Ten Minutes Flight

{Read by my Tigerabbit - 5th-22nd February 2011}

Monday, February 7

Winter and the Hummingbird.

For my bird trapped in New York.

You might remember Novus Yorcus, the great city on the ocean. There are not many of them – metropolises – on the sea; I can only recollect Barcelona and Naples on the tip of my tongue. But Novus Yorcus – have you ever been there? – is on the other side of the world – where it is day when here is night and vice versa. It’s bigger than Berlin, bigger than London and Paris, bigger than them all, were they joined by glass-spectacular- bridges. Over such an ocean of buildings, people and cars, oranges, boots and whatever else you can imagine, over such a greatness and multitude, there’s not much of a difference whether a flock of hummingbirds fly from the rose-garden to the park or a few clouds squeeze together to drop some rain. What’s then the difference between a drop of rain and a hummingbird in such a majesty and grandeur? They are both lonely spots lost in the sky. That’s at least how Colì, the hummingbird of our story, felt about himself. A sole tree had so many leaves to seem a forest around his flights and the way from the yellow rose to the white bramble-bush was long enough to make him pant. He would get to the white cream bush and stand there between the thorns to sing – and that was enough for the evening. And it was not alone to believe that it was enough: butterflies loved his voice and the squirrels would mime their dance climbing trees. Nonetheless it wouldn’t have made any difference for Novus Yorcus, the mega city, if instead of this hummingbird and his songs, drops of rain would splash in their puddles in an autumnal early evening: both would melt just as well in the great rumble. Colì fell from a tree when he was still a baby and his thump simply vanished unnoticed among the grass and the asphalt of the city – so giant a city that it does not know either where it starts nor where it ends – if it would end. And we must admit that he was not much bigger than a drop of rain – indeed there would be showers so powerful to oblige him for days under a roof – a sole drop either would drown him or smash his plumage to the ground. So it was that Colì would dislike drizzling rain and attempted at flying down with the drops looking at them with some contempt. Neither did they have beautiful feathers – as he had – nor could they float anywhere but down – without mentioning their monotonous litany: plop, plop, plop. He did so every raining day in the summer and in autumn as well, when it actually became almost a daily routine. He would go the higher he could and descend down looking at the drops – comparing his colors to their transparency. There was neither anything poetic nor agile about them. But winter came. It threatened to be a long, severe winter, whose long grey air trapped the little had remained of the trees. It was dark early and dark would last till late. Colì would also fly among the rain and have his short monologues in the black air: “You fall and fall – but I fly – you can only forget – I remember all my songs and each rose” – he would say. “I save the colors on my feathers – you are already gone when the rainbow spans the way. You only fall, and that’s it.” He was mumbling not too kindly. But it was getting cold and all his friends hummingbirds had already found warm and safe spots while he still dared to face the weather. His feathers had lost some color and he was almost grey - like anything else in Novus Yorcus during the hard season. – Like everything else apart from the merchandise, which was gleaming instead even if for a second of life. But also pop-corn, as soon as it was sold, would just taste stale and look like a handful of rain, that is: like nothing, like what there is. Colì was still hanging at the drops falling down: “You see, I can fly!” – he told them. But winter had come – it was the first winter for Colì. As he was mumbling his thoughts to a drop, he saw it changing in a magic fragment of sky, it was expanding and taking on a shining white color – had even began to float and dwindle along its way. Colì had to fly up, left and right to stay in its company, while each color of the world became sparkling as it was reflected over this magic white star. Colì was following a snow-flake – and he didn’t know. It seemed soft and creamy, slowly dancing and bright. He lied on it and descended from the clouds down. The streets had turned white and you could distinguish red huts, scarves and colorful umbrellas, noses and blue eyes. It was winter’s deep low voice: “Novus Yorcus, my child, don’t you see? Not everything is a drop of rain.”

“I take back the snowflakes and my hummingbird!”

Monday, February 7

The White Rabbit’s Way

Have you ever seen white rabbits? With white fur, white paws and white ears? Their eyes are blue-green but apart from that, they are completely white. Not like the rabbits in the farms, not even the most wild ones – nor do I think of the really rare sort we saw in the Berliner zoo. I mean the white rabbit, so white that rice seems confetti in comparison! I believe you might never have met one, otherwise you wouldn’t be thinking so much now, since who, like me, saw it, immediately knows what I mean. I met him on one of the many grey streets of a big city, it doesn’t matter which one, or maybe it does – he was jumping there over the asphalt bouncing like a ladybug on its shell. There are stray cats and wild foxes walking around in the early hours of the morning or in the desert evenings between the last light of the afternoon and the first enlightened darkness – in those twenty minutes of ritual passage which faints among the last accomplishments of the day. In those threshold times, people are tired and more confused and somehow even blind. That’s also the moment then, when stray cats and foxes cross the road but there’s only one particular moment, only an Augenblick, when you can see the white rabbit. If you’re attentive and quick you can catch sight of a white fur, a really white stain over the carriage – you know every eye has got the black spot – a point in the pupil which is blind; well, exactly like that – imagine such a blind flake in your vision, but white! And that’s it – how you’ll recognize a white rabbit. Like a smile falls on your face, or a thought enter your mind, or a dream your sleep, that’s how you might catch a glimpse of such a rabbit. But – yes – it doesn’t happen to everybody – because it’s also a matter of luck – and a matter of being brave with time and keep awake your spirit even when the season gets stiff. In fact I saw him in winter. At the end of February? Was it the end of March? I recognized this snow-ball jumping on the side-walk, then he got behind a car and crossed the road to a parking lot. As he was bouncing I could see the stones and trash on the pavements turn white and even the entire streets under his feet would become white like a snowy meadow. And you know the miracle of snow: which paints the cold fern surrounding to correspond to human emotions. Cars wheels become toys and me, a pedestrian like any other, is not forced anymore in the urbanistic projects of some government employee, on a gazastrip of sidewalk, rather he becomes the frog and prince of the realm-world. Snow paints the city as a play-ground. And there he was, the playful rabbit, with his snow-tail round and puffy like cotton candy. But – believe me – even the whitest candyfloss – looks pale grey in comparison to the whitest rabbit. He’s not the whitest – he’s just white. You understand that? I know, it’s difficult to understand. However, I mean to tell you the story of the white rabbit, who turns into snow whatever he bounces upon – sometimes into melting snow, when we talk of my breast. He’s a bit like a run-away heart – which pants and cries and tricks even the sun in a giant bright white snowy moon! He was in Chicago, at the time of the story – to be precise – he was almost in Chicago – since there was so much emotion and so much snow coming up immediately under his feet that he had problems even to walk on and arrive to Chicago. Over the entire city were growing snow-meadows opening up carpets of flakes and snow-balls to his bouncing arrival. This time – it was enough for him to look ahead and snow was already falling the way in summer some sprouts spring up in the twinkling of an eye. So it was that, paradoxically, it was even difficult to walk on and had to roll instead of bouncing, so much snow covered the streets! But we know – it’s a bit like this for everybody – that happiness can be so thick sometimes to paralyze you – emotions so strong to free your angel and let the human brain hanging like a carillon. But then – like with the music-box – the lid opens up and on a stretching stick the dancer appears. She bends a knee up and performs two pirouettes; those correspond to our talismanic tears of joy: talismanic because they belong to previous and future generations, meanwhile to us for a moment. It was like that also for the white rabbit – his happiness could take the shape of a scary ghost and so much joy would build skyscrapers of snow – almost insurmountable, but ultimately essentially surmountable, on top of his sled, because he was the white rabbit of this realm, the beating heart of this joy. Well, some get scared of their shadow; white rabbits, who never admit any fear, just build up their emotions to seem monsters – then to realize that they themselves are the playful bunnies jumping there around! So it was that White Rabbit arrived in Chicago, tired and panting and happy as ever. It was a day in winter 2010-2011. The newspapers reported: “Chicago's 20.2 inches of snow was the city's third-largest amount on record in the city’s history.” But finally there he was – beautifully smiling – in his burrow. I could see him on the screen and in my dreams.  

P.S. The White Rabbit has got a passion for weather forecasts. Here they are:

The highest snowfall on record in Chicago was in January 1967, with 23 inches, followed by January 1999 with 21.6 inches. The 2011 blizzard's total was 20.2 inches at O'Hare Airport, according to the National Weather Service. The blizzard is expected to be followed by bitter cold, with wind chill temperatures forecast to plunge to 20 to 30 below zero Wednesday night.

 

Wednesday, February 9

PRELUDE (Before Waiting): Berlin - New York

On the first morning of the month, Elephant took his luggage, which he had carefully packed the previous day and went to the kitchen, where he met Penguin. Penguin was sitting next to the stove, with his tail down and sleepy eyes. “Dear Penguin, I will miss you a lot” he said and hugged him tight-tight. Then he left dropping a tear on the house-door. Penguin remained on his chair for half an hour, then had a walk in the apartment and felt its dizzy loneliness. Everybody knows that an elephant takes some space and not everybody knows which kind of sounds it can make from his nose! Imagine then an elephant in a city house – his heavy steps as he climbs the stairs with bags bumping everywhere, imagine the shape the bed takes when he crouches down to sleep… Yes, an elephant doesn’t pass unnoticed. Certainly not this elephant. Penguin finished his inspection of the rooms. He had roamed around for some slow twenty minutes, then he entered the living room and sat on the coach. Even sitting there would give him a different feeling. He felt he could have sat there for two minutes or the eternity – while the desk would remain exactly where it was forever, nor the chairs would move and the books – would also remain, unread, in their shelves all eternity long. So he decided to move – to break the spell, and let the water run in the sink. He could hear each drop, each stream and the presence itself of the porcelain. When the earth has stopped rolling on its axis, you must get your pen and take note of it. So Penguin did, he got a piece of paper and noted down some vessels of words, words made to travel, a bit broken – like ships – which don’t have roofs. Have you ever noticed that it’s always what’s broken that can improvise the best rescuing functions? So – like a mysteriously floating piece of glass – his words were bubbles on the page-level and – broken as they were, were also the best containers for whatever you would have liked to fill in. Also stars are broken, and they break the sky. What breaks destiny is always in form of a note. You must take note and your ink tastes sweet like black pudding. That’s also the power of music: to break time in a narrative. But Penguin was not thinking about any of this, nor was willing to make little boat-words float like do-re-mi-fa-sol bugs on the filigree of the page. Actually he was walking to the tea-pot, to prepare some tea. The ceiling’s corners had already some brave redeemers – with long legs and embroidered webs. He looked at the clock. Elephant must be flying – he thought – his airplane should have already taken off by now. He knew that Elephant missed him as much. Penguin was a distinguished middle-age scholar, wearing always black and white suits not without some elegance, although they happened to be dusty, old and, well, dirty sometimes. Time had slowed down on his wrist. Elephant – he knew – was travelling westwards – leaving the old continent, the old Germany where soil smells like low-flying white butterflies – flapping still on the yellow gleaming dew of the meadows – one inch above bones and death. Some of them rise up along the walls – whose transparence plays ambiguous games with memory. But that’s Berlin. I cannot hear the shots. I cannot hear anything. The airport nearby was the NS regime Berlin Flughafen – it’s a park nowadays where conscience cannot yet sow. But Elephant was travelling over the ocean by now – or was still above Spain, who knows. Who knows. Penguin could know! He went to the computer and searched for the official web-site of Berlin-Tegel Airport and it didn’t take long before he found the aircraft he was looking for: DEPARTED. The clouds had a guest above them. There where it’s blue, Elephant’s big ears were flapping and he would probably be reading, what else? Penguin switched to the official web-site of New York JFK Airport and searched again for the flight number. Day’s light had not much changed since morning – a cold dusty air, with wind storming against the windowpanes. Penguin looked at the trees’ branches fighting against the wind from the tiles of the kitchen where he was standing in a motionless air. He went back to the computer, as if he were a ghost pilot over an inexistent world and studied several time-tables of the JFK’s Airport web-site. Finally he found the satellite map where flight’s trajectories were drawn like meteorites – each with its number-name: but not the one he wanted. A number was telling him the ground-speed of Elephant’s flight – it was there recorded how long ago the aircraft had taken off, when it was the estimated time of arrival and the altitude at which it was surmounting the ocean. Anonymous numbers tracing a parable he couldn’t decode. Precise traces of an absence. And yet, at least some traces. The map was spanning a mega-miles wide square around the city of New-York, but neither the ocean nor Elephant’s flight were yet in it. Is it this the taste of time? Some numbers we never met? Secret codes, which encode my hands? But Penguin, a really rational animal, reached his notebook and drafted down some lines. He had bought some postcards and had an already sealed envelope, which was only waiting for a stamp on it. It was time to fight with time. The post-office would close soon. He ran downstairs and through the streets, as if there was still a reason to run (he was so used to have only a desire-engine spraying gas up his butt!) and arrived in front of the post-office. The door was closed like only Germans know how to close doors. Mist! The only chance would be to go to the main office – and since there was no other thing to do but that – he went there. “Dear Elephant” he would say. “Dear Elephant” he had in his hand. He thought so strong: “My dear loved beautiful Elephant.” The queue was over and he said: “Guten Tag. Ich hätte gerne einige Briefmarken für diesen Brief und diese Postkarten nach den U.S.A.” and handed over his stuff, two postcards and a letter. I have always had the feeling of being undressed – in front of a post-officer. They don’t care whatsoever about your things – and they stamp their red tape on your feelings; Penguin disguised his feelings and his things – since he thought that if they knew what they were gonna send, they would never do – such marginalia, certainly too human a thing. Well, if it sounds strange, look at it like this: how would you feel having to kiss the employee’s cheek to have your kiss sent to your loved ones? Doesn’t it sound widerlich? And somehow it’s what you’re doing. Penguin was clearly of a similar opinion, since he behaved as nonchalantly as he could having those letters sent as if they were meant for a telephone company or some other ignominious business like that. He ran back home. It was not raining yet, although those clouds had kept so much rain all day long – they seemed swollen with pressure and time. It was still early, after all, when he was back home. The computer was still on. He sat in front of the screen and stared again at the ground-speed marker, altitude, time to arrival. The airplane had not entered yet the satellite map. And yet he couldn’t switch his eyes off from the screen – like some leave the tv on just for company – since somehow Elephant’s tail and long nose were traced there, in those complicated codes. After all what could “644 mph ground speed” or “37,000 ft. altitude” mean to Penguin? He’s so slow that a rushing car meant already “too fast.” Elephant was flying against the sun – was keeping the day alive – and long. It was a long – long shadow, fallen on Penguin’s place, their place, to fill Elephant’s cups, his jackets hanging on the wall, his shirts and underpants. Well, what’s a shell when the mollusk is out? That’s the question. But Penguin, as we said, was a scholar, and a professional, competent one. So he continued taking some notes and returned to his searches in the internet. He tried out several search-engines. There were some systems able to localize even your pinkie, to be precise: even a bogey on your pinkie. SSG (Star-Satellite-Globe) – they are called. But an elephant is too big an animal to be caught by such a thorough individuation system. At most he could have found Elephant’s pencils’ eraser (he had many of them) but how to distinguish his from those of any other clerk? He inserted Elephant’s data (height, books read, trunk’s length, paws’ number…) and he got a few thousand millions of different Elephant’s species, not even specimens! That also wouldn’t have been of any help. Since sometimes the easiest ways are also the best, he googled: “Elephant” – but those idiots understood “elephant” rather than “Elephant.” What to do? Yes, what to do? He knew that hunting him was not an easy task since Elephant was all but a prey – nor prayers could anything since he was something of a communist fellow, that beast. He should have sprayed his paws before he left, so now there would be fluorescent, neat and visible prints of his on the clouds – but it was too late for that. Penguin lied in bed for five minutes only, in the only big print he could imagine and hugged the pillow. There were Elephant’s prints on his mouth, of so many kisses and his big stamp on Penguin’s breast. Yes, after all Elephant’s signs were overall, his signatures, his things, his home, and his heart – Penguin knew – was not far away. He went back to the computer and the aircraft had finally entered the satellite map of New York JFK Airport. Time to Arrival: Two Hours. A little time. Penguin ate the soup (which is finished now) and that Elephant had made, and prepared some lessons for the day after, since, I’ve forgot to tell you, Penguin had improvised himself teacher for a few weeks. He looked in his agenda and planned his work. And he planned many stories to cuddle Elephant to sleep as he would kiss his forehead, were he there. Time flew by. When he returned to the computer, ground speed was “n/a,” altitude was “n/a” and LANDED was written in red characters just below the flight number. That yes had been a long journey. But Elephant was there. Also Penguin’s heart landed back on its spot. A long breath. Penguin looked at the screen noch a few moments, in which all flight shortened in a welcome kiss; he felt Elephant with his four paws stumbling around, he heard the noise of his luggage’s wheels rolling along long corridors. Penguin couldn’t know anymore where Elephant was, but he was arrived. And was fine. He stood up and went to the kitchen. He saw a shoe in the corridor, he shook it and a smile fell out.

Wednesday, February 9

Crumbs Porcupine - Home Reminders

A commentary on Walter Benjamin, GS, IV, 1, S. 404 - -

- - with needles

This is the story of crumbs porcupine. No one should raise his expectations since the hero of our story really never behaved as such – but that’s exactly what’s interesting about the story you are going to read. After all it’s not so difficult to defeat a dragon or save the princess – it might be exhausting, need courage and insight but it happened only once and – have you ever heard of heroes who would save a princess a day or fought four dragons in their life time? Maybe that day the dragon had a toothache or the princess had actually just become a Karate black belt, yes, it might just have been good luck, but crumbs porcupine, what he did – he did it daily, with the regularity and precision of a pooping bird. On the other hand: everybody longs for great achievements, great constructions, the foundation of cities or the discovery of planets – but you see what happened with the Americas. Sooner or later the “discover” finds out of being a prick who discovered – as you say – hot water or sand in the beach. Without mentioning the resentment of the discovered ones – who had never wanted – were an option given to them – to discover the discoverer. With the great city founders things are not much different. Wait a week, two weeks and you’ll see someone come to them and claim their territory. The great founder of course will expose the greatness of his realm. But the man who walked ten miles to meet him won’t show having been whatsoever impressed by so much glory and majesty. He will dig a hole under the sovereign majestic palace toilette and find the bones of a cat. “You see that? That was my cat.” Yes, it’s not a good idea to found neither realms nor cities, nor – to be keen on details – your own house. Sharing is much better of an idea. Crumbs porcupine was nothing of a founder – nor did he ever discover not even chicken bones in the trash, he would rather – more correctly – say: “Look what I found!” Are we done with the most common clichés of story-telling? I think we have not even started with it yet. There is for sure the successful good minded lucky guy, who behaves, is correct with everybody and certainly deserves to be the hero of a story at least. But – let’s admit it – have you ever met a guy like that? And then, wouldn’t it be endlessly boring? “Shall we go to play ping-pong?” “I’d rather be more considerate with regard to balls. Would you like being slapped like that?” And, as he says it, soft meat-balls fall from the tree onto his lap – just when he was getting hungry. Does it matter that you’re not hungry at all and wanted to play ping-pong? No, my dear! What kind of heroes are those?! I’m not the only one to think like that – and crumbs porcupine is nothing like this – since there’s an entire literature of anti-hero heroes, who don’t believe in anything and never met luck – not even once – by chance. They are fun! But better never meeting one. They acknowledge with pleasure whatever you say and it’s going to be proved wrong when it’s still on your lips. Damn! It’s like the jolly in card-games – it betrays a smile on your face – you believe you’ve got the victory just before you make a mistake playing the card. And yet, every time you meet one of them you feel like betting because, with them, life is always a gamble lab. But neither am I a good scientist nor do I like torturing mice for some profit’s sake – so – no, I’d never have chosen such anti-hero heroes for my story. Crumbs porcupine is nothing like that. There are still two typologies of heroes among the favorite: there’s the guy who continuously boasts as much as he can and gets away with that and then, last but not least, the “everyday normal guy,” – to whom time and society got so much into his bones that he cannot but be played out, exploded like a brain in short-circuited break-down. You find the first kind among the planet’s leaders, the guys who sell water and air – that sort of guys; the latter… they don’t really exist but there is a collective striving drive to become one of those. Since this intends to be a story and neither a drama, where the world bursts up in a spring time, nor a noir, where the author himself couldn’t prevent the text from kidnapping, torturing and letting slowly die his hero (be it the Coke’s pimp or Italy’s prime minister) – then I deliberately decided to do also without such kind of heroes the world doesn’t need. Do you? You see, the hero of our story couldn’t have been but crumbs porcupine. But I’ve forgotten that the literary critics distinguish still another sort of hero: he’s neither really successful in life nor does he mind about what people mind – but he has got a belief, yes, one at least and only one. A bit stubborn – one might say. He belongs to the kind who fights against the mills. He comes to you: “We really should play ping-pong!” “Right now? I’m eating” “But those meat-balls are perfect to play ping-pong” he rebukes. It’s the same when you’re writing. He steals the eraser from the top of your pencil: “That’s perfect to play ping-pong!” And in the night, while you sleep: “Darling, look! What a moon! It will work as a ping-pong ball! We should run out to play, shouldn’t we?” But it’s not a rhetoric question. He’s already dragging you for your foot out of the bed with the rackets in one hand and the net in the other. He has got a power on you – don’t deny. After a while you might surprise yourself jumping towards the moon with the ping-pong net trying to knock it down. But crumbs porcupine differs also from this kind of heroes. He’s not such a knight, after all. And he cares whether the moon comes down or stays still there in the night. Sometimes. Nor is he so attentive in doing things – he wouldn’t be crumbs porcupine were he careful and mindful, would he? Actually he doesn’t do only one thing – even if he makes always crumbs and nothing but crumbs. Life is bright – sure – but that doesn’t hide the wide rainbow it projects on objects and faces. Would you want a hero that cannot distinguish colors, not even black from white, blue from red, rather sees only light? I don’t, that’s why I chose crumbs porcupine as the hero of our story. I’m sure you also don’t want any other hero but him. And that’s why I’m in trouble now. With such a hero, what kind of a story can I write?

Thursday, February 10

The Grasswidow  (5th-22nd February)

grasswidow [grăs wĭd’ō]

n 

1. (Life Sciences & Allied Applications / Animals) any songbird of the family Fringillidae, having a short stout bill for feeding on seeds and, in most species, a bright plumage in the male. Common examples are the goldfinch, bullfinch, chaffinch, siskin, and canary

2. (Life Sciences & Allied Applications / Animals) any of various similar or related birds. Related adj fringilline

[Middle English gras widewe, from Old English græs widuwe; see ghrē- in Indo-European roots.]

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

The grasswidow had first a name and then a story. He was a small bird with yellow-green feathers and some blue and red spots on the breast. He would come at my window every morning at nine and then entered the kitchen and peaked some crumb on the table. Then he would immediately fly away to come back at nine the day after. I suppose had I not lived on the fourth floor I might have never met this singular friend who would regularly come for short visits. When one lives so high up, it’s easy to fall in love with the sky. Before meeting this friend I used to spend entire days looking outside the window at the grey face of winter. I would prepare my coffee and check the plants – but soon my eyes would get beyond them to the meadow down away, I would inspect the entire courtyard to catch some unusual movement and slowly my look would enter the trees’ branches. Without any awareness I would be staring at the sky for half an hour – just till the phone rang or the washing machine interrupted its monotonous ebbing of cloths. He must have noticed my staring at the sky with my cup of coffee, long before I saw him. However one day, as I was airing the house to get the rare sun into the rooms and dust the gray color from the plants’ leaves, the books and my scattered clothing, I saw him entering the windowsill and pose his feet on the little desk in my bedroom. It was a handful of colors with a sharp, if short, yellow beak. He immediately flew away and I turned to my things with a smile. As I went to the kitchen, there he was again and it was bigger a surprise – because by now I already knew him. I stayed on the threshold without getting any closer, because I didn’t expect it, because I didn’t want him to run away. Fly away. It beaked some crumbs on the tablecloth, turning on the spot of light which seemed having brought him. As he moved, different colors gleamed and I could better distinguish the longer green-yellow feathers and I also saw those small, thick red and blue spots on his breast, which made of him a fish of sky, a marvel. Looking at some animals one has got often the impression of being also looked at, although secretly – not stared at, nonetheless precisely perceived. I’ve never had problems with letting my intentions and myself being smelled and felt by animals. I trust that it would only prevent them from attacking me – were they to know we are not enemy. He also was not looking at me, with his immobile eyes conjuring the next crumb to pick up, and yet had I moved a millimeter – he would have flown away, I knew that. Actually had I moved only a millimeter, he would have recognized me as a friend, but clumsy humans, to whom I belong with my awkward movements, make always a show of their intentions, and that is really unpleasant for every creature to see. So I remained still watching him as I had previously looked at the sky, but my feelings were alive and bewitched by this little bird which seemed having transformed a forgotten music in visual images: his feathers and his eyes were as fixed as stars. Abruptly he spread his wings and disappeared out of the window. On the table flakes of light lay on the flatware and the washing machine had never stopped thumbing and rolling the cloths around. I spent the day, as far as I recollect, reading and writing. Not long ago I found this note:

 

February the 5th. A grasswidow entered into the kitchen this morning. He ate some crumbs and immediately flew away. It was magnificent.

 

I couldn’t know nor did I expect that he would return the morning after. Maybe the memory of the simple but beautiful previous day experience unwittingly pushed me to open the kitchen window again at the same hour – but I had not noticed the coincidence yet. I had just my coffee ready and I bent to get some milk from the fridge. I was searching on the bottom shelves when casting sidelong a glance on my right I saw him on the naked tablecloth. He was looking at me – at least that’s how I perceived the thing – and then flew away. I wondered how long he had been there, still on the table, while I searched for milk. My solitude was a beautiful mantel for that little guy. But as soon as I glimpsed him, he was away. Needless to say, I spread some crumbs on the table the following morning before opening the window at nine. When I returned to the kitchen, the crumbs were gone. That was the beginning of our friendship. I’d never forget to leave some crumbs on the table, and it did not matter whether it was sunny or raining; at nine o’clock the grasswidow would enter my window and beak his portion of bread or biscuits. By now we had learned to share the room; I’d make my coffee and he would peak the crumbs on the table – apparently without minding each other – actually sharing our breakfast. I could also look at him now and he was not scared of my sweetness anymore – he would instead return my greetings with some short flights between my four walls. There was something mad about it – one learns how small and eng the place of living is observing a bird’s attempt at flying around. I feel like crashing my head against the wall – with so much blue flapping of that little creature. But then he would fly out and the eyes can follow him traversing the sky. And I share the joy. I never tried to touch him, or to get too close, since our intimacy was the air, the sky, life colors: it was time, daybreak and returns. We shared a nameless wonder, not touch but gestures. A dance, a deep attempt. I’m not sure if I had given much thought on the subject at the time, or just enjoyed this uncommon routine. In my diary I found only a note, on July the 15th:

 

The grasswidow is my friend. We don’t know our respective names. Maybe I’m “human” for him as he’s “grasswidow” for me, and that’s all. But we share life like only birds do – I think; like only humans do – he must believe. And we don’t know how.

 

Thinking about it in retrospect it’s surprising that no other mention of our company entered my journal in those days. But it has got a reason, probably the same reason for our meetings and friendship. Some sort of “loud secret” – many call it “an elephant in the room” – obviousness that doesn’t need any mention – others refer to these facts like to childhood times: one hardly takes note of them – till they occupy the entire memory at a senile age. The grasswidow almost never entered my diary at the time of our early friendship – although I would attempt at composing a novel with his name now, were I a writer. Yes, “The Grasswidow” would be the title of the novel, as simple as that. Hope, life, belief, trust – they all rarely enter a journal – but there’s no other reason than them if I filled my diary with such a daily constancy and application. It might have been exactly this little bird, the reason why I started my journal. Each letter resembles so much the grasswidow’s footprints. My care for my notes betrayed a strong desire of having them as a fine architecture, sprayed with poetry, built as well as his nest I never saw. And yet he brought it on my tablecloth – every morning at nine. He brought a luminous sky on my tablecloth at nine, like the best hour. In September my diary seems only concerned with him – it’s his sea I’m trying to draw down. It was the time when I made the astonishing discovery. Our reciprocal mindfulness had never allowed me to stare at him too long or firmly – as one would never stare at the foreigner in the metro, at first – as one wouldn’t stare at his beloved whilst their mouths are slowly meeting, later – also: one wouldn’t stare at death too sharply – not out of fear – just to let it go. Exactly out of fear I must have looked at him flying away on that early day in September – the same fear which might have induced a lover sometimes to observe the face of his lover while his touch was all over him. A promise ad liminem – the day after. He took flight out of the window, as he had done already for so many months, and I noticed that there was a blade of grass in his beak – and he was gone. After all, it’s not so uncommon that birds carry sticks or similar stuff with their beaks and in September there are still generous meadows which offer plenty of grass and flowers. And yet I was surprised and immediately after also surprised of my surprise. I even took note of this strange feeling of mine:

 

September the 10th. Why did he carry a blade of grass? Where did it come from? I couldn’t prevent myself today from thinking such absurdity for good an hour. Eventually I prepared my lesson.

 

Since September the 10th all my entries simply refer to “he” instead of précising “the grasswidow.” My surprise though had good reasons to be. My feelings turned into a real turmoil the day after. This time I intentionally looked at him before he would leave and noticed clearly a blade of grass in its beak. I was absolutely sure that he had none as he had entered the room. I knew there was no reason to search for some spot in the kitchen where he could have found grass, nonetheless I did. And I found neither grass nor any suggestion of where grass could have been. Soon I became obsessed with this phenomenon which would repeat itself every morning at nine and for which I could find no explanation. He would beak my crumbs and leave with a blade of grass. It’s easy to imagine my dismay. So it continued for all September, and it did not stop in October, nor in November. In December he was still entering my room, pecking crumbs on my tablecloth and then he would leave with a blade of grass. By now my diary had become a meadow of wonder and consternation, but there was also some peace and abandonment.

 

What for so much grass? What for these notes? And him?

 

– reads an entry from January the 10th. I have no explanation for such remarks if not the wild unrest I had fallen in. January and February were again the hardest months. Winter had been harsh and it did not stop being so. The sky was not generous of snow and the gray had expanded to cover both buildings and streets. Courtyards were deserted. Only at nine o’clock the grasswidow would come and leave again afterwards. On February the 22nd I had a cup of coffee in my hands. My friend entered the kitchen as everyday at nine and sat on the tablecloth where biscuits’ crumbs lay for him. He was beautiful and his blue spots even more gleaming against the gray light. He looked at me – or it seemed so. I looked at him – or it seemed so. I knew it would have been the last day of his visits. I wouldn’t have met him again. He took flight with the last blade of grass. I drank my coffee and went in our bedroom. Where it was supposed to be a bed, there was a meadow. I knew today you would come back.

Definition and Etymology

gras- (heuschober-) witwe u. dgl.

GRASSWIDOW

Main Entry: grass widow

Function: noun 

Date: 1528

1chiefly dialect:   a:  a discarded mistress  b:  a woman who has had an illegitimate child
2 aa woman whose husband is temporarily away from her  b:  a woman divorced or separated from her husband

Origin: Early ModE, discarded mistress (similar to Du grasweduwe, Ger strohwittwe): prob. allusion is to bed of grass, hay or straw as opposed to the conjugal bed. [The "grass" might also refer to the mattress, which used to be filled with grass: The "widow" is left back on the grass/mattress.]

Word History: The term grass widow cries out for explanation of what grass means and how grass widow came to have its varied though related senses. Grass probably refers to a bed of grass or hay as opposed to a real bed. This association would help explain the earliest recorded sense of the word (1528), "an unmarried woman who has lived with one or more men," as well as the related senses "an abandoned mistress" and "the mother of an illegitimate child." Later on, after the sense of grass had been obscured, people may have interpreted grass as equivalent to the figurative use of pasture, as in out to pasture. Hence grass widow could have developed the senses "a divorced or separated wife" or "a wife whose husband is temporarily absent."

Strohwitwe (Deutsch)

Substantiv, f, Plural Strohwitwen

Silbentrennung:

Stroh·wit·we Plural: Stroh·wit·wen

Bedeutungen:

[1] Vorübergehend zurückbleibende Partnerin in einer Lebensgemeinschaft, deren Partner oder Partnerin kurzzeitig abwesend ist. Männliche Form: Strohwitwer

Strohwitwe 
 
-wittib, -wittbe, f., frau, die nur vorübergehend (meist wegen einer reise des ehemannes) 'witwe' ist. die anwendung des grundwortes witwe auf eine frau, deren mann nicht verstorben ist, weist auf eine ursprünglich scherzhafte benennung mit anspielung auf geschlechtliche beziehungen (vgl. witwe 7 a, teil 14, 2, sp. 844); strohwitwe hat diesen sinn bis heute jedoch kaum noch bewahrt. der zusammenhang mit dem ersten kompositionsgliede stroh ist umstritten und oft erörtert (Behaghel zs. f. dt. wortf. 1, 79; Hohlfeldt ebda 2, 347; Grienberger ebda 4, 298; Storfer dickicht d. spr. [1937] 148; Schoppe germ.-rom. mon.-schr. 26, 71; Holthausen Anglia beibl. 43, 283; Kretschmer anz. d. akad. Wien, phil.-hist. kl. [1942] 79, 26). die deutung dieser erst seit dem 18. jh. belegten zusammensetzung hat davon auszugehen, dasz in den germanischen sprachen eine reihe z. t. älterer bildungen ähnlicher art begegnen: mnd. grasswedewe (1598) 'mädchen, das seine jungfrauschaft verloren hat' (itt sin ock underwilen solchen grasswedewen thor ewigen schande leder ... nagedichtet ... worden Neocorus dithm. chron. 1, 97 D.); engl. grasswidow (1528) 'an unmarried woman, who has cohabited with one or more men', (1859) 'a married woman whose husband is absent from her' Murray 4, 2, 367; nl. grasweduwe (ohne bel.) 'gehuwde vrouw wier echtgenoot tijdelijk afwezig is' woordenb. d. nederl. taal 5, 597; dän. graesenke (um 1700) 'kvinde, hvis mand er (midlertidig) bortrejst' ordbok over d. danske sprog 7, 240; daneben auch (vielleicht schon unter einflusz des hd. wortes) straaenke 'kone, som ligger ene mens hindes mand er borte' (um 1700) ebda 22, 231; schwed. gräsänka (1738) 'gift kvinna vars make for tillfället är bortrest', dial. auch 'liderlig flicka' ordbok över svenska språket G 1182; hierher auch nl. haeckweduwe (urspr. wohl zu haeck 'heuschober') 'veufue attendante son mari estant en long voyage' Plantijn thes. (1573) V 1b. nhd. strohwitwe steht damit in einem groszräumigen kreis entsprechender bezeichnungen wie gras- (heuschober-) witwe u. dgl., seine begriffliche herausbildung vollzieht sich ebenfalls groszräumig und ist seit dem 16. jh. (Plantijn) zu verfolgen; weiterhin steht der begriffsinhalt 'frau, deren mann verreist ist' in verbindung mit einem offensichtlich älteren begriffsinhalt '(unzüchtiges) mädchen, das keine jungfrau mehr ist' (zur letzteren bedeutung vgl. auch strohbraut [1399] und strohjungfer). der ursprüngliche sinn des kompositionsgliedes stroh- wird daher auch in dem älteren, besonders bei graswitwe auftretenden begriffsinhalt zu suchen sein. gemeinsamer ausgangspunkt dieser zusammensetzungen ist die lagerstätte (gras, heuschober, stroh), auf der das mädchen als 'witwe' verlassen wurde (Grienberger); die scherzhafte anwendung dieser benennungen auf eine frau, die nur vorübergehend als 'witwe' verlassen wurde, lag nahe (vgl. hierzu den beleg aus Faust I s. v. stroh 3 f unten).

Strohwitwe/r

Strohwitwer und Strohwitwe sind Bezeichnungen für in einer Ehe oder Beziehung lebende Partner, die zeitweilig allein leben, also „Witwer bzw. Witwe auf Zeit“ sind. Typischerweise tritt eine solche Situation bei Reisen ein, die nicht gemeinsam unternommen werden. Die Beziehung besteht dabei weiter, eine Fortsetzung des gemeinsamen Lebensalltags ist zu erwarten.

Es besteht keine Konvention darüber, wie lange man alleinstehend leben muss, um zutreffend als Strohwitwer/Strohwitwe bezeichnet werden zu können. So ist eine Trennung von lediglich einigen Minuten ebenso denkbar wie ein Zeitraum von mehreren Jahren.

Begriffsherkunft:

Der Ursprung und die Entwicklung der Begriffe Strohwitwer und -witwe sind nicht eindeutig geklärt; es existieren unterschiedliche Thesen.

Zunächst ist neben Stroh auch Gras als Vorsilbe zu finden, vor allem im niederdeutschen Raum und auch in der englischen Sprache, dort als Grasswidow(er).

In Goethes Faust I wird das Bild des Strohs auf einen zurückgelassenen Gatten angewandt: Dort klagt Marthe über ihren Ehemann Er geht stracks in die Welt hinein / Und lässt mich auf dem Stroh allein. Stroh steht hier offensichtlich für Bett. So kann Strohwitwe(r) als Bezeichnung für einen zwar liierten, aber dennoch allein – statt im gemeinsamen Ehebett – nächtigenden Partner erklärt werden, der sozusagen auf dem Stroh, also im Bett, alleinstehend ist.

Einer anderen Auffassung nach entstammt der Begriff einer Analogie aus dem 14. Jahrhundert: Demnach wurde die Umschreibung „scheinbare Braut“, mhd. strôbrût, für eine ledige Mutter verwendet.

Eine weitere Auslegung sieht den Ursprung in der Landwirtschaft des 16. bis 17. Jahrhunderts. Damals reisten Truppen von jungen Bauern durch das Land, die sich im Sommer auf großen Landgütern als Hilfsarbeiter verdingten. Oft halfen sie beim Sicheln des Korns. Die Frauen dieser Männer, die in den Heimatdörfern auf die Rückkehr ihrer Männer warteten, bezeichnete man landläufig als „Strohwitwen“.

From: Anatoly Liberman, Grass Widows and Straw Men

Nowadays a woman is called a grass widow whose husband had to leave home (for example, obliged to work far away from his family). Alternatively, she may be a divorced woman or a woman living apart from her husband (so in American English). Why grass? A definite answer does not exist, but a few things can be said with confidence. First of all, we have to get rid of folk etymology, according to which, grass in this phrase goes back to French grace, with the whole allegedly meaning “courtesy widow.” This etymology (one can find it in respectable old dictionaries and in letters to the editor) should be ignored because exact equivalents of Engl. grass widow exist in German, Dutch, and Danish, whereas the French idiom is veuve de paille, that is, “straw widow.” In English, the most recent sense (“a woman living away from her husband”) surfaced only in 1859 with reference to India. Hence the often-repeated conjecture that the first grass widows were the wives of servicemen: while the men sweated in the heat, the women waited for them on “greener pastures.” In older texts, none of which, however, predates 1528 (OED), grass widow had a much coarser meaning, namely “a woman who lost her virginity before the wedding” and “a deserted mistress.” (Compare the definition from a 1700 dictionary; repeated in 1725). “One that pretends to have been married, but never was, yet has children.”) In this context, many European languages use the word straw. So we have three riddles. Why straw, why the substitution of grass for straw in English (Engl. straw widow has never had any currency), and why the change from “deserted mistress” to “wife temporarily separated from her husband”?

As always, one finds some suggestions in Notes and Queries. This is what Thomas Ratcliffe wrote in 1884. He said that if a man had to work for months on end at a long distance from home and his wife’s conduct “was not circumspect enough,” she was said “to be ‘out at grass’; and when her behavior was such that her next-door neighbors could not any longer bear it, a besom, mop, or broom was put outside the front door, and reared against the house wall” (the spelling has been Americanized). Nothing is more venomous than the wrath of the virtuous. We will restrain our indignation but keep in mind the allusion to being “out at grass.”

Our most solid evidence comes from Germany, where Graswitwe “grass widow” competes with Strohwitwe “straw widow.” Strohwitwe surfaced only in 1715 and has the meaning of Engl. grass widow. As noted, the earliest English citation of grass widow has been traced to 1528, while in a German document addressed to pastors, straw brides (those who cohabited with a man before the wedding) are first mentioned in 1399. Since the word for straw bride is used casually, we can assume that everybody understood it. In most probability, Germany is the country where phrases like straw widow and straw bride originated. Other languages must have borrowed it from German. The brides who came to the altar after losing their virginity (and this is the situation discussed in the 1399 document) were made to wear a straw wreath. In some places, demeaning punishments were also extended to the men (“straw bridegrooms”) who dishonored their brides. But straw wreaths are secondary: the idea of putting them on the head of a sinner came from the notion of the straw widow.

Those who thought that straw (or a bed of straw) symbolized extramarital sex, as opposed to the family bed, were probably right. A meeting between two lovers in a meadow, “out at grass,” a secret tryst, whose witnesses are the sun, flowers, and a little bird that knows how to keep secrets, is described in one of the most famous 13th century German lyrics. It contains a triumphant monologue by a love-swept maiden. We are not told about the consequences of that rendezvous. A meadow is a place of pleasure. Reference to straw deprives the situation of all its charm. The “straw widow’s” path was from joy on the grass to intercourse on a bed of straw, the humiliation of wearing a straw wreath (a relatively happy end), but more often to lifelong ostracism, exile, and occasionally death by a member of the woman’s own family (a brother, for instance), as documents show.

The riddle of grass versus straw is not insoluble. In English dialects, straw was not too rare a synonym for grass, so that strawberry seems to have meant “grassberry, berries growing in the grass.” Regardless of whether this etymology is right, it provides a clue to the interchange between German Strohwitwe and Engl. grass widow. When English-speakers took over the German word (apparently, in the 16th century or some time earlier), they replaced straw with grass. There was no need to do so, for the noun straw would have served the purpose equally well. Perhaps the borrowing occurred in an area in which straw “grass” occurred with some regularity. Such details are beyond reconstruction. The rise of the word strawberry was also unnecessary. The most frequent name of this berry in the Germanic languages is like German Erdbeere “earth berry,” and its counterpart in Old English existed but yielded to the rare synonym that continues into the present.

Meaning can deteriorate or be ameliorated. As a rule, words meaning “girl; woman,” if they change, tend to acquire negative connotations, for example, from “the loved one,” “maiden,” or “lass” to “prostitute.” This is what happened to whore (that is, hore, for w was never pronounced in it, and the modern spelling, modeled on what, when, where, which, why, is absurd: compare German Hure), a cognate of Latin carus “dear.” But unexpectedly, grass widow went up rather than down: from “discarded mistress” to “woman living away from her husband.”

We should now throw a quick glance at straw man. In English books, it turned up at the end of the 16th century and designated “scarecrow.” The development from “scarecrow” to “a figure of straw; a sham substitute for a real man” poses no problems. It has been suggested that straw widow, in its German guise, derives from straw man, for German Strohmann also exists. According to this hypothesis, to the extent that a straw man is not a real man, a straw widow is not a real widow. But chronology militates against this idea: Strohwitwe precedes Strohmann by many centuries. In numerous rituals, human-looking figures made of straw were burned and thus substituted for real persons. French homme de paille “man of straw” may have served as a model for the Germanic word. It appears that straw man and grass widow (or even “straw widow”) have nothing to do with each other. This is fine. In our liberated times, grass widows are supposedly quite happy the way they are.

From a Blog:

A Question:

In contemporary English the phrase is used to refer to someone who's spouse (or "significant other") is temporarily away (traveling or whatever), leaving the person to whom the phrase refers home alone.

Is there any catchy French phrase that can be used in this sort of situation?

An Answer:

There's the idea of 'être sur la paille' - being abandoned or in a desperate situation.

Friday, February 11

A Bastard. Solitude. (Bologna at the end of the ’90s)

Life is a relatively stable thing. A piece of metal. A stab. The story I’m going to narrate today belongs to a past I can hardly recognize as mine. I should give an account of that. Bologna at the end of the ’90ies was already at its end. I used to think that it was only my fault if I couldn’t experience the city but it might have been the city itself to oppose resistance: already closing up like who has no more secrets: everything was on sale – double price, triple price. Every sale ultimately only sows inflation – without anyone ever noting the cost of those discounts. Bologna was clear on that: the rents were the higher – food was expensive – and life was affordable only for the students’ rich parents and professors. It was also affordable for those who were selling the city to the coming right wing major. That was the time. I had been able to cope with it living in a religious institution, which was not cheap and yet would be the best available solution for my parents who were covering the fees. It would allow holding down the expense and also my future escapes. After all a nuns’ boarding would hardly become home to anyone. Next step would have been coming back home. I did not “come back home” – it just made all harder for me to imagine a future on a new dry land. After three years of joyful studies and Christian college I made a step out on the city – going to live with a woman acquaintance in her forties – who was leading a double life between her commitment in a lesbian organization and her job as editor for a catholic publisher. Apparently her situation was not so different from mine, but with this “appearance” I believe any communality between us was over. The passage between the nuns and this “lesbian house” meant a passage from a convent to enclosed order life. I had a good friend and kept alive my important connections with Florence. My sentimental relation was ending with a diffused long pain and it potentially could mean breaking the threads of that web which joined Tuscany with the Emilia Romagna. During those years I had continued travelling and traversing l’Appennino almost every week – constantly “coming back home.” Those many trains were “home” – on which I read and studied so often. Home was Bologna’s train station and the surrounding streets. In those months I was over with my lessons and I would spend my days writing the final thesis – which in fact had nothing to do with what it was supposed to be. I was draining ink from my blood – and draining sweat from my breath in the free time. It was the time when my grandparents died. My grandmother suffered a lot – for several months – fighting with illusion and the black door. At first she didn’t know – at first she couldn’t know. My grandfather died one month after her – almost painlessly – and left my dad alone, in some sense. I interrupted my travels between Livorno and Bologna, pretending having home in the latter. Without arrivals and departures though, it was a famine of emotions. I was dying down as death was spreading where the trains wouldn’t bring me anymore. I saw my grandmother a few days before she would die. She cried looking at me – seeing the love I had been unable to show – the desperation I didn’t know. She couldn’t talk anymore. At the time my clothes were too big – any cloth would have been too big on me – the only elegance was disappearance. I had bought myself a jacket and some trousers on the big second hand market next to the train station and they were my only skin. They would protect me from life – they would carefully hide me. The story I mean to retell happened in those days. It didn’t lead to anything and yet, in a sole day – I’d have taken a short cut through life or so. I used to have a long walk almost every day to reach my favorite square, where I could sit and study under the arcades. My companies were mainly students and homeless asking for change. I happened to get acquainted with one of these guys. He was always alone, drunk, and talk nonsense – although there was also some intelligence emerging in a sentence every now and then. But it was alcohol mainly to talk. I cannot recollect which kind of conversations we might have – as he was never sober. But it was a rare conversation though, in the middle of nothing, a smelly disorder – into nothing. He would boast rubbish around throwing words the way he was peeing on his life. I would listen to his sexist lies for a while – trying to distinguish some truth from the glass. I met him a few times, since we shared the square – I had my books, he had his home. He was presumably some ten years older – badly consumed by red wine and the direct sky-light. Light becomes harder when you can never protect yourself from it. A hallucinatory pain. He offered me his home, that day: remain with him and sleep together. It was late in the afternoon and I had planned to see a theatric piece, a musical reading of Paul Celan. I invited him and even if he could hardly walk we went together to the theatre. At the box office neither did they want him, nor did they want him bringing his carton of wine or his little dog. He had both hidden under his jacket – but not hidden enough. After a long discussion in non-sense we entered that hall with dog and wine. As the piece began also his dog started barking and for a long while Celan’s poems were accompanied by wine’s gurgling down his throat and the barks. They tried to have him out – till eventually he left. I stayed until the end of a quite boring performance. I didn’t like that guy at all, or even cared for him. After the theatre I walked towards my square – since there was no other place either for me or my books. I wanted to sleep with him – presuming there might have been some warmth at the end of all. Some safety. The area was empty, he was not there. The steps where I used to read with daylight were alone in the dark. There must have been no moon. I went to my place and never talked to him again.

Friday, February 11

The saddest story of all... 

The saddest story of all has never been written. Certainly it was never read. It was about a porcupine – whose only joy was writing short but thorough stories for his beloved, the white rabbit. White rabbit had gone for a long journey around the clock and crumbs porcupine was waiting for him to come back. Everyday he would sit at his desk and imagine handful and colorful words to knot together into a narration. Every day the knot would be firm and strong was a day less to recount before white rabbit’s return. But that day, February the 11th, crumbs porcupine could not think of any story. A day without a story is not a day and this lack of fantasy would keep white rabbit away. Crumbs porcupine spent the day at his desk. Old memories would enter his narration and there was neither a beginning nor an end with them. Only a story could have cuddled his love to sleep, only a story could bring the day away. In fact, the secret of a story is joy: a drop of thought into the crystalline substance of desire. He criss-crossed his legs many times, drank many cups of tea and preened his needles for a very long while. He was trapped in the cage of the day. He stood up and cleaned the apartment. Then he went for a walk. Only sadness coming from afar filled his mind and he could not focus on the wonder of white rabbit’s return. Crumbs porcupine was endlessly sad because he couldn’t write any story for his beloved. He imagined writing a story about a very sad porcupine, who wouldn’t find any story for his beloved – that would certainly be the saddest story of the world.

Saturday, February 12

The happiest story 

One morning the white tigerrabbit woke up and the sun had filled up the snow. He stretched, his paws and his big strong arms. He was thinking of his beloved porcupine and kissing him in his mind over the ocean. Although the ocean was big, and white tigerrabbit had not seen his love for almost a week, he knew exactly where his love is and how long it takes to get to him, how he smells and how much he kisses him every day. So he was happy. He wanted to hold his porcupine in his arms more than anything, but he also knew a secret of time. According to this simple secret, he knew that the dialogue between him and his porcupine was all kisses.

First he made some very bad coffee because his mother did not have any good coffee and only coconut milk. Now coconut milk is supposed to be the best, but in coffee it is not so good after all. He had a million more things to write down, but he knew perfectly well that his love the porcupine had their secret happiness under the bed and it was only that he sometimes pretended not to see it to taste its sister deepest sadness. So, he decided to continue on to bed, as he was quite tired already and jump into porcupine's dream arms.

So, till soon.

Saturday, February 12

Morgengebet

Für Edmond Jabès

  

Die kürzeste Geschichte wurde von einem Liebhaber für seinen verreisten Geliebten geschrieben. Bevor dieser heimkam, war die schon vollendet worden.

 

[Den 5. Februar 2011 war der Beliebte verreist.]

 

Erste Meinung – 6. Februar (Sonntag)

Die längeste Geschichte wurde von einem Liebhaber für seinen verreisten Geliebten geschrieben. Als er heimkam, war diese noch nicht vollendet worden. Er mußte spät im Jahr nochmal zurückkehren.

 

Zweite Meinung – 7. Februar (Montag)

Als er ein zweites Mal zurükkehrte, war die Geschichte noch nicht am Ende. Obwohl er mit der Zeit sein Haus verlor, wurde die Geschichte nie vollendet. Deswegen ist die längste noch nicht geschrieben worden, daraus gibt’s Liebhaber.

 

Dritte Meinung – 8. Februar (Dienstag)

Nach langer Zeit, als der Beliebter heimkam, fand er eine sehr lange Geschichte um den Leib seines Liebhabers herum. Sie war die längste Geschichte, weil die dem, der sie geschrieben hatte, überlebte.

 

Vierte Meinung – 9. Februar (Mittwoch)

Die längste Geschichte wurde von einem Liebhaber, dessen Gelibter verreist war, angefangen worden. Er vollendete sie nicht. Seine Geliebter bat him darum, heimkommen zu dürfen. Aber es gab keine Ende für sie.

 

Fünfte Meinung – 10. Februar (Donnerstag)

Nur eine Person konnte in der langen Geschichte hineinblicken. Er bemerkte nur undechiffrierbare, tieriesche Stimmen. Er konnte nichts lesen.

 

Sechste Meinung – 11. Februar (Freitag)

Als jemand sich widmete, die längste Geschichte zu schreiben, war der schon stumm, blind und konnte nicht schreiben.

 

Siebente Meinung – 12. Februar (Samstag)

Niemand konnte die längste Geschichte lesen, nicht weil sie nie geschrieben worden sei, sondern weil niemand so viel Zeit haben kann, sie gänzlich zu lesen. Ansonsten gäbe es keine Geheimnisse.

 

Achte Meinung – 13. Februar (Sonntag)

Nur der, der die längste Geschichte geschrieben hat, könnte so viel Zeit haben, auch sie gänzlich zu lesen.

 

Neunte Meinung – 14. Februar (Montag)

Die längste Geschichte wurde von einem Liebhaber für seinen verreisten Geliebten geschrieben und danach auch laut gelesen. Damit meinte der Liebhaber die Entfernung genau messen zu können. Die längste Geschichte reichte dafür nicht aus. Er bemühte sich darum, eine noch längere Geschichte zu schreiben. Diese hat er noch nicht vollendet.

 

Zehnte Meinung – 15. Februar (Dienstag)

Würde auch die längste Geschichte vollendet worden, gäbe es immer eine längere, die man geschrieben könnte. Keine darunter wären lang genug.

 

Elfte Meinung – 16. Februar (Mittwoch)

Als die längste Geschichte fast vollendet worden war, gab es einen Liebhaber in der Nachbarschaft, der meinte die kürzeste gerade vollendet zu haben. Doch war seine viel länger als jene, die die längste sein sollte.

 

Erste Überlegung über die vorherigen Meinungen – 17. Februar (Donnerstag)

Dieser Nachbar hatte eine Geschichte für seinen verreisten Geliebten geschrieben. Die Geschichte war am Ende aber sein Geliebter war noch nicht da. Diese war eigentlich lang und langweilig.

 

Zweite Überlegung über die vorherigen Meinungen – 18. Februar (Freitag)

Er hatte gemeint, die kürzeste Geschichte zu schreiben. Doch war sein Geliebter noch nicht zu Hause zurückgekehrt.

 

Dritte Überlegung über die vorherigen Meinungen – 19. Februar (Samstag)

Nachdem er die Erfahrung seines Nachbars bedacht hatte, fing der Liebhaber an, eine Geschichte zu schreiben, die die längste aber auch vollendet gewesen sein sollte, bevor sein Geliebter heimkam.

 

Vierte Überlegung über die vorherigen Meinungen – 20. Februar (Sonntag)

Die war keine Geschichte. Aber wenn sie eine Geschichte wäre, wäre sie allerdings die kürzeste. Als der Geliebter zurückkehrte, war die Geschichte gerade am Ende.

 

Fünfte Überlegung über die vorherigen Meinungen – 21. Februar (Montag)

Der Geliebter las die Geschichte und bemerkte, dass sie ihm bekannt vorkam. Nichtsdestoweniger war er sehr glücklich und bat seinem Liebhaber darum, falls er wieder verreisen sollte, jeden Tag noch eine Geschichte zu bekommen.

 

[Den 22. Februar 2011 kam der Beliebte heim.]

 

Sunday, February 13

Chronos Jr.

Chronos Junior was the younger of Jupiter’s sons. Although he was a God and the most powerful, Jupiter didn’t know that the whiny baby on Saturn’s lap would be the last of his offspring. Certainly he would get grandchildren soon, but not anymore a son whom he could bring up as a proper God. He was moreover sorry because the newborn did not look like any other divinity and lacked in bravery and insight. His brothers could already talk fluently in Greek and Latin as soon as they were born, and their bodies exhibited clear muscles’ configurations. Chronos Jr. lay weeping all day long on Saturn’s lap. No one had heard him saying not even a word – so that the idea was spreading that the last of Jupiter’s sons was deaf, dumb and idiot. The Almighty God sat all day long on his throne and, despite never hearing such a murmur, had the same worry nested like a warm in his head. “What could be wrong with him? Could a God be such a disgraceful creature?” and moreover, “could the most powerful of the Gods give birth to such a shame?” He thought locked by himself in his rooms. At birth, Chronos weighed 6,17 lbs. Nowadays we would say that he was a premature baby and looked exactly like any other puppy of animal, not certainly like a divine elected one. As Jupiter was brought his son to see the day he was born, he did not say a word and thanked his subordinates for their remarkable service. That day uncanniness entered the divine palace. He never asked to see his newborn again. It would suffice to stroll along the corridor and from there hear the loud merciless screams. After a month the highest ranks asked permission to meet the king. They prayed him to be compassionate either with them or with the baby and give an end to the unreasonable and desperate situation – might it also be a tragic end. No one at palace could sleep anymore and thousands of candles would light up the realm at night as if the sun were gleaming. There was no rest, no pity – expressed the highest priests and the warriors to the Almighty God. Jupiter listened without ever interrupting the lament. “I have heard you and will take action” – was all what he said afterwards. For a month Jupiter had never slept. As soon as the highest ranks left the regal room his head began lolling down and he was almost to fall asleep – but the loud whining or only the echo in his memory wouldn’t stop, keeping him awake. As a matter of fact he had no strengths to take any action. The castle, the entire realm was suffering from insomnia – light on it sprang like a restless cry. And light was torturing him at night while wandering the corridors. “Why?” kept him awake like a doorbell – a lamp – a molest mind. Never the buzzing scream would cease. Who suffers from insomnia never stops lighting up candles also during the day – living in perennial infinity. The Almighty God turned and turned in his bed like thunder and lightning. He stood up at once and walked the long corridor. The cry was getting louder and louder. He stopped at the door where his child screamed and wept. He knocked at the door. Then he just sprang it open. The baby was there – as tiny and fragile as on the day of birth – with his mouth wild open, no teeth and the mad cry. “My son,” he said – “why do you cry?” Chronos Jr. replied: “I’m not crying – I’m calling and celebrating – today I was born and no one minds.” The king went to the window and opened the bars: “My people – today also we received a child and for the first time.” There was much sparkling of swords and shields. They thought Jupiter must be maddening and he was killed without any pity. There are two traditions of thought then. One believes that Chronos Jr. grew up into a strong man. He had a son to whom he gave name Jupiter Jr. This was as powerful as the grandfather had been – he gave birth to a son – whom he also named Chronos Jr. and the story repeated itself exactly like once had been. Also Jupiter Jr. was killed on the day he celebrated his son’s birth. But there is another tradition – which certainly rivals the more accredited myth. The day Jupiter entered his son’s room to have him stop crying and untimely celebrate his birth, a turmoil spread all around the city. It was actually a Feiertag. In that day it was established the end of the old realm and the birth of the new one. But there was not much of a difference between the two realms, nor were the higher ranks and the God himself deposed. They remained there like in a card game, although their power was suspended. King Jupiter brought lot of luck to anyone to come.

Monday, February 14

Between a Story and the Next 

INTERLUDE

_ Dad, why are never there women in your stories?
_ Because you’re my only little one, cutie.
_ Dad, I’m a boy!
_ Well, don’t make assumptions about my characters then.
_ Yes dad.

(Silence for a while)

_ Dad!
_ Yes cutie.
_ But why are never there women in your stories?

Monday, February 14

Saint Valentine’s Day

For Oscar Wilde

 

Valentine was a handsome tall man. He was in love with nature and could simply never deny or refuse. “I feel like a flower, I’m smiling to everybody” he would repeat so often.

But, despite that playing a big role in his candidature as a Saint, there’s one and a more important reason if, after his death, was then known as a Saint. And that is that he actually never became such. I mean, he was never sanctified by the church or any other institution. But not many know that.

The day Priest Frank and Sister Mark went to the Bishop were listened to for several hours. They retold – at the best of their knowledge – what they saw and had heard about their friend Valentine. As they left, the Bishop did not open the door for two days and two nights. When he finally exited his room he ate an entire roast chicken and half a cheesecake. Then he exclaimed: “Valentine cannot become a Saint.” And he was aware of having taken the right decision.

As soon as Sister Mark and Priest Frank were informed, they left the abbey and took the way to Rome. But the Pope at the time was staying in Ravenna, so they spent a month more than they had taken into account to eventually meet him. And that also was not easy.

In Ravenna they had to explain the reason of their visit at least ten times and each time to ecclesiastics of lower ranks, since the more they recounted their grounds, the less they appeared convincing to anyone.

At the end they were motivating their visit to the palace toilette’s cleaner – but their luck or faith made possible that just then, since also Popes are men like any other, Emilius XXXIV passed by to get to the restroom.

“Holy Majesty, imperial Pope, king on earth of the evenly domain!” they immediately addressed him with utmost reverence. The Pope said he had to poop and would be back soon.

Actually it took a while before he returned, but when he did, there was some satisfaction and relief on his face. “My dear, tell me what is the reason that brought you here” he said.

Sister Mark, whose faith was as strong and incorruptible as Francesco’s had been once, who would avoid walking through meadows out of her endless care for flowers and plants, humbly uttered the following words:

“Sir of the celestial realm, because you ask, I will answer: the need of peeing brought us here in these holy toilettes, but we could also much more easily have peed and even pooped in the land of Siena from which we came, had we not had such a strong desire of talking to you.”

“I appreciate your honesty and good will. Tell me without any ulterior hesitation then what all this desire is about” charitably replied Emilius XXXIV the Pope.

“We had a friend, illustrious Magnificence, whose name on the earth was Valentine. We believe he should be sanctified because of his heart, passion and generosity.”

The Pope invited them to follow him into his rooms, since he felt like whetting his appetite with some cookies – and that conversation could have nicely accompanied a cup of tea.

After five hours though – and it was dark by then – the three fellows were still talking having already consumed six black teas, one fennel tea and three jasmine teas. The cookies tray was still untouched.

As Priest Frank and Sister Mark stood up to leave, the Pope heartily thanked them for their visit and their story. At the door he invited them to drop by soon while – without doubts – any onlooker must have thought that they were old friends.

Priest Frank and Sister Mark were already back in Siena for two months when they received a letter with the Vatican seal. It had been personally written by the Pope, who couldn’t dare to dictate, not even to the most faithful servant, his thought.

To make it short, in the letter Emilius XXXIV manifested his distress and concern but ultimately couldn’t but deny the appointment of Valentine as Saint. He expressed his deepest sorrow and prayed his friends for understanding.

“Why is he telling us he’s pressing the deepest burrow?” commented Frank after the reading. “He meant ‘sorrow’, I’m sure, it must be a mistake” – corrected him Sister Mark – “he must have meant to express his sorrow.” “Are you sure it’s not a matter of borrowing something from someone?” insisted Priest Frank, who still secretly nourished some nonsensical hope. “No, dear, he’s just the Pope, he’s not used to write. He misspelled his thought and that’s all.” “But maybe he meant to say the opposite.” “I don’t think he misspelled that much. Have a good night Frank” concluded Sister Mark leaving his friend.

They spent the first night hours plunged in a similar sad solitude. Soon they both would feel the need of having a walk down the garden to chew over their turmoil and find some relief. Unexpectedly they met there turning the lemon bush.

“Hi Mark!” “Hi Frank!” “You also here?” “You also cannot sleep?”

They shared their distress and had a long conversation with rare words – as it is possible only when the big bug of pain is eating your eyes and blood. “Oh Darling!” “Yes my Dear!” They exchanged many filling, affectionate words. And they seemed to recognize each other for the first time.

They spent the last night hours and the joy of the first morning moments in a rich silence – spreading kisses and passion all over their bodies.

Some would call it love – some prefer not having it called in any way.

Valentine never became a Saint but everyone who believes he was one after all – feels like a Saint.

Tuesday, February 15

XYkyY and the Dratalgogneseiki Language

For Italo Calvino?

XYkyY was such a weird sort of guy: obsessive, thorough even in misspelling his own name, distracted as only the sky when the sun is in the other hemisphere. He wore thin metallic silver glasses whose two eyes would hang just on top of his thin aquiline nose. But above all this: he suffered from insomnia. When night came, he felt like having a foot on the other side of the world, or maybe a cheek – it dropped into the mattress as if it were a time machine. He couldn’t dream, because his sleep was walking on tiptoes in circles around the bed. He was lying there but was also extremely attentive – studying those steps. This dance would forbid him to sleep. If not his bed, certainly his nose threw a shadow on the sand around – so the sun of absence would project the time on the furniture. The closer shelf meant morning, early morning. The sofa reminded him of the late afternoon where the light could get collected, the wardrobe would be midday and midnight. He sat on his bed and studied this prehistoric instrument to measure time. He had seen some similar in the North of England and also in Welles. He was a meticulous scholar. A linguist. Tonight he lay in bed wondering how you say “I miss you” in Dratalgogneseiki. Since the moment he had pulled up the blanket and rested his head on the pillow this question had entered the brain like a fly in summer the open window. It was years ago last time he read some ancient texts in Dratalgogneseiki and since then he had never given a thought on the subject anymore. Yes, last time he met this remote language it was in the Summer 1988, more than twenty years ago, as he was camping with a group of Drattallikili archeologists. “Drutchukukiku?” He asked at the time. But he never got a satisfactory answer. Dratalgogneseiki was not a dead language – nonetheless no one would talk in it anymore – apart from XYkyY who really looked meaning it tonight. He lay down and, staring at the ceiling, would mumble some syllables to help his mind. “Drakark… Trukruyt… Frusrsrtu.” He couldn’t recollect. He had somewhere a 1657 first and last edition of a dictionary Dratalgogneseiki-English, English-Dratalgogneseiki – but who knows where, and he really did not feel like dusting heavy boxes down the mansard and wasting all his chances of falling asleep. As well known, insomniacs are really stingy with their sleeping time – not because they protect their sleep, rather they don’t want to give away their only chance to sleep. The fact that’s never a good chance only enforces their thriftiness. So no, it was out of the question to get up only to spend the following five hours looking for an old book he knew it would never be found anyway. A “lost and found” office in his house would have made good profits with such a client. He would come desperate only between three and four at night – that is: only after having been ultimately defeated – and would pled for some essential primal need, like in this instance the Dratalgogneseiki-English, English-Dratalgogneseiki Dictionary. But it was only two o’clock and there was still no reason to waste the following five hours to search for something he would never find. He had the word on the tip of his tongue… “Guggugigugy… No, no…” “I miss you… I miss you…” “How do you say that?” He mumbled aloud – but whispering – not to escape completely from sleep. Had he been too molest, he knew sleep would have kicked him out of bed. That indeed happened but only – timely – at four o’clock, when he climbed the stairs up the roof to download a few dusty boxes he had over there. There are men who get easily distracted – and there are others who are essentially distracted just because they have one fixed idea and don’t pay attention to any contingencies. At four o’clock XYkyY belonged to the latter sort of types. “I miss you… bloody hell! How do you say that?” After two hours – it was six by then – he carefully descended the stair. His long pajama’s sleeves and pants would bring him back to bed like they were the tracks of a train. He passed through the corridor hooting his “I miss you, I miss you, I miss you” and was in bed again. Obviously he couldn’t find the 1657 and only Edition of the Dratalgogneseiki-English, English-Dratalgogneseiki Dictionary. He thought for a while if he knew someone who could help him. The only professor with a good insight in the Discipline of Dratalgognesiks was probably sleeping now and it wouldn’t have been respectful to ring in the middle of the night to ask how you say “I miss you” in Dratalgogneseiki. Not even for a sec he considered if he had or didn’t have good reasons to mean having an answer right now to this simple question, whose solution though was escaping him. A scholar never values the ethics or morality of an intellectual need. And there is a reason for that. In fact what I just called “intellectual needs” are actually “desires” – and it’s part of desire not to need a reason for. He felt absolutely legitimated to call the professor right now – and then it was morning already – ask the birds that sing at six! – if he didn’t – it was only out of another repressed intention: the intention to sleep. Standing up again would have meant giving up with sleep also tonight. Therefore XYkyY spent another hour looking as hard as he could for that Dratalgogneseikic word which it was impossible to remember. At seven he stood up with the little balance he had. He needed another hour to find Professor Kukukurgo’s telephone number and then – at eight – it was already a more suitable time to disturb a professor. “Professor Kukukurgo?” “With whom may I have the pleasure to talk?” – Professor Kukukurgo replied with his usual kindness. “It’s me, XY,” XYkyY said, since that was his name for his friends “I’m sorry for calling at this early hour – but I really need to pose a question.” “My pleasure! Tell me dear.” “Would you tell me how to say I miss you in Dratalgogneseiki?” Professor Kukukurgo, man of great erudition and enthusiasm, let his cup of coffee fall on the floor and talked with a profusion of knowledge for the following two hours. So he began: “Oh what a happy coincidence! Just yesterday I was thinking about the Dratal-Ururupo-Languages and their developments between 1435 and 1437 – but not in Drainde, the capital, rather in the village of Kiuk, five minutes walking from Brungulla…” After one hour and fifty-nine minutes and fifty seconds, he concluded: “But I’m really sorry that right now it escapes me how you say I miss you in Dratalgogneseiki.” There was a silent gasp on the other side of the phone. XYkyY was a bit disappointed. And that was not all, since after two hours and one minute, Professor Kukukurgo added: “And by the way, how are you?” Other two hours went by – not because XYkyY would reply, rather because Professor Kukukurgo had an accent last week, falling from his shoes. To explain the dynamic of an accident can take some ten minutes, but giving a precise account of the dynamic of an accent clearly required some clarifications more. At midday XYkyY was sitting on the sofa, mumbling by himself: “But how do you say I miss you in Dratalgogneseiki?” He ate some leaves of salad and two olives. He drank another coffee and had a walk in the park – thinking not anymore about that word, rather about other possible helps he could get. He did not know anyone familiar with the language. He sat on a bench and noted down his thoughts of the day, which were quite monotonous since all of them referred to this “I miss you” in Dratalgogneseiki without, though, the real thing: the word. He came back home and had another coffee. It was already getting late. But XYkyY was not angry yet, since he hadn’t done much all day long but languishing for this word. Nonetheless he ate two beans and another leaf of salad. It was ten o’clock and he started getting ready for the going-to-bed-ritual. He took a bottle of water, a glass and some tissues. Sometimes one has to get up just because of a sneeze, and that was intolerable for him. It just underlines the poverty of the human condition. The bottle was full so that he had enough to drink for a long while. Who snores knows pretty well this problem. He was obviously still trying to remember that word. He switched off the light – it was eleven – and cuddled himself to sleep with his head resting on the pillow. Abruptly the telephone rang. He ran to get the cell-phone and it was his beloved calling from far away. “My love” he immediately cried. “It’s you!” He immediately added. “You have no idea, my love, how much… I want you here. I want to make love to you. I want your voice. I want you here. Where are you? My love! When are you coming back? My love! So much! So much! I miss you!” On the other side of the phone his beloved was smiling and just smiling – when he finally talked, he said: “My love! When did you learn Dratalgogneseiki?”

That night XYkyY slept happy like a puppy.

Wednesday, February 16

Call of Work

“L’Appel!” – Emmanuel Lévinas

“Der Be·ruf…” – Max Weber

He hated waking up early – there was nothing he detested more – moreover if the phone’s ringing was the cause of it. And if – once he had been torn away from his sleep – the reason of the call was work – that would fall on him like a life threat. He reached the telephone and looked for the number on the display – since it was not “anonymous call” which would have left some space for fantasy, rather the name of a colleague – he silenced the mobile and waited to listen to the message. There was no message. He waited a bit longer and was sure by then that no message had been left on the answer machine. He waited for a text-message but that also didn’t come. “What bloody do they want from me at…” he stretched to look for the time and saw that it was fifteen minutes to ten. Working time had begun a quarter an hour before. But he was not supposed to work today so he just forgot about it and tried to sleep again. Was he sure he was not supposed to work today? This kind of certainty is like the belief in God. He could only detect the signs and try to decipher them. Time was the strongest marker. If they didn’t call again – that meant that the reason of this harassment was a different one. One he could have dealt with better. He thought about dressing and having to run for a replacement. After all he could have coped even with that if only it were a spontaneous gesture: this would borrow a fine shade to the idea making it at least tolerable. Half an hour: it was sure by now that he was not supposed to be anywhere else but in his bed. The risk of having to run to work was still there but it wouldn’t have been a “must” anymore nor was he at fault in any way. Lying as he was on his bed, each second that passed brought him closer to the opportunity of sleeping longer. He was in this meanders of thoughts when his brain started talking like dreams. In this fraction of existence, while receding from touch with the most actual facts, one is prey of thinking, the most cruel. He had not answered the call silencing the inquisitorial ring but the ring in his brain was still ringing. One may well silence a call but it’s really sort of a superficial solution. A call also has got a body and that body had arrived to him, to his lying distressed body today. That body had detected and touched his own: how could he simply silence the ring now? Would that make him absent? Not less paradoxically then the man who replies: “Sorry I’m not here.” The only escape is pretending being answer machines. Having one wouldn’t be enough without the counterpart: the possibility of saying “I’m not here.” Never a paradox is a lie nor a lie is ever a paradox. But I don’t want to lose track of this narration’s events. Reality had assumed another physiognomy while he was plunging into the mattress. Minds would communicate through air, since the latter was as thick as bodies. A moment of panic grasped him. That spasm which drags you into a nightmare. His colleague was touching him with his plea while he would deny feeling it, seeing it, being there at all. He could feel his hand pressing on his arm saying “Hei!” and heard his own absurd words: “Sorry, I was not home, I didn’t hear the call.” He was denying being there, having ever been there, in front of blank staring eyes: “But you are here!” It was a lie, he was at guilt. And yet lies presuppose life – they presuppose another world and much fantasy. This kind of denial resembles much more the paradoxes of destruction. To whom may wonder what there is of paradoxical in destruction I content myself reminding that there’s no destruction where self-destruction not being involved. And it’s not a side-effect – it’s one of the two sides of it. Answer machines – technical reproduction in general – offered the most valuable teaching of the last century: the possibility of saying “I’m not here.” And this, in the most meaningful contexts. In the dream in which he was slowly falling asleep, this possibility was gone. There was the presence of a question facing him and no chance to escape from acknowledging having heard the call. He was there on his bed touched by a question addressing him. Yes, at least in his dream eventually he was there. Two hours later he woke up and sent a message to his colleague: “Please, no work calls before ten at least, thanks.”

Thursday, February 17

Love Teacher Architect (German English Space)

It was early afternoon when he returned home. He lived on the fourth floor of a relatively new building – not so new to have the small windows still working, nor old enough to have good, wide working windows. Neither did it look modern, if you understand with it some plastic construction refined with black glass, nor was whatsoever similar to a house meant to last. It puffed up during one of those time folds, when you have to save your poverty somehow somewhere. This building was one of those “where.” He climbed the fourth floor and stopped on the threshold with the key in his hand. The door looked pale grey, it had always been grey, nothing new about that, but this tonality made it look different from the lightness it previously seemed to have. He was tired after many hours of work and a long journey to the airport. He turned the key and entered the short corridor. Paleness disappeared into the dark space. He automatically took off his shoes and the jacket, he deposed gloves and hut on a stool nearby. He stood in the hall for a few moments. It was dark, yes, it was dark. Downstairs the sun had still some meters to walk downhill. Such obscurity was not justified. It’s still day – he thought. But you never know when the card is turned face-to-table. It was dark in the kitchen. Even darker in the other rooms. He needed some plants to bring the colors of time inside. He needed some colors.

He sat and thought about the house of love. There are no walls there and one is rid of those spasms which make the heart beat. Men, like hearts, grasp tight each time they relent and then they release again and contract again. It seems that such a rhythm is inscribed in the human nature – in breath – in blood circulation – in the intercourse. It seems we never get rid of the newborn bird’s spasm in the nest. Never get rid of this hand keeping the heart tight home. Walls though bring obscurity and fear. There are more and more corners and thresholds the more one builds fortresses. The bed lies in the safest spot – and at night one must nonetheless hear the uncanniness of the bathroom’s dropping sink. As he sat – he dreamed of the house of love. There were no hunters there, because there were no preys. Fear would be a ridiculous emotion dissipated like a cloud on a dance in the terrace facing the sea. Past and future are but other contractions and they would never be there to find, not at least in their dialogical, corrosive bite. There wouldn’t be a sole snake daring entering the labyrinthine strata of passion digging holes of memories – since there wouldn’t be passion. And future wouldn’t move its ankles like a butterfly-man whose mouth traces (you don’t know) either a laugh or a cry. Because the house of love doesn’t have walls and past and future are but eternally present smiles of the same moment. Intimacy has there only a chamber – where mosaics reflect and expand the joy of the world on cut open breasts and legs. There would only be you there – your strength and eyes – with you myriads of times and rights – people of love, things to do, friends and desires. That would only be you. He was sitting and looking around where his shoes lay on the floor like so many footprints in the darkness. He switched the light on and the opaque artificial light entered through color paper. Here he had tried to imprison his love – between the bars of those dying plants on the windowsill. Here he had heard the princess screaming of his and his own spasms – of pain and joy. The house of love though is not a cage – because the dweller you is infinite as infinite is the house. He looked around and he knew there was a much bigger house beyond those four walls and thousands of corners, from the fridge to the desk, there was a home whose walls got beyond the dark-grey switching off sky. The clouds were stools and the stars flowers. He had so much pain inside for the handcuffs on the corridor’s wall – so similar to an armory. Which kind of torture had he experimented every morning anew to try to keep his heart beating, the lungs breathing in and blood running restless? And his love in. Why did his brain seemed made of the four walls of the day, where each hour must be either an escape or a proof? His hand lay down and could not stand up. He was passing through the evening without moving from the trap he himself had built. He was forgiven – because who lives in the house of love will always forgive – but how could he forgive himself to these smallest details? The latter are often harder than approximation. The house of love walls are made of trust – it’s a material that’s hardly used pure for constructions – but there’s no construction without some of it. If one concentrate only on the presence of trust seeds – deposing the city plan to a love x-ray – a miniature will appear – much similar to the starry sky. And there’s no other reason than that – if a city exists – despite all those erroneous beliefs and wars on gas, gold and coal. Buildings stay up despite all the concrete in them – for a sort of heliotropism, I read once. A poet described the western city par excellence with these words: “Ruins or Sunshine, it was a City that held itself high like a Snake to the Sound of a Flute.” It’s easy to say ‘concrete’ – but it wouldn’t be concrete without this trust seed in it. Well, the walls of the house of love – if there are – are made only of trust – and that’s why they say there are no walls in the house of love. He sat and wondered why he thought of minutes as stitches on his skin. Time made to be freed and free – he had made of it a web of signs on his own skin. His texture of words – was it meant to catch his only love in some pretext, some excuse once more, bringing him away from the house meant to – you. Every sense and sentence seemed enmeshed in piracy. A bad shade fell on the lullabies and pet names he attempted at murmuring to his love – all his stories – if only they were lies! – no – just misery traced as verses. Monkey’s cries! And his tight, never tight enough embraces? Were they not another attempt at kidnapping his love from flight – bringing him in – in – immer more, in the interior, into the Innerlichkeit – of these four dusty rooms? Hands made to touch. Hands made to touch! He sat and cried. Handsmade to touch – unable – now – stupid protuberance to tickle the guitar, at best. He had led the princess into the cubby-hole; for safety reasons – like the U.S. government talks of security of the nation. All this to happen was tolerated in the great house of love. After all – those stark thick walls lay stable beyond the mean fridge-sink perspective of things. He got to the window and stood there some minutes longer – thinking about how much he was loved and how much love was raining down, falling and rising above the meadows. There was never a beginning and ever an end. It was there – ‘it had been there’ one may one day say – but that will always be a reason of love and trust. Is that what I see in the child walking by? In the friend and you?

I’m coming home my love – he mumbled staying by the window (you’ll come back soon)

Friday, February 18

The day I became a woman

The day I became a woman, I was a cat at the time. I wore long, beautiful moustache and such a fur from ears to tail! My prints on the snow would look like edelweiss: there would be people in love with me and terrified mice – about whom I’ve heard talking – but never seen one – so much they were terrified. My claws scratched even diamonds – oh – on my eyes star dust! A regiment of mixed animals – who could stand on their two posterior legs – came to me that dull day with the aim of teaching me what I should have already learned by now – they said – although it seemed to them that I hadn’t yet. And – as far as I understood – that was a problem. It was time – they said – I learned to walk erect showing up my boobs and some dignity at once. Exactly – they said – like it befits any woman – since I was one. The latter point stirred so much my curiosity that I immediately asked what was this thing they said: woman. No one expected my question. They started pointing each other and myself out, repeating “woman, woman, it’s a woman, woman…” but, apart from this extensive demonstration, they seemed poor in contents. I’m not pretending being a philosopher, and there was no attempt on my side to discover the essence of woman: I just wanted an idea of what was this woman I was. It seemed a reasonable question on my part, wasn’t it? They also felt compelled to show their erudition in this quite banal (but important!) theme and in all honesty I can say that they did the best they could. That is, they sat with me and got ready for a serious, loving conversation. My point was quite simple and clear: if I were a woman (as they said) why did they tell me that I was not like one? Cats might not be so subtle as these two-legs animals, but not so fool not to see that a fish cannot not be a fish. As easy as that. So, if I were a woman I couldn’t not be a woman at the same time, quite clear, isn’t it? But you see – that’s what happens with this bunch of two-legs animals every time. You talk and talk abstractly about being or not being and the possibilities of being and you never get to the thing. What was I or was I not or should or needed not… But who cares! What was this thing woman?! This I wanted to know. A member of the group kindly proposed: “Why don’t we go to eat something all together and continue this conversation in a more relaxed atmosphere?” Fine. That was fine with me. It was fine also with everybody else. Actually I was getting hungry and already quite tired of so much nonsense. At least I could eat something now. I climbed on the chair and licked my moustache. In front of me lay a giant tuna-salad whose smell filled the entire room! “Here you go, it’s for you!” “Thanks” I replied and now they could talk about whatever pleased them – I was fine, so fine! “Slurp slurp!” “Darling,” one two-legs said “you see – you are not supposed to eat like that.” I almost choked. I wanted to rebuke that they had invited me out. But it wouldn’t have been polite, since they had invited me, and so I apologized spitting out the tuna in my mouth. “I thought it was for me. I’m really sorry.” “Certainly my dear! Of course it’s for you! Eat, eat darling!” I looked up with some perplexity. The two-legs continued: “I only meant to tell you that that’s not the way a woman eats. But eat, darling, eat!” Of course I wanted to eat, such psycho! But how was I supposed to eat now? I looked at the plate and swallowed my saliva. “A woman wouldn’t eat with his face on the plate. He would use forks or sticks – that depends on the region, the provenience, the house or restaurant where he’s eating and also on what he is eating” – he explained in detail and then, out of his kindness, added: “Well, it also depends on what you have at your disposal – that makes everything easier! – if you see a fork, you use the fork, if you see sticks, then you use sticks” and smiled with complicity as if, telling that, he were cheating. I don’t know. That looked complicated, with or without cheating. I looked around me and this bunch of two-legs were actually all eating under some form of constriction and pain. They used their arms as if they couldn’t stretch, their chewing was so silent that it seemed that not them but cows on a meadow afar were eating grass. On top of all – I noticed only now – they would look down and – somehow – smile up. There was something contorted about all that. And almost my appetite went away. There was simply too much to think about. I valued that it was a topic moment for a compromise, so I said: “Yes, I understand something more now, I also see that there’s much to learn and I’ll work on that. I’m hungry now” and I jumped with face and paws on the appetizing pieces of tuna. The two-legs were clearly disappointed but could see that learning takes time and appreciate at least a good will. It didn’t take longer than three minutes for the tuna-bites to disappear. Meanwhile some two-legs were arguing that it’s not so difficult really, it’s natural.” Many liked the last observation which would make all easier – and that cat (a woman, they meant) all the more stupid. Of course no one would have said that aloud – not even among themselves – but it was pretty clear that they were facing the typical “problem guy” situation (a woman, they meant). And then, how to teach what’s natural? Obviously the only way is giving the good example and that poor cat (a woman, they meant) must have had a difficult childhood – certainly was rejected, maybe even abandoned in a bin. All these unexpressed thoughts brought some heaviness on the lunch-sharing. No one was talking anymore, only salad chewing (from far away cows on a meadow far away) was still to be heard and I was getting bored, tired and also a bit lunatic. “My dear” – one of the two-legs interrupted the silence: “would you like to live in a warm house with a pretty room only for yourself where there are many games and lot of love?” I looked up suspiciously: “Do you mean there are other cats?” I asked. “Well, darling, not now – but with the time I might get you a cat.” – “Are there mice?” The two legs didn’t like the question, since he had hoped to express all his generosity in front of the company and show how many “yes” he could say all in a row – and yet he had to say another no. Irritated by this and irritated by the question he burst up: “No, of course not! There are not and there will never be mice in my apartment!” At least on this point he got the appreciation of the other two-legs; of course no mice in an apartment! The case was a difficult one in any respect. “I don’t want to live with you” finally I commented since it didn’t sound interesting whatsoever, quite the opposite and I had also realized now that I would have to live with one of those two-legs that were repeating to be each a woman and that I also was one. No, it didn’t look fun. Not at all. It was time to leave. I jumped down from the chair and stretched my paws. “But! Darling… you didn’t eat your salad, the tomatoes, all those delicious olives…!” I turned then and asked: “Are there women who like tuna?” “Oh yes, certainly there are” they replied. “Well, I’m one of them” I answered, since, I thought, there wouldn’t be anything else they could understand. Then I left mumbling by myself: “Whatever woman is, I hope never to meet one.”

Satuday, February 19

Ten Minutes Flight

Ten minutes to midnight. It’s the time when cleaners go to the window to see if the pumpkin coach lands on the meadow downstairs. The time when worms hide because of the high-heel shoes’ rain. Frogs disappear, those who do not want to become princesses. And whales preemptively start burping – just in case. Ten minutes to reach the bunker or meet eternal luck! Each of those minutes weighs as candle light – or plumb. It runs away as fast as blood into the veins. I was looking for my dress in distress. Where could it be? Where was it last time? I run through the rooms of the castle while time drops on my hands like spring rain. My heart thuds as fast as my fingers leaf through the cloths hanging in the wardrobe. My beautiful velvet skirt – where is that? Oh – I’ve been tripping over my braces for days and now that I need them – I cannot find anything! It’s already five to midnight and I’m still naked in front of the avocado plant, looking for a shirt in the closet. Tyrannical time! I wonder what will be happening when midnight strikes. If that was an appointment I could miss it – but I’ve none – that’s why I must absolutely be ready. It wouldn’t be fair – to arrive late for hope. Can I? Three minutes – only three minutes to midnight. I’m barefoot in front of ten pairs of shoes. On top of the table I deposed several socks of many different colors. I should at least match socks and shoes. I run to the window to see if the pumpkin coach is descending – but I see only a deep purple sky. Stars gleam here and there painting a trace. Oh my Love! I must get ready. Two minutes, only two minutes to midnight. I run in front of the mirror and brash my two teeth. I clean my face with cold water and comb my hair so-so. One minute. I’ve got only one minute. I’m still naked in the middle of the bedroom looking for my dress under the pillows, even under the bed. Too late. It’s midnight. I glance at the window and there’s neither sparkling light nor the giant, ripe pumpkin, let alone the prince. I hug my blue frog puppet hiding my sorrow in a tear. When the tear touches its big mouth, the frog talks to me and says: “My lovely silly one, it’s ten minutes I’m looking at you. Haven’t you learned to put things away yet? Look on the second drawer, under the books and you’ll find shirt, skirt, socks, braces and even shoes.” I look at my frog puppet with fright, it’s talking! “I would suggest you don’t wear any of those though.” The puppet’s shape is changing in the middle of a blue stain. “You have been hugging this puppet every night” he tells to me. I can see it’s not a puppet anymore rather a real giant blue frog: “why did you suppose I would come with a coach driven by horses then, you silly one?” Only now I recognized my love. “And then, monkey! Haven’t you learned yet how fast I am?! Maybe a pumpkin coach would have arrived at midnight!”

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