The Fool Speaks / Cristina Rovina

All this, it is all, it is little, it is life itself. One day, all this! All this, highly incomprehensible, and full of surprise. All this, gather all this, gather, stay. Spring, overall desolation, haze. Silently among forms, thoughts are dragged about in malformed cadence. There’s a plant in this room, the name of its species long forgotten. It has green tentacles that spread all over the space, as if to take it over completely. The tentacles are long and thin, and open up unevenly to form what looks like a soft leaf which becomes again a stem. More stems branch off from each leaf, more leaves broaden and narrow again. In the spring it grows fast, especially at night. I call it the monsterplant of the silkenform. I talk to the plant. I am the fool. This is the fool who speaks. The plant is related to my mind, I think. I think of it as me-not-me entity that I attend to every day: not only watering, but talking, arranging thoughts with it. Its shape is my shape. Years ago there was a prisoner who attended and related to his plants, every day, to his death. This plant is a relation of my mind. I think, I remember. The prisoner related and attended to his plants, asked for books in the letters he wrote from prison to his friends. One day he wrote to a friend who had been in the trenches in World War I, had been at war as a miner, could hear across the diaphragm that separated his gallery from the enemies’, could hear their digging so that their own mine could blow, the prisoner wrote to his friend that having survived that, he should have reached stoic serenity, rely on his being as the only possible grounding force, and the prisoner asked for books, study has no external reward he wrote, it has no because, he wrote in his notebooks in prison that culture does not mean to own a storehouse of notions to be evaluated or sold, but to be able to be in life, see a place in it, relations. This culture, this education, this art without because, without reward, drive my days these days. I will not append any adjective to these days and I won’t append any adjective to this culture, education, art. These are days. This is one of those days. To his death, to death. Death these days makes herself present, and it is strangely as if she had been forgotten before these days. I am speaking of the way life is conducted these days, when I so clearly see death and am not dead and am dying. Of day to day existence, how it is occupied and felt, what is thought and sensed, how these days are lived, with death. I am apocalyptic, it is the fool who speaks, hear, remember, it’s the fool speaking, otherwise there would be no speech now, it would be inhibited, or accused of contempt under today’s codes of complacent average. No I will not read those prizewinning books written by those accomplished prose stylists, I’d rather think of stylites. I once read in an old dialogue, that to engage with philosophy is to practise dying, I once read an old letter by a stoic who advised to rehearse dying, every day. I sing a song, as I was walking one day, one day… I met death, as I was walking. It’s the old song of death and the maiden, as many old others in that manner, passed on from a time when meeting death in a field was not a supernatural occurrence: death was everywhere, one day, every day. Soon these songs will be coated with a new layer of realism, sing, sing, as I was walking one day, one day, cadence how life is lived, as I was walking one day, one day, I want to think about how life is, this day, this day. How life is carried, I think of my grandmother, alive and seeing death during World War II, bombardments and poverty, every day a horizon of nothing. She sang, told stories. Culture and cultivation, this uneven plant. Bombs fall around, poverty pervades, persist, sing that song, tell that story, someone’s eyes are met, someone’s inner eyes. One day, one day, and the following one and the next, telling reading drawing sculpting thinking singing moving not moving writing, they all ground daily lives. I’m talking of life, one day after one day after one day, dying. Grandmother had to be pragmatic, there was no choice, but she did not stop singing, did not stop telling stories. She did not allow her pain and the need to survive to take over her living, her dying, her desperate vitality. How to live this day, how to die this day, and the next, and the one after that? How is each day, and the next, and the next, inhabited, sustained? I remember an ancient wall painting from Pompeii, in which Psyche has many wings, or was it leaves growing on her back, in a mysterious and wonderful metamorphosis. I remember some words by an ethnographer and historian of religions who’d been collecting for years thoughts in fragments around the end of the world, showing that the loss of horizon in psychic and historical states of apocalypse can only be set off by the need for structure, I would say for cadence that is moved by a core, core not score, heart not instruction, the heart of each’s being, daily rhythm in artists, in writers, one day, one day, cadence, song, grandmother’s songs, her storytelling is art I think, and a primary need to prevent survival from taking over her living, her dying. Remember, I’m a fool. I did not cease to speak when I had no funds, I did not cease to write when I was exhausted. My unfunded exhaustion is my way of being, one day, and the next, to cultivate the little that is given to me, not to be overwhelmed by the universal, not to generalise, generalising around ways of staying healthy is dangerous, remember health was a pivot of fascist rhetoric, so let me practise dying as long as I live, one day, one day, monstrous plant that narrows into barely seen thinness and broadens into placid open leaves of radiance, the point here is to stay, to attend, one day, and the next, and the following, how it is possible to be—to feel, think, understand—in whatever little or vast spare time is available, one day, one day, the point here is not to think of art as work, remember instead the old Latin studium, study, the mystics used it to signal extreme attention which is like prayer a philosopher said, so the point of these words spoken by myself, the fool, wait, I have no point, I long for radiance, study some recurring concerns that may come in the shape of thoughts and may come in the shape of a plant, to scrutinise, give attention and not complain, there is no need for generic tears for the disasters of the world, grandmother did not complain, the writer who lived with pain and death by her side did not complain, she continued to attend to her peacocks and describe their verses with great scrutiny and absurdity, Lee-yon lee-yon, Mee-yon mee-yon! she laughed, made her friends laugh with her in her letters, never did she draw attention to her pain, laughed, even that Greek goddess of harvest in the darkest depths of her sorrow for her lost daughter, at one point, cyclically, laughs, over there in Eleusis, and so life goes, one day, one day, and the next and the following, so death, remember the broom plant that grows and blooms on Vesuvius, it cannot help to be on a volcano, cannot help growing on a site of destruction, growing surrounded by bleakness it grows, it is not the centre or cause of the world, it blooms, then is stricken by the wind, blooms. The fool is speaking these words and to make it worse, it’s a fool from a long gone time and place, from a periphery as psychological as geographical, the fool has learned what it means to speak in a position that is not prominent. Do not think I am setting myself to be excluded, I said I speak in the periphery, I am determined to stay here. I have learned the sort of metamorphoses that occur on the periphery, some of them do not attain any better place, or more developed form, they are not univocal, exposed, rewarded with broader audiences: not always do they leave a mark, but does it mean they are a caprice, gratuitous? Some forms must stay and I, the fool, I stay, accomplish things here, see my skin has grown thinner in time and I like it, when many around have a thicker skin, ready to be in the world, to gain, to achieve the brilliance of the deemed-legitimate. My skin is so thin, unprotected, that the plant moves into its fibres, and my thoughts grow in the form of this monstrous plant that is now in me, that is now me, in no hurry, their coils go nowhere, wither away, others grow again in tangle, in knot. Having learned that the words of the fool are not good enough for many to fall for them—too philosophical, too experimental—the fool writes, the fool speaks, never to offer consolation, never to offer hope, these two terms are so vacuous. Never the right fit. I want to hear words that do not fit, this habit of spinning may not fit perfectly but is it necessary to care for perfection when death dances all around? Here is what I say to myself, every day, in a voice that is now that of the monsterplant of the silkenform, the fool speaking to a fool: “Do not feel at the centre of any because, then it will be easier to write, do not feel at the centre of any because. Uncertainty. Remember that cherubinic wanderer, who wrote that a rose is without a because, it blooms because it blooms. Remember when you read, in the book of the unforgivable ones, of that Chinese man during the Boxer upsurge, queuing to be guillotined, holding a book, reading, being in life with every line he read. No reward, said the gnostic philosopher whose thought was as hard and clear as a peradam, no compensation. Reduce yourself to the point you occupy in space and time. That is to say, to nothing. Desire without any wishes, desire in the void. If you apply to the present the point of that desire within you which corresponds to finality, it pierces right through to the eternal. That is: beauty. Do not be afraid of beauty, do not be afraid of study, one day, and the next. Do not be afraid of the words committed to you, do not be afraid of structure and excess, your grounds and your yearning, not one without the other. You know one day, one day you exist, then not, words and images burn, and their inexhaustible spectres. You remain, to attend to the words that were committed to you, use your means, know your ways, do not lose yourself in the generic, you must have gone through much to become nothing, a fool. Now a shattering energy reverberates in its infinite reserve, the tiniest point of contact burns, one day, one day, and the next, and the following, it is all, it is little, it is nothing, it is life itself.

Cristina Rovina is haunted by Literature.

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