There is a quote on the first page of Roland Barthes’s
Camera Lucida that is in my mind frequently when I look at my portraits or
those of others. And of late, when I look at my cats Niño and Niña that quote is there. They stare at me constantly. I can see in their eyes that they stared at Rosemary also. And I often wonder, "Do they remember her?"
|Niño & Niña|
|Niña & Niño|
One day, quite some time ago, I happened on a photograph of
Napoleon’s youngest brother, Jerome, taken in 1852. And I realized then, with
an amazement I have not been able to lessen since: “I am looking at eyes that
looked at the Emperor.” Roland Barthes
While I do not believe in ghosts I do sense something that I called an absent presence. I can feel Rosemary near when I walk Niño every day (weather permitting) around the block taking the same route Rosemary did. I can almost hear her say, “Alex, don’t shout at him and be patient if he lingers in a garden.”
When I read poetry I also think of Rosemary. One of my favourite ghost poems is one by my Mexican novelist and poet friend Homero Aridjis. Here it is below in English and in Spanish:
Recommendations for a Ghostly Existence
When you walk on the street, don't kiss your loved one,
besides not seeing you, you might scare her.
When you are run over by a car in traffic,
don't worry, it will have driven over air.
In a room with a nude young woman, don't be anxious,
your desire will be the beating of an empty heart.
If at daybreak the cat is staring at you, don't pet her,
her flashing eyes are seeing nothing.
If your dog crosses you without knowing that you are there, you don't
It will have seen a ghost calling it from the other side of the light.
Recomendaciones para la vida fantasmal
Cuando vayas por la calle, no beses a tu amada,
porque además de no verte, la puedes espantar.
Cuando en el tráfico un coche te atropelle,
no te preocupes, habrá aplastado aire.
En el cuarto con una joven desnuda, no te inquietes,
tu deseo será un pálpito en un saco vacío.
Si al amanecer la gata está mirándote, no la acaricies,
sus ojos fulgurantes estará viendo nada.
Si tu perro te atraviesa sin saber que estás allí, no te
habrá visto a un fantasma llamándolo desde el otro lado
de la luz.
Los poemas Solares, Homero Aridjis, Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2005 Mexico
Argentine poet Alejandra Pizarnik manages to say it all in one sentence:
Noche ciegamente mía. Sueño del cuerpo transparente como un árbol de vidrio.
Horror de buscar tus ojos en el espacio lleno de gritos del poema.
A night, blindly mine. I dream of the transparent body like a glass tree.
The horror to look for your eyes in a space full of the poem’s shouts. (my translation)
All the above is to explain why today 4 March 2023 I decided to make myself a Yorkshire Pudding. Rosemary did not really like to cook so I did most of it for our 52 years together. But she had two specialties, she baked good pies and her Yorkshire Pudding was legendary with our family. A nice touch was that Rosemary’s recipe was out of my mother’s 1953 edition of Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker’s The Joy of Cooking.
I had the Yorkshire Pudding today because I live, when I am awake, a sentence from St. Luke’s Gospel where he quotes Christ (parting the bread at the Last Supper):
And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
Only in my oblivion will I ever forget her.