El Litoral de los Poetas / Jessica Sequeira

The bus passes a tree that slants west, taking the shape given to it by the wind, rejecting the upright form of its peers or perhaps simply ceding to the fact that it is different than they are. El Totoral: naturaleza y tradición announces a sign, making it clear that the wildlife protected behind gates is not that of the twisted boughs by the highway. Baby music plays from a cellphone in the meantime, making the child in the seat alongside bounce. The tired sun out the window cannot match the brio of this movement, and goes only one way: down.

Here, at last. Over the black rocks sits a wood deck with coal grate, local flowers in pots and scattered chairs awaiting inhabitants who will defy Neruda in the very heart of lightness. The poets shout into temperate winds, thinking at the same time that one day it might be nice to purchase a house like this beside the coast. A concluding light gilds the houses, and the smell of roasted corn and smoke fills the waiting air. We eat and fall silent, not yet thinking of the return via Casablanca.

In tropic fashion, the surrounding plants lean in the direction of the light. A stalk erupts from damp soil. Plants too have their poetry. Tiny ripples speak amongst themselves in the expanse below, moving countercurrent in just such a way as to produce a glittering. A thin fence separates people from sea, no more than a sliver. ​​Slope to water, the eye misses a human element yet the landscape exists all the same, unperturbed by this absence, ignoring the binoculars.

Rain condenses on windows, or not rain, heat from within dripping down the glass. Outside the blue lights no longer shimmer; all is black. By the stove toes unfurl, putting out blooms, seeking the heat of a false sun. We open chestnuts with a special tool; they taste better this way, and no one can prove otherwise.

Someone asks if terror poetry is a genre. We take a stab: In the morning a rock with the form of a crab scuttled towards us with stone pinchers, as we breakfasted like ladies on tea with milk, unconscious of the threat until we felt the cold clasp. Or: I would love to be a bestseller narrator who goes from festival to festival, always located on a beautiful beach, reading in a strong and lilting voice of love, desire, effort, triumph as the waves go chatting amongst themselves of their own bestsellers, How to Break against Shore with Maximum Devastation, How to Build a Tsunami, How to Destroy Entire Towns in the Midst of a Literary Festival. Or: The chain separating the restaurant on the beach from the water is weak. Any one of these days a kid might fall in, crack his tiny head, disappear forever. This has not happened. What has happened, is in the process of happening, is that a fisherman is breaking the necks of fishes one after the other, using a link of the chain. Sometimes, they say, he also breaks the necks of dogs, though only on occasion. Or: In a children’s mural painted on the side of a school, a black blob rises from the water. Approaching the fragile shore, symbol of the corrupt actions of an evil minister who favours marine companies over poor fishermen and turns a blind eye to pollution, it prepares to devour all things.

Now it’s time for love poetry: To sleep on the beach like a dog on the threshold of a restaurant must be pleasant, a kind of zen, a nonthinking like the nonthinking of waves as they embrace rocks, the nonthinking of lips as they brush a cup with hot milk, the nonthinking of the strands of a scarf as they dance in the wind. The hot air balloon on the cover of your book, Niveles de vida by Julian Barnes, does not think either. All these objects simply exist, in a Shangri La of the litoral. Or: Riesgo eléctrico reads the warning. You laugh, take off your glasses and toss me a wink. What powers of transmission, communication, magnetisation do you occlude? What is the risk of bringing my self near to the socket of your heart? Or: With every gnocchi on my plate, every atom in my heart, I sing. Or: Eyes closed, we make images of one another.

Standing guard over the sands, a Brazilian pine gives no wood to any fire. No one wants to cut its trunk, no one wants to make little soldiers of its bark, branches, essence. None of this: the Brazilian pine has the duty or destiny to remain upright looking out to the beach and beyond, where in a boat children ply their oars, made from one of the close cousins of the tree. The Brazilian pine cries when it thinks of this, but as per its noble duty it watches, protects, takes care all the same.

Dos gardenias para tí, sings the gypsy Diego el Cigala from a radio hidden under the water, or so it sounds. What was done with his mother’s body when she died? Were her ashes returned to the sea? That would explain not only his song, but also the sound of the waves reverberating here, swell after swell from Madrid.

Although it is cold, here the cold is different. It enters your body, it cleans you thoroughly from the inside. All the boiling cells of the blood, the pulsing cells of the kidney, the revolving cells of the stomach tranquilise into a paradise of frost, an anticipation of that stillness that is not death, but the eternal life of the mountains, the oceanbed, the geological forms.

A tern swoops and glides until it perches on a rock. I write in my notebook, and when I look again it has taken flight. The sudden appearances and vanishings in these parts are disconcerting, but that is the way of nature, or some believe.

El Litoral de los Poetas: one would think it would hinder production by excess of inspiration, all those voices from other times, all that sea and sky. No; or at least not completely; one writes, writes, writes but also recognises that the words do not belong to oneself, as for instance a silver bug once belonged to Nicanor Parra, or an abandoned apart hotel once belonged to a mysterious owner whom they say left for Sweden. No; these words escape to join the words of others, so much algae floating in a clump towards the sunset, as we hurtle back to Estación Central.

Jessica Sequeira is a writer and translator from California, currently living in Santiago de Chile. Her works include the collection of stories Rhombus and Oval (What Books), the collection of essays Other Paradises: Poetic Approaches to Thinking in a Technological Age (Zero) and the novel A Furious Oyster (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, forthcoming this year). Her translations include Sara Gallardo’s Land of Smoke (Pushkin), Liliana Colanzi’s Our Dead World (Dalkey Archive), Hilda Mundy’s Pyrotechnics (We Heard You Like Books) and Maurice Level’s The Gates of Hell (Black Coat).
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