for breakfast). I’m tired of tribulation. I just want someone who will deign to love me, not begrudge me my humanity, begrudge herself the basic bliss of true affection. Who’s not so uptight that she can’t enjoy a day with a loving soul. I’m sorry that she can’t, just as she said but for an entirely different reason. I don’t want to hurt you, she said – she didn’t want to hurt me! Think on that.

Óbidos’s castle is a womb, a fortress. I’m safe tonight at least. On Sunday I’ll be in New York. Alone again, just as I was at 21, déjà vu, except this time there’ll be no Yale to the rescue, no new career, no rebirth, no Uxoria smoking cigars with the XYs in the cards. Or will there? Life is what you make it, they say. Who’s to say I won’t revive? The wheel turns; we tumble off, we cling to life. Whatever works for her; I’m hanging on. They promise rain tomorrow. No surprise. I didn’t go to Portugal to die; I’ll be happy in New York. A diner asked me what I was writing about with such animation. I told him the truth. He was from Norway, in his cups. His practiced eyes keen; I kept my composure, being an Anglo-Saxon confronted by a Norseman; kept mine (eyes) on his, and on his hands. We glossed a thousand years, bygone weeknaming deities: Tiw, Wodin, Thor and Fria (in my shellshocked state, I didn’t have the presence of mind to ask him if his party had any willing women to console me – a pair, I should think, to better occupy both hemispheres of my overheated brain, to say nothing of my bilateral integumental surfaces); we Boreal Silverback Hominid Males the Crapshoot Standing Specimens of Riant Evolution, Eddas and dynasties, our shared stories, the way we connect, the whoosh of wind in olive trees, in cork, the bedtime story breeze of night, hinting at tomorrow’s healing rapprochement. You’ll be fine, she said, it’s a beautiful country, your mind; you’ll be fine; you love life because you have no choice. Fuck You and Die Now, her lips sneered, so we can smile again; this straight-face act is cracking us up.

The horologue at Évora was somehow misset, but that would’ve suited her fine. It’s all the same to her – no time, no future, nothing. It’s all random. You could never play chess like this. She’d simply say she doesn’t want to play, her queen smiling from its first rank space, white or black; just choose a hand: they’re both behind my back, or throw the dice. Die, her eyes said; die her lips, her body. Just die already.

At Óbidos’s western tower, girls’ voices echo in the corridor and vault, a porcelain tiled wallscape flanked by blue angels, putti supporting paired columns, INRI on the apical, empty cross. A cloth of Jesus’s face, and a coat of arms at the zenith of the plaster vault, handwork from the age of manufacture. Meanwhile Carm’s email arrives and I turn the corner onto a crèche. Carm says my jilter is a cocktease, can’t compete and can’t complete, can never go to yes. Of course, Mary was a parthenogen: Joseph didn’t get any, but still she delivered. Remind yourself of that; repeat after me: You could have it even worse. Men could be sexually superfluous. The schoolgirls, still uniformed, adjacent to the crèche. It’s midnight and they’re still out, chattering joyfully, virginally. I think I’ll send Cristina an email, invite her over when she’s in New York. The crèche has magi, and a camel, and just to top the evening off, a gato preto – black cat – dances by; thank G*d it’s no longer Friday the 13th: it’s 16 after midnight: 00:16 European hours.

I know Carm’s right, but still I’m sad. I don’t want anyone to be unhappy, especially me, though she flippantly avers she’s happy. Here’s the Restaurante Conquistador, snidely named to dis me, sporting sword and shield. Sexpert Randall said to bring protection; you don’t know where they’ve been, he said, or their guys. But I’m afraid I do. Carm was more right than she knew: The well is dry. She’s not sitting drily with me now, either, at breakfast at the nunnery, pouring honey on her toast in this vaulted room with coats of arms and its lit trinities of red candles. Love is all around us. Today I’ll go see Bryon’s Sintra, and Alcobaça, where Love itself was murdered. Did she meet Dom Pedro’s father in a dream? Was he her inspiration, with his conniving lips? Everything signifies, I tell my students: nothing is random. You can’t have it both ways: Don’t tell me I don’t understand. Mel is sticky and sweet, but you have to touch and taste it to find out. She’ll say that she already has. Fair enough: just don’t tell me I’m untouchable, untasteable. I was designed to be fully touched and tasted. She’ll say my heart was designed to be broken, and that she was designed to do it. Fair enough: just don’t tell me you weren’t designed to make my heart beat faster first, and ours to pound together in a beautiful thoracic duet. George Byron, human, deceased at 36; Carmen boards a Greyhound at 6:30. Coincidence? She doesn’t know where it’s going. She’s a writer, looking for material, for inspiration. But you’re always where you are; you can’t escape yourself. She knows this, but she has no choice. I’m happy, she says, but still she asked and later wrote: Who are you? Me? I’m a phony, of course. The vichyssoise was good. The sculptor from the University told me that socialism failed. She had two medallions between her open, imaginary breasts (just look at us, forbidden fruit, that you can’t touch: suffer, fool, they smirked; o quente e santo tetas lactantes de Mãe Maria, even what she’s lacking is talking down at me!), with France and a hammer. She knows my nom de plume is French, and that I’m writing a book on socialism. And what’s amazing: it’s really just coincidence, of course, and as she says, we’re the same. Her friends are academic socialists, playing poor to irritate the parents. They’re young, and it’s all just talk anyway: they’re just waiting for the windfall. People used to go to prison, took bullets and died over such ideas, and they will again. And all of the ideas and words that don’t exist: no, never, can’t, won’t – she carries them in her purse, her head; they linger on her lips. Being non-existent, they take up no space and weigh nothing, enabling her to walk as if on air. We could be having breakfast together, rhapsodizing Byron or Millay. Edna was a free spirit until her body went out of date with the fellas, and then she became bitter and died. They come to Portugal to die, to die of love.

A thousand years from now none of this will make any difference. Who am I kidding? One hundred years from now, when we’re both dead, a few odd souls poking around in the nookies of obscurantism might stumble on these words. Maybe you’ll relate to me: maybe we’ll connect. I lived; I looked for love. I wanted to be loved by her. She said we misunderstood each other. I repeat myself: I’m drunk. I doubt it. I misunderstood what? That she is already deeply emotionally committed? That she regards going outside that commitment as immoral, emotionally dishonest to herself, putting her life’s stability, her very survival at risk? Or that she may be confused, repressed, unresolved, disordered, unable to respond to ardent overture? And she misunderstood what? That I wasn’t joking? That I’m not a sexual predator, intending to molest her? That this wasn’t just a game? That was the first thing she said: No joke. You can’t have it both ways: Either I’m the Dear Milkman of Human Kindness or I’m not; either signs point to yes or they don’t. Interpret those: I defy you. So now all bets are off. The prolific young Mr. Zimmerman, of course, covered all of this. Or maybe she was looking for material: I a rich lode to be mined, the look on my face unbeatable, and people love a train wreck. The romantic thrill of the coração sangramento. Yeah, but they also love a love story, and we were on our way. We don’t know how it ends, she said; we’ll always be a part of each other’s lives; I know it, she said. That was then: how glib her adverbial always. She threw away irreplaceable time – a mortal sin. And so I didn’t buy her the three ceramic tiles with her initials, just looked at them, burned them in my brain. I never forget anything. Even the bottled ships reminded me of her – to buy her a bag, in natural fiber, or a cork handbag, a gesture of kindness, a gift, a snowglobe of Óbidos’s castle, anything. We could’ve sailed away – to a New World. She wouldn’t trust me, wouldn’t tell me where she was staying in Lisboa, where she lives in Illinois. I had to send her flowers to the University. She said lilies are her favorite, but now I don’t believe a thing she says. Even if the roué Bryon wished one fondly for his Charlotte. Raleigh, you must admit, was right: flowers do fade, everything passes. What’s real, anyway?

Alcobaça, 14 November

Allez hop! la nana quel panard!
Quelle vibration!
de s’envoyer sur le paillasson
Limée, ruinée, vidée, comblée
You are the King of the divan!
Qu’elle me dit en passant

Ça plane pour moi (Plastic Bertrand)

And the colors, everywhere. The colors of time, and skin, and gray matter, and ectoplasm. The particolored intermixed arterial and venous blood of Christ once washed these amnemonic streets. They carried out the stinking dead. The conquerors exulted, guzzled red wine, ate hot flesh, impregnated the women. La même chose. She hasn’t written in a while, she said. That is until yesterday, the day she wrote me off, her chef d’œuvre, her magnum opus, her masterpiece, without a doubt. I take the back roads to Alcobaça. The brown and white goat, the fruit stand. The music festival poster for my apartment and, in Alcobaça, the Papelaria. They match my Moleskin twice for a Euro! Eu poeta, I tell them, pounding my chest. Eu sou um lançador de palavras. Then to the Se of the Mosterio, to the carven marble sarcophagi of Dom Pedro and Inêz. His father had her killed rather than have his son marry a Galician. They’re buried toe to toe so they’ll see each other first in Heaven. At the adjacent restaurante, the menu do dia is arroz de peixe, for two. Of course I want her tuna, her essence of the sea, her forbidden vaginal secretions. But I would never hassle her about it (who wants it if it isn’t voluntary?); she would be safe with me, or what’s the point of being a gentleman? The Arab tiles, assassins of realidade mundana, demand hashish, hallucination: vert, cream, carnelian and or. There are two patterns: The pattern of the tiles themselves, and the patterns formed where they abut. They meet and something happens, something unplanned, something unexpected, something magic. Emma says she’s young: She can’t appreciate my magic. Whatever. The floral stand has mums and alstromeria, statice purple, periwinkle, yellow, white. The sun is out: I’ll go into the Se to talk with Dom and his lost love. I’ll be taking notes: how often do you get to interview dead lovers? I’ve got plenty of paper. The square has five plane trees, chairs and tables with big umbrellas, milling tourists. The fountain flows with água; the gargoyle, grinning, burbles. The flags fly; all’s well in the world. Just when you least expect it, at the corner, the Portuguese Communist Party, with hammer and sickle. They could use a new logo to reflect a modern world, something subtle, like a cross, to contravene the smiling skull and cruel crossbones of brigand capitalism. It’s a new day. And the Se: one always approaches from below; it always lowers. You are nothing, nobody; the Saints and Symbols, larger than life, regard you from above. They’re here to keep you in your place: Forteleza, cradling a cannon; Prudencia, a mirror; Justicia, blindfolded with her sword and scales; Temperanca an ironic goblet.

And then, at the top of the steps, as the bells chime the quarter hour, the pair of empty garrafas de cerveja and everything possible you could read into that, but needn’t (except to visualize the shades of Dom and Inêz, wearing modern mufti, loitering no Sábado à noite in sub rosa rendezvous, finishing their brews outside; one tipsy hug, one sloppy kiss [or two, or three, or four... why stop?], before breathlessly, immaterially passing through the Se’s oak portals, holding hands, retiring to their final resting places). They’re self-explanatory, like the poem I wrote for her. And the picture I took of the couple with their baby – Excellent, the young mother said (a Modern Married Madonna). Dom and Inêz in the transepts, white lilies flank the apse, and here’s Mary, Queen of the Sky, larger than life, both she and Jesus Neonatus, smiling smugly, confident, in polychrome. Behind, the Nailed Nazarene, on the cross, gropes heavenward – Why hast thou forsaken me?, his bleary, bloodshot eyes weepingly implore, more sangria seeping from his soon-to-be-stigmatic palms. His genitals sensibly swaddled, more blood travels a simple, lonesome line down the cross. It was used before him, and after. She, an accidental Theopaschite, thinks I’ll look good on it, in her crammed on crown of thorns, in my Armani, that it will suit me. It’s a beautiful country: now die, humiliated, in horrific agony; when your head sags she’ll be back for one more sniff, just to make sure, for confirmation. And StatCounter.com will bear its grim and irrefutable electronic witness. Dom, marmorean, has a dog at his feet, against his pointed slipper. He’s dead, for sure. He ain’t comin’ back. Inêz, supine on her stone pillow, has six angels and a broken nose, her lying lapdog despondent. Neither will talk to me: a wasted trip. Everything is sad here. You can’t smile; you must say Tod, or død, or morte, or death. Angels everywhere, with broken wings, broken hearts, broken minds. Lost. And I mistook the oculist for an occultist, so you know where my mind went. But she already arranged that: she chose for me to be alone, here, in this beautiful country, with its dead and jilted lovers, its pigeons, its lime rock paving stones, its ancient ruins. She’ll have a good time, though, in Lisboa, with her free pad in Baixa (or in some forgotten, empty town where she can empty her mind, forget me over several days of kundalini meditation, getting in touch with her cervical, thoracic and lumbar vertebræ, her sacral plexus, the receptors in her clitoris, her handy pocket pleaser, her omphalic inkblot bætylus; she’ll wrap her host up in her little finger with just an eyelash blink (more would compromise her ego). If she told me the address that would make me human, real, and maybe I would follow her there. Yeah right: Maybe if I was real she’d have to feel something for me, and what fun would that be.

Sintra, 14 November

Such is thy name with this my verse entwined;
And long as kinder eyes a look shall cast
On Harold’s page, Ianthe’s here enshrined
Shall thus be first beheld, forgotten last:
My days once numbered, should this homage past
Attract thy fairy fingers near the lyre
Of him who hailed thee, loveliest as thou wast,
Such is the most my memory may desire;
Though more than Hope can claim, could Friendship less require?
To Ianthe (Lord Byron)

Will she break her writer’s block and create her version of this story? I’d like that; mine will pale in comparison; she has real, native talent (She wrote, disarming, in poetic email, of a ladybug that rode her tummy home, that thrummed away before she arrived at her door; so now whenever I see one I shall reminisce – fondly – of her: what a bloody curse.). I’ve given her plenty of ammunition, material, poured my heart out to her. If she does, I’ll get my wish: we’ll have performed our duet, like Cage and Cunningham, Chopin and Sand, or you, kind reader – and your love, coincidental song and dance in random overlap, how avant-garde, what suave Suetone (her words). Except they loved each other. Perhaps we could read in stereo, one in each ear, separate recording sessions, a tale told by two entirely made-up idiots, fully significant. It went on too long, she will say; went further than I ever intended. And he left out the parts about how I told him I felt nervous, panicked, vulnerable and filled with dread about seeing him [reconcile these in your correlative ledgers, if you can, with the earlier fond, intrigued, frightened and attracted], and how fond I am of my really intense guy. Like friendship is for three months and then of course we move along, to the next random trifle. And how, climbing to the Palácio da Pena, budding rhododendra, American Sequoia, the verdure, where kings rode regal on their high-strung sable stallions, accompanied by leg-yielding picadores and queens, cossetted in carriages, wearing perfume, lace, tiaras; everyone in their places. The couples clop down cobbles as I write this, young and dumb; your 20s and 30s and 40s, oh my. It went on too long, she said. Write, said Carmen, get her out of your system. I would’ve stood by her; she could’ve had my friendship: no strings, no petitioning for copulation, no unseemly thoracic contact (her words again: brilliant; I, amanuensis). But she rejected that, a poet’s unconditional attachment. She must be very rich, inside, must have no needs she herself can’t satisfy. A noble gas, she, on the periodic table. You knew there’d be birds of paradise when you got to the top: the Caribbean, exploited, their beauty, which could only amplify her absence, further bent your mind. The plunderers engorged, twined smiling snakes and cannonballs cascade around the entrance, and lions and swords chiseled by peasant artisans, speaking fala dos arxinas, the cryptic Cant of Stone. No better than poets, and no more alive than Pessoa, Neruda, Borges, Chaucer, Ovid. All dead. And spiky racemes in a nook, and morning glories. The horses clopped along the ascending cobbles, clop, clop – isn’t life fun when you are king, when you are queen, when there’s a G*d, a reason (they came here to avoid the Plague, my 29-year friend Guillaume tells me, in fact), and smiling stone crocodiles drain the tiled battlements, claws clinging. A park fit for a prince who knew his place, who wouldn’t be refused, but now nothing matters, you might as well wander – what the fuck. And be lusty, if you feel like it – if you can feel anything. You can wander anywhere you want here: they don’t care. They don’t jump in Portugal: you might go to Hell. Who cares? Just don’t take any pictures, especially of people. And no pictures of her, ever: she says she’s unphotogenic, and that’s another g*ddamned lie, and she knows it: she has a face to die for: the cameras, adamant, refuse to ever take another picture.

The gorgeous cloister, in slate and cream tile, the quattro snapping turtle pedestals for the oundy chalkwhite clamshell basin holding greenery and the central, fronded palm, and a crazy quilt amalgam of Moorish tiles everywhere on every wall, and starburst tiles in the silver room. Down the hall to the room of the ajudante de campo, his bed covered in brocade and wine velvet, adjacent to King Carlos’s atelier, a revelation. The King, it seems, was un artiste, and the subject matter covering all four walls was to panic for: nude women, dryads, frolicking in sylvan satyriasis. One shushed Pan himself, her look suggesting congress with his better brown and white therianthropic below-the-waist (or southern) half (a relative of the animal I encountered na estrada, no doubt, or else the same animal spiriting himself into this room to haunt and taunt me [gettin’ any, Boy?]) – and soon. Given the subject matter, and the theomythic assocation of the hornèd goat with Satan, I opt for the latter, the animal himself quintessentially horny as a goat), his pipes in his right hand, his cheeks ruddy com vinho, his expression conspiratorily (expressly for the viewer) randy. These murals, whose palette was limited to beige, brown and cream, with accents of red and sage green: the King’s Viagra? Did he do ménage-à-plusieurs? Was he impotent? Or supersexed and so endowed? These were the King’s paintings. Were they modeled? A family entered and hurried through as the mama blindered the little boy’s eyes, leaving me to appreciate these nippleless (these discreetly covered) Edwardian beauties. [Allow me to go on record as stating a strong preference for women endowed with nipples, or at least areolæ, supernumerary, even.] E meu favorito, hidden behind the door: her jouncy buttocks and upturned fleeing foot at right, his grabbing hand and gamboling hoof at left, in hot pursuit, at the chase (the poems a good woo, said Carmen; the Girl said she read them on the train: full stop [Actually, it’s Fuck you, Fail and Die.]). Sometimes things left to the imagination are more savory, delicious. We’re transported back one hundred years, into this loony room, left as if in a Pompeian cataclysm, waiting for his pompous, fatuous return. His spirit enters, and we trample his ghost. Picture this: Him, gouty, naked, wearing only his encrusted gold and velvet crown, atilt in beret style, on his artist’s stool before the easel, paintbrush in hand, his detumescing member dangling, dripping spunk, having just encunted his four models in rotation, picked up on the streets of Lisboa, underfed but willing… for their King and Country. His brushstokes masterful and agitated; they’ll go again in half an hour. The King’s bedroom adjacent. He was a little man. And then his bath with a fine divan (red wine velvet, of course; I’ve always had a weakness for velvet divans, lacking only the means to acquire the required daily-changed nudes en tableau) – he was the King of the Divan. His wife, Dona Amelia, was a dog (whereas Dom Pedro and Inêz had loyal ones), and so was he, with his upcurled waxed moustache and dumbling physiognomy. He was blonde, with blue eyes. And the chamber of the queen, with royal bassinette in cream lace. Even her fireplace mirror is wrapped in red velvet, her wardrobe mirror full length; I wonder if she moaned, or if she remained demurely silent, passive, compliant, reserved and unimpressed. He had his painting, his putas pouco and his naughty marble statuary, after all: wasn’t that enough? It was a beautiful country, and he owned it. Didn’t he love life?

For dinner in Óbidos, Restaurante Alcaide (subversive name: The Muslim Governor), a split of burgundy bloodred Quinta das Cere-Jeiras, Crepes de Marisco (seafood crepes), Tornedó com Queijo da Serra (filet mignon with sere cheese). And you know, it’s funny, but I’ve eaten alone before. As I said to Carmen, whose email came as I descended from the Palácio, I can handle this. Of me for a book (I first set eyes on her in a bookstore; she let me interrupt her in transaction), the Girl said she’d never seen anyone so eager, except for a steak, or a pomegranate, or a woman. That’s great writing, verbatim. G*d, I’m gonna miss her. I wanted to make her famous, but she said she was a private person, everything just between us henceforth, ok? What don’t I understand about that? I’m not sure what I’m thinking now: all bets are off? What would Jesus do? Like a Santa in a mall at Christmas, I’ll have no problem finding Him in Portugal to ask. I utter this in humble peonate respect. While I shouldn’t break my word, you, kind reader, should understand the bond she broke, the context of this vile event. The truth is, I’m torn, but feel capitally betrayed. Even my sharpest critic, Randall, said she dealt me the worst treatment imaginable.

Or I could just let this go, be a man, go punch some walls, suffer in silence, go gentle into that good night, and you, kind reader, would have to content yourself with pabulum. Then the crepes arrive, and I’m mollified, having cum after my bath before coming over to the restaurante. Because I thought that she was just afraid when we met and she told me she wouldn’t be with me, I told her my story: that I was impotent for a week the first time she revoked her invitation to be with her in Lisboa. (Yes, she invited me twice.) The last time that happened to me was 1969 – forty years ago. But not this time (fool me once, and all that rot, as she would say): this time I had her, had my way, just the way she didn’t want. And then there’s this fine poem she challenged me to write, Jack:

Puella, laboranda
(Ode to a Girl)
by Dvid
trunc’t’d, with no apologies to the Amorist

Oh Jill is fair, and her attire superfluous,
And she is so the wench I wish and wish t’have.
Idly I’ll lay with her, as if I loved so hot,
And like a vixen she will rock the bed at trotty-trotty-trot.

But then, disaster! Great gods grieved they had bestowed
The benefit which lewdly I for-slowed.
Why was I cursed? Why made king to refuse it?
Chuff-like had I not gold and could not use it?

Yet boarded I the nubile Nancy twice,
(in her parent’s living room, they upstairs: how nice)
And What’s-her-Name, and the crabbèd Karen, Queen
Miss Slitty took it in her ear upon a summer’s e’en.

Yet, notwithstanding (congratulate him on this fine pun),
like one dead it lay,
Drooping more than a rose pulled (fuck, another) yesterday.
Now, when he should jet, he fails to stand upright
Should crave his task, and seek to be at fight.

But when she saw it would by no means stand,
But still drooped down, regarding not her hand,
‘Why mockst thou me, Mister?’ she wept. ‘Or, being ill,
Who bade thee lie down here against thy will?’

But then, regaining her composure, sweetly smiled
Reclined a bit, regarded her furred Castor, wild
And taking up her vibrant ’pliance soft
Said, ‘On your way, mate’; (I left her, jilling off).

(For the record, she rated this one of the best to date.) I’m not ashamed to say it: sexual fantasy doesn’t break any laws, and as long as she didn’t voodoo feel it, what’s the diff? And if she did, the better for her apparatus. That’s what I think anyway. It was a perfectly adequate cum, under the circumstances: I’m an expert masturbator. I should be distraught, or at least anomic, but no, a little bit of sangchaud to go with the tornedós and I’m on my way to a full recovery. She’s lost me, I told Carmen; I feel sad for her (I mean it); it makes me cum to think about it. Carmen said she’s happy, she’s fine, she’s on with Plan A. Bad news, Carm: I always trump Plan A with both hands tied behind my back. We could’ve been together. Oh G*d: scalloped potatoes. Thanks, mom; and cabbage and carrots and this rich gravy on the steak. It’s a beautiful country, and I’m a meat eater, eager for this bloody piece. But still, I’ll always think of her – when I see the moon, when I pick an ebon pebble off the beach, when I see a swallow swoop, reminding me of her unseen tattoo, the one that talks to her in a language she can’t understand, that she misinterprets, that’s really telling her that she should live and love and fly when what she thinks it’s saying is that she must repress herself, should always preserve her honor, should never hurt herself again by listening to a man, by doing what a tempting horny homem or diabo (with a tail, no less) tells her to do. You can see where this is going, and frankly, it’s not good, so let’s change the subject. My heartless friends describe her as undeserving – to a one – of my magic, tell me that she may re-emerge, but don’t count on it (She, apologize? You’ve got to be kidding.). They don’t understand. You can kick me in the head, like an ass, only once. I’m a fast learner. She’s dead to me, I tell you, I tell them. I’ll password her out of my website, too, why not, in tit for tat. She said she’d meet me, two days before, carrying one of my electronic books. Why would you say that unless to maximize my pain when we actually met? My friends say she’s confused. Hey, y’all, stop being so generous: She’s ab-so-fuck-a-tiv-lee crazy, and I’m sincerely sorry, and it doesn’t make me cum. I really loved her up to the point she abdicated life. Compare Plan A with me and you’ll agree: I’m always better. Just ask your pharmacist. Bobby Burns? Check. Celine, Genet? Mieux, mieux. Flagellants with cat-o-nine tails from 1347? In the suitcase; wonder what TSA thought of those when they broke the lock. Bitches Brew, endlessly looping? Sure, with dogs barking and His Master’s trumpet’s Voice, electric piano and the last year of the 60’s. You can take those to the bank: you’ll never need any other music, ever again (except maybe Reinhardt and Grappelli – I brought this, too, for her). You’re set.

She thanked me for my kindness that day, having earlier offered me Calvino, like a cat bringing a limp goldfinch to the door, feathers in her mouth; here, take this gift, from me, Miss Pussy. But I was even worse, offering her bon-bons, marzipan and eclairs: a poem-a-day sugar surfeit (enough to make anyone sick – here, take this slop, from me, Le Chat Fou), a high-protein dopamine drip that finally became disturbing (will she experience, as I find I do, withdrawal?). Good luck with that, ma chatte; we could’ve climbed parapets together. We could’ve walked on the world for four short days, side by side. It would’ve been something to see. The gravy makes its painted streaks across my plate in its forgotten language. It’s not trying to say anything, comforting or otherwise. It’s neither sanguimantic nor apophenic: there’s nothing to divine, nor to fabricate; it’s just gravy, offering itself to my tongue, to be licked, blatantly, bawdily, right here in the restaurante. I pick up the plate and set to work; the damsel at the table opposite stares and twitches, writhing reflexively, recognizing cunnilingus when she feels it. Meanwhile, Mister Knife and Miss Fork rest contentedly. They’re assuredly together. They always get some: they’re both carnivorous, and have the points to prove it. Don’t mess with them unless you wanna die. They’ll stab you in the heart. Why didn’t she simply knife me, on the street, slam the shiv into my gut, my heart – twist it just for kicks – and watch me bleed to death? It would’ve been the same (you, dear reader, remind me that she did). Or slash my throat, so I couldn’t talk at her, make her uncomfortable? Answer: Because words leave no marks. They’re so clean and traceless, efficient. So unevidential, so exonerating. You could even say I had it coming, putting my heart out there like that, tout nu, too tempting not to kick across the floor like Inêz’s little lap dog. That’s what Fidel said, anyway: You opened yourself to be abused, made yourself vulnerable. (He softened the blow with his empathic consolation: What a gift, a thing to learn – that you’re capable of falling so in love! How lucky for you to have that kind of heart. Obrigado, meu bom amigo.)

What was I thinking? That she would appreciate my kindness? It went on far too long, she said. I repeat myself: I’m drunk. I don’t care. I’m simultaneously besotted and bereft in a foreign country, spending Euros I don’t really have. Morituri te salutamus; we all fall down, in ashes, and you could’ve had me – in the flesh. Instead you walked away. Are you fucking crazy? Even my minister knows that, when he says, for we may never pass this way again. He’s wise, really, and reads Whitman from the pulpit. He was there, in Lexington, at the octagonal church where Ux and I got married, G*d mercifully disinvited from the bann’s liturgy. He wasn’t missed, till death do us part. But when she said she didn’t/wouldn’t love me anymore, that we could just cohabit, and in the end we couldn’t afford to leave each other, that this is America and I think I’m gonna die, so much to do, to write, so many women to break my heart. I’m like a cat; I have nine hundred lives. Go ahead, take it, break it. I’ll eventually be heartless and then look out, ladies. By that time I’ll be too old to fuck, anyway, and she’ll be 50, having traveled the world; her eyes will have seen places, she’ll have talked, lightly, with people about directions, the weather, how to say things. For the record, it’s amo-te (ah moo tay), but I didn’t get to say it. It would’ve made her uncomfortable. I don’t want to hurt you, she said, but I don’t think we can ever be lovers. 10-4 that, good buddy, but how do you know that in advance? Methinks you underestimate me powers of persuasion, matey. And N.B.: Taking needn’t be by leave:

(Art schooling)

The beautiful wife (twice my age)
of a famous man
took us to a park to draw.

Later (in a dream),
I asked her why she didn’t hit on me
and why we didn’t make love.

Why do you think we didn’t?
she asked.

The red wine’s legs curve down the glass, Christ’s blood on the cross at the cathedral in Alcobaça. The espresso demands to be drunk: it’s getting cold. November clops along the cobblestones of Óbidos. Of course I’m happy, she says, and you may take her word for it. Her first salvo was The Blow’s True Affection, the perfect song to describe our situation, in which she claimed any love between us impossible: we were out of each other’s leagues, the song said, so typical of a generation whose default words are noncommittal, no. Just because it’s real doesn’t mean it’s gonna work. I was out of your league, she said. I think not; I’ll be the judge of my superiors, and it’s not some can’t do, loser indie rock artist. Here’s what I really think: Beautiful song, genius singer, brilliant connection by the Girl. The impossible, as she later contradictorily said, is the only proper thing to attempt, but she wouldn’t know, will never know, given that she didn’t even try herself, take her own advice. Why should she, when no is so easy, its actionless results so safe, so certain, so risk-free? No, she said, I can’t, I won’t, it feels wrong. I trashed my life for her, gave up my material comforts, Uxoria’s goodwill, a lifetime’s worth of close companionship and sentimental materia. My problem, I grant, and not her fault. I’m drunk, but only a little. I’m mostly sad: what a waste, how utterly forgettable. She said Portugal would be ok if I am who I say I am (not a deluded alter ego author, denier of my Christian name). How do you respond to that?

* * *

Lisboa, 15 November

Attic Talisman

For your birthday,
here’s a little lump of coal
(not everything’s a poem).
Mined it myself in your ocean
(which, as you know, I’m wont to do).
Though char and achromatic,
it has its carbon charms.
Caressed or fingered, it’s contentful;
its heft is reassuring.
In paradox, I hold it, it holds me.
And so I give myself to you:
please hold me, tenderly and true

At the airport, I’m reflective. You wouldn’t say thank you for your kindness if you didn’t mean it. And you wouldn’t say I won’t travel with you if you didn’t mean that, if you didn’t think it would cause you pain, would be a really bad idea. You wouldn’t let a guy come all the way to Portugal to finally meet you, really, simply to see the look on his face when you blew him off, knowing he was bringing you birthday presents, unless you thought it was the only way, the best way to be free of him forever. Or maybe it was all spontaneous. Then again, she wouldn’t take the rental car you offered her after you would be gone; she told you to come the week before her birthday (To give her conscience time to clear? A week would do.). You don’t understand me, she said, fiercely. You don’t know me, she said first time on the phone. I may have a sordid past. I’ve been married, you know. I really don’t want to analyze her, put her under a microscope. Maybe this was fun for her, practicing her moves, another nautchy notch. But I don’t think so. I’m not interested in what you have to offer now, she said. Do words have meaning? Are we not lapidary? Or do we throw them off, like admirers, like the trash at the airport food kiosks? She told me she couldn’t sleep the night before her final divorce meeting. Thank you for your kindness, she said; don’t follow me, after I ran after her for one last what in the underground car park. She thought I was taking her there to what? She made me feel like I was scum. Come with me into the basement so I can rape and murder you. Travel with me: I’m a creep. Lick and suck on my gooey white glazed doce fálico, the kind they make in Amarante (go north, you said, to send me furthest from you), São Gonçalo’s festal gift. Trust no one. Her good-for-nothing, bumpkin royal ex is practicing to be a poet in graduate school in California. She said he had a temper. Hope I never meet him. He told her he was the Lover, she the beloved. What a creep. So that when she cheated on him with her now-so-very-fond-of-and-let’s-not-forget-to-mention-intense-and-lucky guy she was the Lover, and so you see there is no parity, no travel with me, my love: there is only the Doer and the done, the Active and the passive, the eternal clichés. He told her Simic is an asshole. Who tooda-tossing-ting-a-ling-a-ling-a-London-Bridge-is-loopy-lie-looda-loo-at-eleven-fifty-nine-on-a-soulless-Saturday-night cares. Maybe if enough people treated me the way she did, and I was awarded Laureate, I’d become an asshole, too. All too often, people don’t respect you if you’re not. How could you be any good if you’re kind? She told me that I mined her, twisted her words, was… disturbing (sua verba). I regret being a tattler, but I don’t think it would’ve mattered. She didn’t really want to meet me: sexting is one thing, but why bother to remeet a man, even if he was a treeful of angels (ibid.), when she could simply remember a wonderfilled interlude in her leaf-shade, leggy, lustful wanders?

And why would he want to spoil the magic by reappearing in Lisboa, unshaven, 26 hours sleepless, withering in 21° C heat in November, no less, in wool and corduroys! You don’t smell bad, she said, when I said she was seeing me at my worst, that I was withering and smelled bad, etc. She had just emerged from her secret lair, the one I couldn’t be trusted to even know. There could be trouble: the homey she’s staying with obviously knows her guy, no doubt. Freshly cleaned up and made up, just to say the final goodbye to me. Hello, goodbye: the shortest monologue, rivaling Jesus wept. Except for the two months in which we engaged in textual entendre’d intercourse, and she told me on the phone I’ve missed you. To balance, she also told me repeatedly that she couldn’t say she felt anything for me, that she didn’t want to hurt me, but… I didn’t listen, she said. She wouldn’t let me visit her in Illinois, said that would be problematic, complicated, difficult. How? She said she has 450 sf. And I, 300 and a patio to write on. I’ll use chalk so the rain can wash away my words, my slate my palimpsest. The travelers at the airport are walking metaphors, the thought balloons above their heads, the arrows pointing at them say, we’re nothing, we’re all the same, you and I, passengers, passagers, just passing through this plane. We’re all created equal, equally insignificant, our trivial lives meaningless. Henceforth you don’t exist for me, she willed. Are you swift enough to grasp that? The billboard at the entrance to the airport, with the slinking black bikini-clad cat babe says o último em sedução; the airport shoppe offers and proclaims doces nadas. Everything signifies: I should be blind: I’d be better off today. The rolling backlit ad for a vacation in the Açores as I wait in line to board says, pronto para o melhor tempo da sua vida? I was, muito, muito, sim.

She didn’t know about the Açores. She might not like them: São Miguel requires a cabby and there is nothing to do except eat, drink and gape at its three infernal maars, the goats and the cheese on palm leaves. I wore my anarcho-socialist clothing (dark green work shirt with black flag cloisonné pennant pin, janitorial gray permapressed slacks, from Montgomery Ward, except for the très cher rugate sharkskin shoes from a boutique near the Yale Club, on 43rd), my thick mop fragrant, naturally hennaed, deep auburn (Nefertiti would be proud), to an haute bourgeois hotel restaurante there in ’76, with five waiters per. But Picos, Cristina told me, the sugarloaf, is spectacular, and you can climb to the top. I could use a mountain or two right now (or, in her case, BBs on a breadboard; her subtle succulents my new acquired taste). I told Uxoria maybe I should just spend a K a month on prostitutes; it would be cheaper than divorce. I met one once: her eyes were dead, and anyway I just want adulation and to adulate, and that’s not selfish. It’s human nature. She was afraid to go into the car park with me. Why? What could possibly be in her mind? Her father, the French aviator, enjoyed his mistresses, and now her parents are divorced. You’re married, she told me; it may sound old fashioned, but that means something to me. And I’m a private person, she said, don’t want my life preserved forever on the Wayback Machine. I wanted to make her famous with my temporarily abandoned eroto-lit-bomb novel, and now with this, I guess I am. I’m sure that she’ll resent it. No sacrifice by her for art. Someday she’ll no doubt write her masterpiece, but not yet. She told me she doesn’t keep a pillow book, and I doubt a journal of her travels (but her photographs are fucking great, especially of the passion flower, on par with the quetzal in its psychedelic ornacy). She should. Let me tell you: It’s hard work, doing 130 on the A-whatever, trying to write about being jilted in Lisboa; I could use an extra pair of hands – and eyes. Emma told me she would break my heart; don’t bet on hearing from her again, she said. I’m glad my friends care, but of course she’ll never communicate with me again. I can accept that (no I can’t: I crave her so, and over time, perhaps her heart will come to crave me too, my poetry, my passion; she’ll fail to resist; she’ll try to keep me distant, to futilely avoid me, but over time her pangs will just intensify. Full moons will rise, she’ll walk along a pebbled beach; black stones will clatter, curlews mewl; she’ll bleed, each drop reminder that my heart beats hard for her. Kind words can also slay the soul; we’ll pour the finest salt into our festering aboriginal wounds to intensify, prolong the pain, which will itself in turn come to feel so very good, indeed [her words again], addictive, the resulting scars will be true things of beauty in their haptic keloid ugliness). I’m sitting on top of the world.

The line moves forward, to the plane. The women are young, I’m getting old, but I don’t care. I understand King Carlos, Picasso, Fellini, now. When you’re young, bank away enough money to afford to buy young women when you’re old. They may be unseasoned, but they’re easy to look at and no doubt moist to fuck (I wouldn’t know). She objected to being objectified, and rightfully so. The preceding is precisely that: objectification. People, and women in particular, and their companionship, are not things to be possessed, purchased, quantified. We each get one life in this round. On the other hand, says Emma, and a cynical Ben Franklin (his lips moving on the face of his whore-transaction paper currency), life-experienced women have so much more to offer, and will appreciate you, all cats being gray at night anyway. Here kitty kitty, I said to the kitten. Look at your targets, said Carmen. Friends are vital, if not always punctual. It took a week for my male friends to respond to my crisis; every one of my close female friends came through. How irrational of them.

Portugal is covered in clouds today, but it doesn’t look rainy. It might be soothing for her. I hope caressing breezes slip sweetly through her shining hair, hope her grand canyon is lined with armloads of rose petals. On the horizon, a mirage of mountains. Carmen calls this place the Blue Nowhere. It’s a place to write, she says, to not think about the Girl. That Girl: The favorite thing I called her. And now I leave you, kind reader, to ponder my fate. I’ve given up my comfortable life. This year I’ll burn a part of my life savings for the privilege of living in New York. Although I should, I can’t think beyond that now. I have no agent, no publisher, no published poems. I’m nobody: It doesn’t matter how good you are if nobody knows. One hundred years from now, perhaps I’ll be discovered; of course, I would prefer sooner: I’ll be dead then. Stop caring, says Uxoria. Your poetry is beautiful, my friends say. She didn’t even say thank you. Guess she couldn’t bring herself to express even the smallest kindness. Why? Because it would give me false hope? Because it would be out of character for her stern, dismissive act? Because it might show feelings? Or simply because she wasn’t grateful to receive nothing from Nobody? For your birthday here’s a little lump of coal, it said. Very funny, embedding yourself in a black rock. Who cares if she keeps it: every time she sees blood seeping from a stone she can think of me. Or a pig with wings.

From the air, Central Spain appears dry, desolate and mountainous, terra cotta and dusty green; the mountains catch and stop the clouds. She didn’t go to Salamanca, where the Conch House stands. Who cares about ancient architecture? The abandoned homes of yesterday’s elites are something to admire? They drank from silver chalices, they had slaves with fancy names – Aides-de-camp, ladies in waiting, and then a third of them fell down dead of plague – or perjury. What if she was lying? That it was just a clever way to rid herself of an annoying imposition? Clouds are cool, pareidolic, offering anodyne escape, but like rainbows’ pots of gold, today’s lack silver linings. Here in the air, I’m in Carmen’s Blue Nowhere, suspended 40,000 feet above it all, in the limbo of transition, the mind’s serene oblivion, Cristina’s Real Intervals. I’ve been writing like crazy for three days now; I don’t want to stop. I have plenty of paper.

* * *
New York, ma mansarde, aujourd’hui

’cause you’ll never, never, never, never break
this heart of stone…

Heart of Stone (Jagger/Richards – The Rolling Stones)

We don’t know how it ends, our love story, she said to me just last month. My fervid wish that that were true. But as you see, dear reader, this story is ending, now. I didn’t “win”; she didn’t either. And so, of course, in the end, this exercise, this thing called writing, is dangerous, especially when it’s real, non-fictional and concerns living, breathing people. A writer – I – may come to regret my words, my sentiments, my analysis. People get hurt, the innocent, the vulnerable. To me, she deserves only kindness. She didn’t reject me for pleasure; she needs to live her life. I’m sorry if anything – and I mean anything – in this narrative hurts her. She’s a one-in-a-billion beautiful woman, with a sincere, delicate heart and a magnificent mind – what more could anyone ask? I hope she lives, loves, soars, swoops and swallows in purest happiness. I hope she explores the entire world – graces its supernal summits and eddied side streets with her auroral presence. I hope she finds true love and fulfillment, and always has a safe, sweet home of her very own. I hope she has a long and happy life, and that she dies in her sleep, her heart bursting with joy, in comfortable, healthy old age, her life’s recorded masterpiece beautifully bound at her bedside, satisfied in her accomplishments, in sweetest dreams of reaching la petite mort while making sweeping, lifted love, simultaneously, with all the tenderhearted men and women who’ve admired and adored her in their lifetimes, or simply holding hands with herself. Adeus, belo anjo animal. A lua é feita de leite hoje à noite, e eu sempre sonho com você. It was just my luck to meet you.

loubliette_postscript3Afterwords: Connecticut, Thanksgiving

I’m set free to find
a new illusion.

I’m Set Free (The Velvet Underground)

Walking in the woods, along the stream in suburban New England. Flaubert, my friend Roger says, said one should write about passion from the safety of bourgeois banality. Nonsense. I have the feeling that having sex again isn’t going to be what I expect – there will be unintended consequences: euphoria, addiction, commitment. Yesterday the annual Beaujolais party at my French Friend’s, her condo a florist’s heaven of red roses and conversationally enthusiastic boomers, blooming with advice and passion. She tells me she’s annoyed with me… someone of my caliber… what was I thinking… I no victim here… a twink… oh, and the poem was beautiful: loves the title, in French, bien sûr. Harsh, she. The day I met her, in my bass-playing friend’s dorm room at Reed, Ux was wearing a chestnut suede jacket, the black and pink wall sprinkled with silver glitter… 37 years ago… my closest confidant, now angry and abandoning. I’m a giant pain in the ass, she says – and that’s on a good day. I have to have my adventure… I want it all… my son put the Bugeye on rollers in the garage: you can actually push it around. They’re turning on the solar panels next week. I sit in the attic and type; a ladybug lands on my hand; back to the City, my new pied-à-terre, tonight. Give all this up for maybe sex and unicorns? Just because I’m going to die? What an ass. Am I fucking crazy?

So I don’t know… how all of this is going to turn out. Will she come to me one day, of her own volition? Consult your Eight Ball (for what it’s worth, the answer came back It is decidedly so.), but don’t take its answer too seriously. She’s a ronronante gata preta, rara avis, and I really mean it (thus this my third Petric denial reversed, the stony truth revealed: That Girl is Truly Rare, and I want to love her). All I can say is this (I said it to her once before: she insisted then, in hindsight, inexplicably, that we not sever): See you around, Pen Pal, peut-être qu’un jourbefore we die.

* * *

Postscriptural analysis

Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home
my door always open
come hither and bloom

I know you’ll overanalyze this, Carm told me; I know it disturbs you. She blew you off: Get over it. So here’s what I think (she criticized me once for using bullet points, so here goes):

The Daredevil. She dared herself to do it, then blinked. The Girl is – as she says – a private person, shy at heart, and also so must have control. Too much risk in emotional contact, in kaleidoscopic hypertripping down a road with me; so much tranquillity and comfort in the familiar, liberating empty space of solitary travel – without the need to seem, to please, to give. Makes perfect sense if you don’t like me.

The Penitent. She truly felt that it would be dishonest, tantamount to cheating on her guy (and my wife), even though they’re unmarried, to travel with married me, even casually – there would’ve been photographs. This amplified by her personal experience with real, sneaky cheating, its relationship-destroying consequences and associated guilt. More blinking – and what a dirty mind.

La Tantaleuse. Because she’s beautiful (I didn’t know – or care, so lovelost for her intellect [and so forth]; didn’t realize until she stood there saying no, the second time I ever saw her, in the light, in Lisboa), she is high-frequency flattered by men (but never any ever me, Tania), and revels in the rush she gets dismissing casual hitters in person – I just another femme fatality, une boule de chaton, un mec de plus (she couldn’t have got this wronger, but she has a pretty flawless face). With serious me, she made no distinction. What a difference a word makes.

The Player: She’s an enthusiastic Internet gamer, and had some virtual, fantasizing fun with me (although she denied this, claiming that she presented her real, unornamented self to me), having no intention of reifying. And I’m a tale-telling idiot (or, if you prefer, chopped liver), and she’s a beep.

Or was she afraid of falling in love with me, and couldn’t let that happen? Only the Girl knows the truth. Certainly, her decision seemed irrational, animal – and out of character for a kind, empathic woman. Whether those or not, the Girl is a Brilliant and her Saint-Exupéryan mind’s-life fairyland – in short, she’s smart and smooth enough to have said Yes. Why she didn’t will forever be to me the tragic and inconsummate mystery of her life. Though in the end – just please don’t ask me why – I’m cool with that, very, very, yes

* * *


Angels We Have Heard on High (performed by the Metropolitan Handbell choir led by Jocelyn Johnson and the congregation of the Metropolitan Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.).
Animals, The. Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.
Barris, Harry, Clifford, Gordon, and Crosby, Bing. I Surrender, Dear (performed by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli).
Barry, Jeff, Greenwich, Ellie, and Spector, Phil. Chapel of Love (performed by the Dixie Cups).
Beatles, The. Obladi Oblada.
Berns, Bert, and Ragavoy, Jerry. Piece of My Heart (performed by Janis Joplin).
Blow, The. True Affection.
Bowie, David. Always crashing in the same car.
Bowie, David, and Pop, Iggy. China Girl.
Bragg, Billy. The Milkman of Human Kindness.
Bryant, Felice and Boudleaux. Love Hurts. (performed by Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris).
Chopin, Frédéric. Mazurka, Op. 33, No. 2 (performed by Fritz Kreisler).
Cohen, Leonard. The Future.
Cream. White Room.
Davis, Miles. Bitches Brew.
Davis, Miles. Kind of Blue sessions.
Dixon, Willie. Spoonful (performed by Howlin’ Wolf).
Doors, The. Break on Through.
Doors, The. The End.
Dresden Dolls. Coin Operated Boy.
Dylan, Bob. Don’t Think Twice (performed by Nick Drake).
Fountains of Wayne. Hung Up on You.
Garbage. Bleed Like Me.
Gaudeamus igitur (performed by Mario Lanza).
Glass, Philip. Music in 12 Parts.
Harpo, Slim. King Bee.
Harpo, Slim. Shake Your Hips.
Harpo, Slim. Shake Your Hips (performed by the Rolling Stones).
Hendrix, Jimi. Let me stand next to your fire.
Hicks, Dan. Evenin’ Breeze.
Holiday, Billie, and Herzog, Arthur, Jr. God Bless the Child (performed by Billie Holiday).
Hooker, John Lee. Boom Boom Boom Boom.
Jagger, Mick, and Richards, Keith. Wild Horses (performed by the Flying Burrito Brothers).
Johnson, Robert. Love in Vain.
Kinks, The. Sunny Afternoon.
McDaniels, Eugene. Compared to What (performed by Eddie Harris).
Piaf, Edith. La Vie en Rose.
Plastic Bertrand. Ça plane pour moi.
Ponchielli, Amilcare. Dance of the Hours from La Gioconda (performed by the Indiana University Philharmonic Orchestra, Jamie Reeves, conductor).
Ponchielli, Amilcare. “La danza delle ore” from La Gioconda (featuring Letizia Giuliani and Roberto Bolle; choreography by Gheorghe Iancu; performed at the Arena Verona).
Pop, Iggy. Lust for Life.
Purcell, Henry. Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary.
Purcell, Henry. Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary (adapted by Wendy Carlos, from A Clockwork Orange).
Ramones, The. She talks to rainbows.
Roderick/Christy/Jackson. She Said Yeah (performed by the Rolling Stones).
Rodgers, Richard, and Hammerstein II, Oscar. This Nearly Was Mine, from South Pacific (performed by Paul Sotz).
Rodrigues, Amália. Amor de Mel, Amor de Fel.
Rolling Stones, The. Citadel.
Rolling Stones, The. Connection.
Rolling Stones, The. Faraway Eyes.
Rolling Stones, The. Heart of Stone.
Rolling Stones, The. I’m Free.
Rolling Stones, The. Paint It Black (performed by Marie Laforêt).
Rolling Stones, The. Parachute Woman.
Rolling Stones, The. She’s a Rainbow.
Roxy Music. Remake/Remodel.
Seeger, Pete. Little Boxes.
Smith, Patti. Kimberly.
Tommy James and the Shondells. Crimson and Clover.
Velvet Underground, The. I’m Set Free.
Velvet Underground, The. White Light/White Heat.
Vinson, Walter, and Chatmon, Lonnie. Sitting on Top of the World (performed by Cream).
Vinson, Walter, and Chatmon, Lonnie. Sitting on Top of the World (performed by Howlin’ Wolf).
Vinson, Walter, and Chatmon, Lonnie. Sitting on Top of the World (performed by the Mississippi Sheiks).

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