Enrique García-Máiquez, the poet friend from El Puerto de Santa María, Cádiz, has sent me with a generous dedication his latest collection of poems, titled For better or worse. The 95-page volume, published by Rialp publishing house, is number 671 of the prestigious Adonáis collection, which constitutes a true monument of poetic creation in Spanish.
This little book of poems, after nine years of poetic silence by the author, is full of light, good humor, supernatural faith and impressive literary erudition. Each verse is the echo of thousands of verses that the author has read and that probably only the very expert will be able to discover.
In my first reading three poems touched me in particular, perhaps because I discovered in them a peculiar tuning of our hearts. The first one entitled Pushing tells us about our dead. I copy it in its entirety because the same thing happens to me; it is enough for me to change the proper names (p. 26):
You, the dead I have lived with
and those I continue to love every day,
how close you are - grandparents, my mother,
Aunt Lola, Ana... -talking to me in my ear.
Today it is my children who have lost you
and I miss something in their joy,
even if they are not yet in charge
or ever, forgotten of their oblivion.
I often talk to them about you,
I imitate your gestures consciously
and I push you to the present.
I try to jump over an abyss,
and on either shore I am myself
and the vertigo of seeing that there is no bridge.
That's right, as we grow older our dead are more and more alive in us and we talk about them to young people, and even imitate their gestures.
Our poor life and our fragile memory are already the only bridges. And in this same section on death, entitled with faith See you soonI was moved to tears by the very brief Epitaph to a young motherdedicated to Cristina Moreno, which I transcribe here:
Nay, let not the earth in which you lie be light to you
nor calm. You are not used to it.
May they rumble more and more firmly upon it each day
the footsteps of your children and the sound of their laughter.
I am looking for in Wikipedia and reminds me that the Latin locution Sit tibi terra levis may the earth be light to you"-was used in the pre-Christian Roman world as an epitaph on tombstones, often abbreviated with the initials S-T-T-T-L. In contrast to Roman paganism, a young mother, prematurely deceased, longs not for the sad peace of the cemeteries, but for the joyful laughter and hearty merriment of her children.
In this connection, I was reading yesterday the poet Ramón Gaya: "All the terror of death would disappear if we could die in our mother's arms; that would be the moment we would most need to have her by our side.". And to my believing memory - "pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death"- came those three final lines of the poem by Dámaso Alonso To the Virgin Mary:
Virgin Mary, Mother,
I want to sleep in your arms
until he awakens in God.
García-Máiquez's collection of poems contains a total of 49 poems, plus a few more. First lines (p. 9) and a Blessing final dedicated to the poet's father (p. 89). It is organized in seven sections of seven poems each with the following titles: Have mercy, time (pp. 11-21), See you soon (pp. 23-32), Glorious bodies (pp. 33-41), Monogamy (pp. 43-52), His face on my back (pp. 53-62), Al Alimón (pp. 65-76) and In fact (pp. 79-88).
A striking feature of many of the poems collected here is that they are funny; they are full of both a sonorous Andalusian realism and a great deal of good humor. In particular, I was struck by the poet's unabashed expression of his Christian faith: it is clear that in him faith is something very much alive, capable of giving meaning to death and to so many little things that fill life, above all, his regular dealings with his children, his wife and his friends. We need poets like Enrique to tell us about the attractive beauty of real Christian life. I am reminded of Simone Weil's very profound words in Gravity and grace: "Imaginary evil is romantic, varied; real evil, sad, monotonous, deserted, tedious. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, wonderful, intoxicating.".
On the book's cover it is rightly written that in this volume "the metrical versatility and freshness of the verses combine with humor, unexpected depth, careful colloquialism, elegant irony, sustained emotion and a tireless return to their classic and contemporary masters.". I will bring as a last sample a slightly longer poem that also captivated me at the first reading: it is -evoking Keats- of A Thing of Beauty with which the section opens In fact and in which the "wrong than right" which gives the volume its title:
We know sometimes maybe too much
when it interferes with our senses.
With golden flight the graceful gull
(its wings, two beaches), elevates my spirit
until I remember what they have always said.
that they are dirty rats. The same thing happens to me
-oh, marble trunk, oh, smell of childhood,
oh, silver shadow- with eucalyptus
which is an exogenous tree that dries the wells,
depletes the soil and suffocates the mastic tree.
Reading a poem, all of a sudden, I stop,
tracking influences by itself is of an epigone
or I weigh, serious, whether the text responds to
to the demands of these critical times.
Or it is enough a girl who crosses, and it disturbs me,
and a memento mori echoes in my ear.
I wish I would ignore. But no: I prefer
to see how the hard, the bad or the miserable
inside freezes me. Until the beautiful
engages in arm wrestling
and it's coming back and it's going slowly
separating causes, effects, motives
of the clear miracle that illuminates my eyes
again: the winged beauty has won.