|Jorge Luís Borges|
My little essay on not knowing where I belong is followed by a poem by Jorge Luís Borges (In English and in Spanish) where he delves into something which may be very Argentine. He persists in writing about experiences he will never ever have again except through a fading memory. He once stated that to remember one must first forget.
I have friends who have lived were they were born to this day. Rarely do I feel sorry for them. It is sort of like the definition of a genius like Edison, who knew what he wanted to be from a young age.
In my case there is the conflict of coming from a family that travelled and lived in many countries.
My father while born in Buenos Aires had parents from Manchester who moved to Argentina in 1901. My mother was born in Manila but her father was Basque and her mother from Spain.
In 1954 my mother, grandmother and I moved to Mexico City. While there we lived in the Distrito Federal, Veracruz and Nueva Rosita in the State of Coahuila. Because my grandmother was the defacto cultural attaché of the Philippine Embasy (in 1954 it was a ministry) we lived in a large house where she entertained. It was there that I met Rufino Tamayo, Alma Reed, Diego Rivera and Dr. Atl.
When my mother and grandmother talked and wanted to be private in my presence they spoke in Tagalog. I somehow learned a lot of it.
The Minister of the Philippine Ministry, Narciso Ramos developed a liking for me. It was through him that I met his handsome young son Fidel wearing a West Point uniform. And that is how I met Fidel Ramos, a good president of the Philippines who died a couple of days ago. His sister Leticia Valdez Ramos-Shahani, who became a Philippine senator, spent 6 months with us in the late 50s in Mexico City. It was with her that I went to see Grace Kelley’s last film, The Swan.
My formative years in high school, I spent in a Catholic boarding school in Texas. It was a life in what then was a liberal city. My only lay teacher, Mr. Marshall taught me American Civics in detail and Brother Francis Barrett took us to a deep exploration of American history.
When I returned to Buenos Aires in 1965 to do my military service in the Argentine Navy, I was exposed (very important) to the music of Astor Piazzolla.
When I married my Canadian wife Rosemary Healey in Mexico City in 1968 I found out about Canada and a man called Pierre Trudeau.
By now you may understand my feeling or lack of feeling of where I belong. I have nostalgia for all those countries and cities.
The strongest is when I listen to the music of Astor Piazzolla. I argue that his music, unlike any other music anywhere else, is the music of one city – Buenos Aires. When I listen to his Oblivion I am instantly translated to three Buenos Aires. The first one about a lovely women I fell in love with in there in 1965. The second the Buenos Aires of my many returns beginning in 1987. The third one is of going to Buenos Aires three times with my Rosemary. And there is another one that I have not quite figured out. This was my visit to Buenos Aires this past December 2021 without my Rosemary.
Now that I live alone in my Kits duplex with my two cats
Niño and Niña ( I converse in Argentine Spanish with them) I find that I am
constantly reading or referencing Jorge Luís Borges and Julio Cortázar. I have a very large library of their output
in Spanish. When I read Borges, Cortázar or Martín Fierro I have this melancholic feeling of isolation that cannot discuss it with anybody. It is then that I plant in perhaps visiting Buenos Aires soon.
My American side took me to the Vancouver Public Library
where I took out and read one of the best autobiographies I have ever read,
Ulysses S. Grant’s Memoirs. I enjoy Newyorican Jerome Charyn. He is my friend.
Of Canadian literature I have enjoyed Margaret Atwood, Pierre Berton, our Vancouver Poets Laureates, George Bowering , our Canadian Poet Laureate and currently I am enjoying Malcolm Lowry’s October Ferry to Gabriola.
What am I?
1964 – Love Poem- by Jorge Luis Borges
The world has lost its magic. They have left you.
You no longer share the clear moon
nor the slow gardens. Now there is
no moon that isn’t a mirror to the past,
Solitary crystal, anguished sun.
Goodbye to the mutual hands and the temples
that brought love closer. Today all you have
is the faithful memory and the deserted days.
Nobody loses (you repeat vainly)
Except what they don’t have
and never had, but it is not enough to be valiant
For to learn the art of forgetting
a symbol, a rose, rips you apart
and a guitar can kill you.
I will no longer be happy. Maybe it doesn’t matter.
there are many other things in the world;
any moment is more profound and
diverse than the sea. Life is short
and though hours are very long,
a dark delight lies in wait for us
Death, that other sea, the other arrow
come to free us from the sun and the moon
and the love. the joy you gave me
and took away must be crossed out;
that which was everything has to be nothing.
All I have left to enjoy is sadness,
that vain habit that brings me
South, to a certain door, to a certain corner.
Ya no es mágico el mundo. Te han dejado.
Ya no compartirás la clara luna
ni los lentos jardines. Ya no hay una
luna que no sea espejo del pasado,
cristal de soledad, sol de agonías.
Adiós las mutuas manos y las sienes
que acercaba el amor. Hoy sólo tienes
la fiel memoria y los desiertos días.
Nadie pierde (repites vanamente)
sino lo que no tiene y no ha tenido
nunca, pero no basta ser valiente
para aprender el arte del olvido.
Un símbolo, una rosa, te desgarra
y te puede matar una guitarra.
Ya no seré feliz. Tal vez no importa.
Hay tantas otras cosas en el mundo;
un instante cualquiera es más profundo
y diverso que el mar. La vida es corta
y aunque las horas son tan largas, una
oscura maravilla nos acecha,
la muerte, ese otro mar, esa otra flecha
que nos libra del sol y de la luna
y del amor. La dicha que me diste
y me quitaste debe ser borrada;
lo que era todo tiene que ser nada.
Sólo que me queda el goce de estar triste,
esa vana costumbre que me inclina
al Sur, a cierta puerta, a cierta esquina.