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Duende

Written by Raymond Santos Estrella on Saturday, 21 August 2004. Posted in 2004

It happens when I’m tired of being a man.
It happens that I go into the tailor’s shop and the movies
all shrivelled up, impenetrable, like a felt swan
navigating on a water of origin and ash.

The smell of barber shops makes me sob out loud.
I want nothing but the repose either of stones or of wool,
I want to see no more establishments, no more gardens,
nor merchandise, nor glasses, nor elevators.

It happens that I am tired of my feet and my nails
and my hair and my shadow.
It happens that I am tired of being a man.

Just the same it would be delicious
to scare a notary with a cut lily
or knock a nun stone dead with a blow of an ear.
It would be beautiful
to go through the streets with a green knife
shouting until I died of cold.

I do not want to go on being a root in the dark,
hesitating, stretching out, shivering with dreams,
downwards, in the wet tripe of the earth,
soaking it up and thinking, eating every day.

I do not want to be the inheritor of so many misfortunes.
I do not want to continue as a root and as a tomb,
as a solitary tunnel, as a celler full of corpses,
stiff with cold, dying with pain.

For this reason Monday burns like oil
at the sight of me arriving with my jail-face,
and it howles in passing like a wounded wheel,
and its footsteps towards nightfall are filled with hot blood.

And it shoves me along to certain corners, to certain damp houses,
to hospitals where bones come out of the windows,
to certain cobblers’ shops smelling of vinegar,
to streets horrendous as crevices.

There are birds the color of sulphur, and horrible intestines
hanging from the doors of the houses which I hate,
there are forgotten sets of teeth in the coffee pot,
there are mirrors
which should have wept with shame and horror,
there are umbrellas all over the place, and poisons, and navels.

I stride along with calm, with eyes, with shoes,
with fury, with forgetfulness,
I pass, I cross offices and stores full of orthopedic appliances,
and courtyards hung with clothes on wires,
underpants, towels and shirts which weep
slow dirty tears.

—Pablo Neruda, Walking Around [translated by W.S. Merwin]

The word duende was used by Federico García Lorca to describe the peculiar kind of poetry written by poets such as himself and Pablo Neruda. That school of writing is characterized by a fiery Spanish romanticism… but with an undercurrent of darkness and desperation. Duende is an elusive concept, but roughly translated, it means “the awareness of death.” Lorca believed that in order for art to be great, it has to convey a constant awareness of death—the knowledge that every act and every thought is, to some extent, finite.

* * * * *

The midterms are finally over!

Sleepy… Tired… Resting…

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About the Author

Raymond

Raymond Santos Estrella

I guess I should really make a proper writeup here. Something witty or maybe a joke to add some levity. I’ll come back to this when I have time. If you have any suggested copy that I can insert here, drop me a line.

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