It is the last day of the millennium in Buenos Aires --
another journey after a long absence, lunch
by the river with the childhood friend, Plaza Mayo
with signs demanding justice, café La Biela
where the breeze greets us as we sit by the window across
from the cemetery for rich folks, and the uncertainty returns:
Why don’t I live here?
Why do I travel?
* * *
Llueven gatos y perros en NY dice el taxista
con turbante que corre por la Park Avenue
sobre el asfalto mojado. En NY todo me parece industrial,
gris y moderno, como el cielo nublado
de esta tarde de abril en Soho. En NY
la gente linda, joven y elástica se mezcla con los turistas
en zapatillas blancas sacando fotos a todo y a todos.
La gente linda, joven y elástica vestida de negro de pies
a cabeza camina rápido, me atropella. En NY
las calles humean en blanco. El tedio me cubre,
me llena el alma aburrida ya de las grandes ciudades.
Añoro el campo o el mar, la playa, el pueblo.
Añoro el silencio interrumpido por el viento o
un cuervo volando bajito. In NY smells of falafel
and hummus mix with blaring horns
and sirens. “August is Anal Sex Month in NY” reads an ad
in the Village Voice. In Harper’s I read a letter found
with the bodies of two dead
young men from Africa:
Yaguine Koita, 14 yrs. old,
Fode Tourakana, 15 yrs. old.
Two boys found in the cargo hold
of an airplane, in Brussels.
The letter asks the citizens of Europe
to help Africa. The boys wanted to
study, to become like us they say.
How is this possible? I ask.
Why not? You say.
I can and
cannot believe it.
New York is always trashy,
I want to be like the New Yorkers,
the frenzied intellectuals,
the funky-dressed women,
the pierced artists.
A thickset woman lowers her pants against
the wall in Brooklyn. I can see her naked buttocks.
After she’s done, she struggles to pull them up,
moaning. People steer away
from her, afraid to catch her disease.
* * *
The mistral blows in Provence. I sip coffee at
Van Gogh’s Sanatorium’s Garden, the pansies of all colors:
yellow, purple, white, red, the cypresses: I stand among them and imagine him
– the yellows and purples weaker in real life,
not like his, intense, brawny, almost startling. He
was right about the light here. Did Vincent
sit here too and drink? Certainly he painted.
After climbing the steps to Bonnieux, we sit overlooking the village
under a cool shade, awed by the gothic beauty
of these perched villages, the stonewalls,
the church steeple bathed in sunlight.
Do we go places to tell our friends
we’ve been there? To tell ourselves? To keep a list?
True beauty is
in the quotidian, in the small stuff.
The constant motion frightens me,
a reflex reaction from centuries of displacement
and migration, of diaspora,
lived entirely in one day.
It is very warm in St. Tropez and Brigitte Bardot is nowhere to be found.
We sit across from the Casino Monte-Carlo
hoping to see the “rich and famous”
but all we see are Americans with cameras.
* * *
Serene but for the squawking birds
sleep eludes me in Tampere.
This room boasts of windows, of sun and trees, too radiant
in this midsummer night.
The never ending light disorients me.
I have narratives I say: Let me tell you a story.
While I stroll Tampere streets or sip a cup of coffee
fragments of Cortazar’s stories materialize,
Borges’s people appear when I look out
the window. And I’m back –
in Buenos Aires -- its energy, its night life, its contradictions.
Borges said he didn’t believe the city was founded;
he believed it always existed. You
never really leave Buenos Aries, it lives with you forever,
said another writer.
It lives in me, has lived
despite the years and the distances. And now
I try to imagine my life as if I had never left it.
I paint scenarios.
I have no clear answers yet.