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Burning the Boats to Hesperion

No reason and No rhyme

Burning the Boats to Hesperion







“Your nephews filled my computer with viruses.”


“ - Yeah. They downloaded all these games and programs and what have you,

Now I have all kinds of things popping up in my computer …”

“- How do you know they’re viruses?”

“- Well, Sometimes I see a window who warns me that I have viruses and pornography in my computer. But it asks for my phone number, and people told me not to give my number on the internet.”

“- You shouldn’t mother. That warning is the virus.”

“- Is it?! But, truth be told, I do have porn in my computer. Sometimes I see porn images …”

“. That’s because of the virus. Just don’t give them your phone number or email.”

“- I won’t.

I see men with such big penises … that can’t be real, can it?

“- Yes mother, it’s probably real.”


Poor things…”



old woman.jpg







“-You have to visit your grandmother. She’s weak now and won’t be with us for very long.”

said my father, while driving us in that December night.

I mumbled noncommittally and looked at the trees outside.

“She became frailer this last few months.

You haven’t seen her for so long, so you don’t know.

She looks like a little old lady.”


Which was something strange to say about a 85 year old woman.


But not so strange if you knew her.







wholly unlikable.


When we were evicted and my parents divorced,

because when it rains, it pours,

me and my sister went to live with my grandmother.

much to the chagrin of everyone involved.

But mostly hers.


Our time there was one of abuse, spite and confrontation,

and waking to the knowledge that the ones that should protect,

sometimes bite.


We were told that her house was not like our parents house,

that, in her house there were rules,


and that, if we abided by them, all would be fine.


But this was a lie.


The rules were not there to rule the house,

but to change our behaviour.

which was seen as undisciplined





All free time was an opportunity for sloth,

our interests were suspicious as they were chosen by us,

our achievements were not to be celebrated so we wouldn’t think too much of ourselves.

our parents were feeble, stupid,

And we should be grateful we didn’t live with them anymore.


This was our original sin,

the indiscipline of our parents,

and thus,

we were the result of bad stock and bad habits.


My father lived with us,

she was his mother,

and tried his damndest to see and hear nothing.

He resigned from fatherhood and became a son.

expecting cooked meals,

pressed clothes,

clean shirts

and no sons to disturb this second adolescence.


I hated him so much …

my sister still does.

But what I hated most of all was conceding to my grandmother

that he was,


a coward.


Lost in himself.

forever blameless because forever 14,

an hedonist not out of love of life,

but because little boys don’t make plans.


Living there was a war that made me defensive and wary of people for years.

Cagey, afraid and suspicious of kindness.

Always on guard,

ready to bite and run

always alone and happy to be so.


When my mother got a rented room I went to live with her,

sleeping on the floor next to her bed.


As I was going out the door my grandmother touched me on the shoulder and,

as I turned,

slapped me twice on the cheeks.


“I know why you’re going away! So you would do what you want! Go be a failure like your father!”


Her eyes were wide,

hands taut and claw like.

She seemed eager to pounce.


I was twelve years old.




And then I didn’t see her for years.

My father would try to get me to come to her house,

remembering me that she loved me,

saying that all that I remembered,

all that happened,

was nothing more than lazy teens living with an old lady set in her ways,

Just that.


sometime in the future,

I would look back and laugh at these cherished family memories.



I probably,should have heard some of the things she said to me,

as they were advice to be heeded.


Many years passed,

ten, maybe more.

I was in the car, with my father, on that December night.


I think it was my sister’s birthday and we were all going out to dinner.

My father roped me to go pick my grandmother.

and I …

by then,

didn’t feel much of anything.

Ten years passed,

everything fades to gray.


I remember it was cold.

The car heater was on and I had my overcoat,

but, if I pressed my face to the window,

I could feel the chill.


We parked outside her house, and he said:

“Go get your grandmother. She’s waiting for us.”


When I opened her door, a numbing chill came from inside.

the stale dusty winter of closed houses.


All the lights were out and I asked myself if she was sleeping,

or dead.


I called:

“Grandma! … Grandma! It’s Miguel Grandma!”




I climbed the stairs,

my steps muffled by the garish carpet she liked,

all dark

all cold.


As I got up there I heard:

“Oh, it’s you. I thought that your father who would pick me up.”


There she was.


Bent over on an unforgiving chair that was never used to sit, she sat.

In the dark,

by an open window,

letting in the street lights dim glimmer.


She looked frailer,




“Grandma aren’t you cold?”

“Cold? No, not really. Why? Is it cold today?”

“Why are you sitting in the dark?”

“... well, I was alone here, I wasn’t reading … I saw no reason to waste electricity”


She looked vaguely at me,

as if it should be mine the next move,

as if she needed a prompt.


“Come on Grandma, I’ll help you get up”.

I took her arm,

she took her cane,

which I never seen her use,

and, as she leant on me, I felt the weight of nothing on my arm.


She was insubstantial

indifferent to the cold

and not really there.


“I thought your father would pick me up.”

She said again.

“He’s waiting in the car Grandma”

“Oh … ok”


“Where are we going again?”

“It’s Margarida’s birthday Grandma. We’re going to dinner.”

“Oh … Ok”



Late that night we came back from Lisbon,

through the “Marginal”,

winding from Lisbon,

to Cascais,

always hugging the sea.


My grandmother looked outside and,

for the first time that night,

she looked engaged.


“This is so pretty...


Her eldest sister.

"Would love to see this…

I’ll tell her tomorrow.”

Maria had died ten years ago.



My father

“Do you see the lighthouse?!”

“Yes mother, I do.”

“So pretty…

I’ll tell your father.”

My grandfather died 24 years ago.


She sat on the front of the car,

me and my sister on the back,

so happy to ride the Marginal,



Said my sister. Not one to leave well enough alone.


“Aunt Maria is dead.”

“Yes. Yes she she is … Silly of me.”


She said nothing for a while,

but smiled…

at the road,

the night,

the sea

the trees

the houses

I don’t know.

She just seemed content

to see the world pass by,

my father by her side,

and her ghosts around her.


That night I gave my Grandmother for dead.






When she died,

really died,

it was much more kinetic and a lot less poetic.


I saw her again at a burial in Cascais cemetery,

where my grandfather was buried

and where she had bought a plot next to him.


We were burying a son from one of her sisters,

a 41 one old man,

prime  of his life,



As the men started shoveling dirt into the hole,

I became more aware of my grandmother’s discomfort.

She would twitch nervously among the graves,

not knowing where to be.


She came next to us,

Tsk tsking,

as if the funeral was all wrong.


I think it was by the third time she went through the grave that my mother took her by the arm and asked:

“Mother, are you ok?”

“Yes … Yes … it’s just that, I’m so old, and this is my graveyard … I feel that I’m next.”


“Mother, don’t say that!

you look so well!”

My grandmother smiled thinly,

shrugged her shoulders,

and went near his grave.


Her sister was leaving

already by the exit,

crying and held by someone.

 We followed.


Behind all of us,

my grandmother stood looking at my uncle's freshly dug grave.


My sister sighed as she looked at her.

I said:

“I’ll get her”

“No …I will”.


She went to her side,

teetering above her nephew's grave,

and hugged her,



Her shoulders moved upwardly,

surprised to be held,

and let herself be touched.

For a while,

for a little while.


She patted my sister,

took her arm,

leant on the cane,

and pointed to the exit with her chin.


They moved from my uncle's grave

one cane held, the other looking at the ground,

through my mother,

who looked at me

wet eyed and empathizing,

expecting of me what this place took from everyone.


But me,

having no one but me to subsist,



so bereft of others

and stripped of warmth,

could only think:

“I must get away from here before they understand how much I don’t care.”


I looked at the gravel,

and hoped that my grandmother's trek through the graveyard would be as long as it could be.


The bitch.





Have I talked about her dying?

Yes I did.

And then I remembered the death of someone else.

My mistake.

I apologize.


I will tell you


of her death.


I was sleeping at my girlfriend's when she woke me,

shaking me softly:

“Miguel , Miguel, your grandmother just died. I’m so sorry”


“Who called?”

“Your mother. Your father tried to phone you but you didn’t answer.”

I looked at the phone

It was around 3h30.

My father called,

for the first time,

at 2h05.

I wasn’t very late.


I got up,

took a bath,


put on my suit,

a dark tie,

and my black overcoat.


I arrived and my father was crying.

“Miguel, I’m so glad you came!

please don’t go to your grandmother’s bedroom. There’s nothing to see there,

not anymore…

she died without her teeth and  her wig.

I just couldn’t let anyone see her like that.”


By then all had been done.

My father had welcomed the police and the 911.

they did what they do,

said how sorry they were for his loss

and went away.


Leaving him with his mother

under a sheet,

with her wig

and her teeth.


He saw me looking at her and said:

“She died in my arms.

I was sleeping when I heard her cry:

“Zé! Zé! Come here, I can not breathe!”

she was quivering uncontrollably,

her nightgown at her breast,

no teeth,

no hair.

she looked at me gasping for air.


I said:

“Mother, mother it will be all right!”

trying to stop her jerking.

but I couldn’t.

I took her head in one hand,

her hand on the other

gripping her close to my chest.


she moved, once



and then stopped.”


There’s nothing of your grandmother to see in that bed.

Just a shell”.


He cried some more,

and I got curious about her corpse.


I moved


to where she lied.


She was small,

she was always small,

but now she was just a bump on a bed.


I pulled the sheet and looked.


Her jaw jutted sideways,

as if it trying to leave her face.

the eyes looked upward, looking intently at the ceiling.

My father tried to closed them, but they opened again.

Hands were clenched around her breast

trying to move a weight from her chest.


I saw all this and thought

”God, I hope my father doesn't see this!”

But he did.


for a long time.

He put her teeth

and her wig on.


As he cried it dawned on me,

I can not help this man from the horror of the death of his mother.

but maybe, I can help him bury her well.


My grandmother now,

the cunt,

was so much of what she was in life,

dead weight and bad memories.


But maybe,

just maybe,

my father remembered something else,

and maybe,

I should respect this.

So I did.


The wake was a pleasant affair.

I went to wash my hands and saw that I was much thinner,

and that I looked good in my suit.


The rest of the day I mc’ed the event,

happy and self assured

safe in the knowledge of my handsomeness.


Some of my sisters' girlfriends came and commented on how good I looked.

It felt good.


My father cried in a corner,

not able to navigate the social niceties

and me so eager to do it.


It was a long wake.

We were there at nine in the morning and came home at midnight.

All day in a tasteless chapel in one of the more nondescript places in Cascais.

If I wasn’t so pleased with myself it would have been unbearable..


The next day was the burial.

and if you’ve been to one, I’ve nothing more to add.

The same solemn steps,

the same hole,

that thud in your heart when you hear the dirt coming over the casket,

and the lingering feeling that,

all in all,

better them than us.




I wish I had an ending for this poem,

some kind of coda to wrap the story in a pithy summation.

But I haven’t.


The story is what I wrote,

even if I don’t know


what I intended to tell.


I read that some mathematical problems can’t be summated in a equation.

there’s no way to discern an underlying algorithm,

no way to summarize elegantly the unruly mess that are some questions.


the only way to explain them

Is going through all the calculations,

step by step,

painstakingly forbearing any intelligence,

and giving yourself,


to arithmetic.


And I think that is what happened here.

The story is the story,

void of morality and gnosis.


And that will have to do.





“When your stepfather was dying in the hospital”

Said my mother

He would look at me and say:

“Save me! Save me!”

And I thought he was talking about the medication that caused him pain”


She took a sip from her glass and continued.

“But of course I was lying to myself.

He wasn’t talking about the medication…



Not everyone dies well."






The girl stood in front of the car screaming:





There was a thud,

                         and then nothing.


Her friend stared

                           as she shouted at the driver:

                                                                      “Real nice M’am! Really, really nice!”


I looked behind me, to the cat in the road.


It was jumping and somersaulting spasmodically

In total silence

pirouetting in the air,

almost never touching the tarmac,

an acrobat of pain.

Not what you'd expect from a cat ran over.


But there he was,






Coiling and uncoiling at lunchtime.





Death is so unbecoming.

Cuts through today,
like a blunt knife through warm butter,

stops your breathing,
your heart and everything,
as pain reminds you,
for the last time,
of your body.

Oh wondrous transformation!

Death is a moment,
as such,
it does not exist.

It’s the longing between nothing and something else,
between silence and disbelief.

What to say of the cessation of the voice of the narrator?
What should I write?
If anything...
on the demise of the story teller?


In Europe the squares are full of people



-It will come,

He said, sipping his beer and fumbling for the lighter.
-What will?
I listened to every other word,

hoping that was enough,

It wasn't.

-This thing that’s happening in Tahrir Square. It’ll come here,

To the south first then to the North,
Maybe not as dramatic as in Egypt, but it’ll come.
-You think?
-Oh yes,

we both have regimes that no one believes anymore,

ailing economies,

elites that represent only themselves …

these things are infectious,

Said my father,

blowing cigarette smoke through his nose and looking me in the eyes,
forcing me into attention.


I grunted my accord and looked at my glass,
feeling cheated of the contemplative beer buzz,

I felt,


Not really sure of what to say,

I said what I was thinking:

-Better late than never, I suppose.
-Yes, this place needs a cleaning …

Off course here it wont be so … revolutionary.

The EU won’t let it go so far,

but people will fill the squares very soon.

-Yes, soon,
-Like what, four, five years?
-No! A year … maybe less.
My father looked intently to his cigarette.

Waiting for me to say something.

I zoned out as I felt the conversation taking a turn to the improbable.


Off course there’s reasons for people to be fucked with politics, politicians and government,

but we have years of rot before we see people on the streets.

This is Portugal,

we’re all beyond indignation and certainly over protestation.

I looked at my father, encouraging him to talk some more,
and ask me nothing.
I lwatched over the roofs of downtown Lisboa that,

4 months from then,

would see camped protesters on Rossio Square.

A five minutes walk from my house.
So close.
All this things that I chose to believe were in a manageable future,
are already here.






As I touched my daughter's hands,

small, clean and uncreased,

I heard a voice:


"Life is the elegance of leaving."


I held her tight,


and thought of all the time I won't have with her.





These are the days of new beginnings,

and longing for  the ones that are not our own anymore,

and wont be missed.


These are the days of change and reinvention,

Of dead structure withering as dead leaves,

Of looking ahead to nothing known,

And living in the maelstrom of becoming.

Where we are just movement,


and oblivion.

Some call it decay,

Others birthing.

We call it pain and confusion.

We call it, our lives.

These are the days of siren calls

Wailing their last warnings to deaf ears.

Everywhere we hear the Cassandra warning us about the demise of a life

That is already lost.

The death of the West,

Proclaimed for so long,

Is now an inexorable fact.

There are no ruins,

And there are no more men.

All the dreams are dead.

Sadder eyes and clearer heads are needed to live this becoming that engulfed us.

The past is no more a beacon,

As the future we’ve foreseen is no more there.

The plans of mice of men…

Are not plans but tropisms,

As men and mice are not agents but matter.

Nothing to do now but to contemplate the mill of history,

Grinding away at today

Replacing it with a future  that will frighten us all,

the Changing of the Guard generation,

or won’t be any kind of future.


Ode to the Black Light


I ran into the heart of winter,


Deep into the naked trees,

into the blistering wind.

In search of the cleansing rain I went.


I rushed into the snow.

Into the snow icy core I plunged.


Inside the frozen plain.

Into the throbbing Soul I moved...


The Ice respired death all around…

Stopping the world,

The winter,

The cold,



Even me.


And, here,

In the shivering cold,

I sit down and,

For the first time I,


close my eyes

to never open them again


And, then...

As expected.

As wanted;

as needed.


Came the ominous heat

I’ve known for so long.


The warm nothingness that was here from the start.

In the beginning of days;

My days.


A life-time of blind love to a hidden God...

Only seen through the dim glass of the Black Light


Shining in me and through me...

Like an unspeakable silence that can not be understood.

Only embraced.


And, as I sat here,

To never rise again.

I wait most atently.

Not waiting for anything…


being wait in itself.


Available for all;


Frozen to the world and burning for the hand of God.


And the inky waters of Being start to move...


Very slowly,



down there...





Like a tectonic revolution.


Rumbling upwards,

crushing everything in its path.





as I wait,

as I stop,

to never move again.


I pray to the God I don’t believe anymore.


To give me the strength,

and the fortitude.

to see the all consuming beauty,


Of the Black Light.



Nosferatu's Night Out


Stained clouds by the oily sludge of the night

mar the skyline who looms over the alley and dinner,

Twitching, squirming,

Bloody and delicious.


I watched as it moved one last time.


The moon cowered beneath the smog,

Neon sprayed light trough the dark recesses of the city…

Low, dwindling stars, illuminate a mankind that deserves no other light.


I lean against the wall, breathless and sated,

Casting my eyes to on high,

Searching for a God that has forsaken me.

 Leaving me alone with the billboards of banks and travel agencies,

Sneakers and massage parlours,

Shoe stores and chemists…

Brightly coloured hues of dreaming, irradiating over the street.

Full of the night lights and city sounds…

Resting and digesting,

as if the corpse before me was not my doing.


As if no one would,


Come here

As if I could rest …

for awhile.


The food stopped moving long ago.

An empty dish for a vacant meal.

The thrill of the hunt, the pleasure of the kill,


All so quick, so good and so sudden.


I get up and get ready to leave,

Button up my coat and leave this happy place of feeding.

Strangely nostalgic for this now that is ended.



The cold wind sharpens my pace as I look for the train station.

Hungry to be elsewhere.

Away from this geometric unwelcoming town.

Eager, so eager,

To get home.


Away from all the animals that roam these streets.



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