(Droplet) no peace at all.

St. Sauves, Henrique Pousão, 1881

Children picking up our bones
Will never know that these were once   
As quick as foxes on the hill;

And that in autumn, when the grapes   
Made sharp air sharper by their smell   
These had a being, breathing frost;

And least will guess that with our bones   
We left much more, left what still is   
The look of things, left what we felt

At what we saw. The spring clouds blow   
Above the shuttered mansion-house,   
Beyond our gate and the windy sky

Cries out a literate despair.
We knew for long the mansion’s look   
And what we said of it became

A part of what it is … Children,   
Still weaving budded aureoles,
Will speak our speech and never know,

Will say of the mansion that it seems   
As if he that lived there left behind   
A spirit storming in blank walls,

A dirty house in a gutted world,
A tatter of shadows peaked to white,   
Smeared with the gold of the opulent sun.

A Postcard from the Volcano, Wallace Stevens.

There’s no peace at all. I came nearer to the sound, a day cast by a wax-white sun that swelled with a tepid aura, and oozed suavely into the shade of the bushes. There’s now but serried bricks and mounds of pale rubble, spotted with blackness that would trail into the brambles and blackberries. My father’s childhood home is now a print of a time that moves in all directions, and not a speck of memory stands within the reticulated squares which were once rooms, not a piece of tinged cloth used to press a pan, not a foot of an old cabinet, or shards of a vase, not even ash from when the house was consumed. Even a ghost by my side, in a deadness as potent as that which whispered by, would undoubtedly find itself sucked dry of its hyaloid windiness. The only thing hammering the mind were flocks of motors rushing upwards nearby; the first national road of Portugal, built years prior to my father ever seeing the first haze of light, was still intactly conserved, heat bounced off the new asphalt like a transparent scourge, dead as the aurora of the derelict, and cars seemingly flutter along a road that has seen wastelands become radiant settlements and return to wastelandishness in the span of a decade or two. A crooked path finding itself stuck underneath the skeletons of the cycles.

There’s nothing left for us. In a land treacly with the scent of orange, pear and grape, a soil thick with bounty, a mantling velvet hued of peridot, there’s a legacy of small bones and abandonment. One of my aunts, taken by typhus at a count of no more than three years, rests earthed-up somewhere along the rocks, near a cork-oak; she was taken to silence before she heard even a song. Beneath the unstained, swelling sunlight, my grandmother had ten children, surviving two of them. The other she did survive ran sylvan in my imagination when I was a child; he was a poet, they say, gifted at the conjuring of words, talents he exhibited from young age. He’d stride the village clamouring his tunes, a chamberless troubadour, a puerile Baudelaire collecting lent lilles and gifting them to the damsels along with mellifluous sonnets. From while to while, however, he couldn’t hold himself against the streak, and was pursued by a bout of inner demons that, seemingly out of nowhere, would give him implacable depressions. Out of all he did write, only a handful of letters he sent from Lisbon to his mother and siblings survived; and, despite my trials, I was never granted a chance to read any. I fill, then, with buckets of vivid paint, what he might have expressed and how he might have impressed it, how his heart may have been burn-bitten, how what environed him as a child and adolescent, the squalid house in which he grew, the indigent life he likely lived, all serve to create this warm, celestial dream in which I conceive of him not as a lost genius, but a genius at trying, beyond his means of trial and beyond the disinterest he was probably met with, as one may assume by the lack of surviving papers.

He died relatively young, purportedly of epilepsy, resulting from complications he had at birth. Unlike the youngest sibling he lost, however, his tombstone still lies in a common graveyard, next to his mother, not two kilometres beyond the forsaken ruins of his childhood. Of what he left, like a pool in heat, all has but dissipated along the web of his multitudinous siblings.

A little ways forward from the derelict house, I can sit atop the brims of a century-old bridge over-crossing a faded stream, upon which only flows a capillary of water, and overlook the fields: there, in the distance, before the hills preclude the view, I still find no peace at all. Peeling back the cover of humidity that beclouds my eyes as the dry sunlight penetrates them, there stands a field of potatoes that was once arable year upon year, owned by a man that raised me year upon year; there, I first had laid a seed, and first harvested the bulb of my seeding. There, I owned my first dog, Estrela, that every afternoon would be released and wander through the entire village, be petted by the baker and the paperboy, the priest and the butcher, and upon the unmistakably voluble and striking whistle that man produced, she would return immediately, without falter. It was a mechanism, a discipline, that I find branded in my stringent mind in form of a whistle that I will never obliviate. There I first fed chicks and was first pecked when I took their eggs, and first darted around twisting reeds river-side so I could break one off and use it as a sword, or a spear to look for spider burrows along the mounds of excess earth from the ploughings.

The field, as the stream, has now all dried-up, and a sheet of hearty gold overlaid it through all manners of desiccated shrubbery. In all of its slumbering victory, looking at it now, from afar, from an underworld of beastly distance, it gives me a terrible cold. There’s no peace of all. The man who raised me there is buried not twenty-steps from the grave of my poetic uncle, which is two metres from my endlessly sacrificing grandmother, which is two kilometres away from my aunt which will perpetually rest in a youthful silence. There comes a point in one’s life where home is but a vast geometry of longing, an unbearable resting place, a cold light. A place shadowed by the towers of our loss. A place with no peace at all, that no one left.

Casas Brancas de Caprile, Henrique Pousão, 1882

Published by João-Maria

A tick clinging to the bristles of a purple boar.

39 thoughts on “(Droplet) no peace at all.

    1. Thank you so much, Craig. I do believe, in hindsight, it could have been better written. But when topics are extracted from my life, I seem to be so overrun by sentiments, I can never get it right. Perhaps that’s the humanity of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I had to re-centre myself after reading this, I felt so convincingly transported to the scene you describe. You apply words like an artist layering oils, every brushstroke conveying subtlety of meaning and combining to create a sweeping vista of melancholy and memory. This is truly beautiful piece of writing, prose in form but poetic at its heart.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, thank you so much, Scrunch! I love reading your stuff (when I remember, and when I’m not critically lacking time, which is a status an inch away from never), so, this comes as a bone-swaddling comment that I can’t aptly convey the magnitude of. Alas, there are some folks that are true indicators that I’ve done well, once they decide to comment, and you’re certainly one of them.

      Thanks for sticking by, it means the world. There are so many talented writers around, I’m glad that I managed to keep some space in your mind.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Absolutely brilliant: the Wallace Stevens and particularly the images by Henrique Pousao. Thank you so much for introducing these to me. They will now remain in my consciousness. More than anything else they make me want to go to Portugal and those hidden untrodden parts. I doubt if I ever will now but one can hope. The painting resonates with me and my own technique.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Richard! What a golden honour it is that you’ve felt compelled to comment. I’ve been trying to build Stevens into one of my texts for a while, now, ever since I read his complete works twice in a row. Postcard from a Volcano felt absolutely perfect for this one, as it is such a beautiful inkling of melancholy put-to-page.
      Both of the paintings of Henrique Pousão I showcased are displayed in Museu Nacional de Soares dos Reis, in Porto. If you ever do visit, it’s a marvelous reliquary of forgotten Art gobsmacked in the middle of one of Europe’s most heart-warming coastal cities. The first painting, however, was painted in Saint Sauves, France, and the second, in the island of Capri, Italy. The vistas are not far off from Portuguese ones, though, as they are all Mediterranean locations.
      Thank you so much for stopping by!


      1. Prazer é todo meu,tenho explorado o seu conteúdo e fico estupefacto com o teu alto domínio do Inglês e vocabulário requintado, e já és uma fonte de inspiração. Realmente a língua secundária não é fácil mas pelo que vejo em ti, é possível chegar lá.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Confesso, Barros, ainda prefiro o que escrevo em Português. A nossa língua é sempre a nossa língua, é como aprendemos a sentir, é como aprendemos a ver, e isso, nada substitui.
        Se te inspiro, fico muito, muito contente. Eu aprendi Inglês sozinho, de modos que isso me ajudou um pouco a construir uma moldura linguistica muito minha. Não é de todo impossível, e acredito vivamente que venhas a conseguir.


      3. Obrigado, uma real inspiração ainda maior de ouvir que aprendeu sozinho e atingiu este grau de excelência.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I couldn’t agree more with this comment. I also felt everything as if I were in the scenes you describe so wonderfully. I love both the poem and the story which is sheer prose-poetry. All the words seem to have the perfect weight, intelligently crafted, emotionally vibrant and beautifully sad at the same time. Muito obrigada pela sua maravilhosa luz. Um forte abraço da Catalunha= una abraçada ben forta des de Catalunya. Marta Pombo Sallés 🤗🍀☮️💕


      1. You are welcome, João-Maria. We are doing well and I hope you too. I have just reread your post and loved it as much as the first time. However, this time I have felt it in a slightly different way because we perceive writing through our personal experience and that changes constantly. As before, I feel equally attracted by your story of a family who once inhabited a house now in ruins. All the pleasant and sad memories bring me back to an abandoned house that carries the story of my deceased father’s family. It tells me I need to travel there one day. It is in the middle of the mountains in Galiza (or Galicia as they say in Spanish), which shares many common characteristics with Portugal. My ancestors were also poor and had a hard life, similar to your account. What is different now rereading your post is the impact of coronavirus in mind, which is inevitable. Now that we are in lockdown there is more time to think about what home is, “a vast geometry of longing, an unbearable resting place” and “a place with no peace at all”, as you write. And if home gives us a sense of peace there is never real peace. The threats from the past world and from the new world of the near future are always haunting us. I recommend you to listen to my friend Mario Savioni’s new musical piece where he, like you with your wonderful writing, creates an idea of “false peace” and of “an unbearable resting place” through a combination of different sounds: https://savioni.wordpress.com/2020/04/22/april-21-2020-improvised-piano-by-mario-savioni/

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh, Marta, you overflow in kindness and spirit.
        I have this pattern of deconstructing symbols for their neglected parts. I’ve always had a home, but it was never home for long, and it never felt truly like a home. Such symbol is charged with so many mythopoetic bliss for others, the revered home, the sentiment of hearth, but I never saw that element of it.
        And as with me, my heritage echoes that disquiet; albeit sad, I’m glad that I get to write about another tinture of “home”, that vast geometry of longing, that restless resting place.
        I loved Mario’s piece. I hope all creators are enjoying this time at home to create more; Art is an inextinguishable bounty.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes, creation cannot stop. It is inherent to the human condition. So glad you loved Mario’s music. Thank you for taking the time and also for bringing truth and beauty with your excellent writing.


    1. Thank you so much, Anna! You’ve been a valuable supporter of my writings, truly. I must admit, though, that I don’t do much in the ways of thinking, as disenchanting as it might sound. I’m very sedulous at stitching words together, but while I do it, I’m entirely absorbed in doing it, almost like riding a car, your focus abstracts your mind rather sharply. Only when I finish, do I get a sense of what I’ve written, and nine times out of ten, I wish I hadn’t stepped.

      Again, thanks a ton!


  3. The way you describe your uncle and the unfortunateness of your not being able to read his work emanates such sorrow of being cheated of a part of a deserved heritage, and rightfully so. Do you see where you have inherited his talent of writing? Joao, this piece may be your best yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jade! I’m still hopeful that eventually I will be allowed to access them; I ought to outlive all of my uncles and aunts, it seems. I’m unsure if I inherited my talents from him, but perhaps the volition, the zest, I might have gotten from him. Thank you so much, I’m always trying to make the best piece yet, and sometimes I get it right.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Joao, are you saying you know where the letters are but aren’t allowed to see them? That is really messed up, in my opinion. I wonder if they are hiding secrets? You surely got it right with this poem.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m sure that their treatment of him, especially regarding his mental illnesses, was entirely inadequate. Times was very different, and they were all poor, even for the standards of said time, thus, I’m not too inclined in holding much against them. Most of my family lives very far, now.
        I’m hopeful that I will get to read them someday, but I’m already glad I got some memories and pictures of him.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. That was simply mesmerizing~! I especially loved these words at the end: “There comes a point in one’s life where home is but a vast geometry of longing, an unbearable resting place, a cold light. A place shadowed by the towers of our loss.”

    Such devastatingly truthful words to end such a beautiful, honest piece. ♥

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Though I am currently of short attention span due to medical reasons, I can tell you are an amazing writer. I admire you deeply. Thank you for bringing the blessing of fine literature to the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m unsure if I would call this fine literature, but I’m overjoyed with the fact that you do appreciate it. Thank you so much! And I hope the best for your convalescence, you much deserve a peaceful one.


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