I have nature, art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?

N.A: Upon cleaning my PC, I came across this essay assignment. This was written for my “Socioaffective Neuroscience” class I had during my Masters. I didn’t get quite a good grade on it because, as the teaching assistant declared, it was more of a biography than actual part of the assignment – but he nonetheless said he quite enjoyed reading it. Written in 2018, slightly adapted.


Dr. Gachet, Van Gogh

In Antonin Artaud’s essay of appraisal for Van Gogh, ’Van Gogh: le suicidé de la société’, the author describes the dutch painter as someone who was merely human, in possession of stable mental health. Repeatedly, he blames three characters for Van Gogh’s suicide: his brother Theo Van Gogh, his doctor Paul-Ferdinand Gachet and above it all, society. Nevertheless, these statements are not essentially true. Van Gogh found profound financial and emotional help from his brother, evidenced by the exchanged letters between the two. Moreover, the painter also cultivated some affection towards Dr. Gachet, as seen by the portrait done of the doctor.

Not much can be said about the society, as the view of mental illness at the middle of the 19th century was still blurred and stained with negative stigmatization. Bipolar disorder, for instance, was first described around the same time by two French psychiatrists: Jules Baillarger in January 1854, and Jean-Pierre Falret, only two weeks later, upon the names of “dual-form insanity” and “circular insanity”, respectively. Schizophrenia was first identified three decades later by Dr. Emile Kraepelin, in 1887.

Vincent Van Gogh was born on 1853 in the town of Zundert, in the Netherlands, just one year before the first description of bipolar disorder, and died on 1890, not so long after the first description of schizophrenia. Thus, society, after all, was not prepared to deal with such a character who suffered from mental unbalance, which might have acted in accordance to Artaud’s view on whom to blame for the suicide. The fact that the painter lived throughout the period between the discovery of these two mental illness could have refrained the doctors to treat him accordingly. It is worth noting that the clear diagnose of Van Gogh’s mental illness is still unsure: more than 30 different diagnoses where described for the painter, such as schizophrenia, temporal lobe epilepsy and others, but the best established and accepted seems to be bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder (BD), also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels and the ability to carry out daily-life activities. People with the disorder often experience feelings of intense emotion, such as mania, changes in sleep patterns and activity levels, and unusual behaviours. It affects 1% of the world population irrespective of nationality, ethnic origin or socioeconomic status.

Van Gogh is not the only known artist that has suffered from bipolar disorder. In the list, we could also include the composers Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann; the painter Edvard Munch; the writer Hemingway; the actress Marilyn Monroe; and musicians such as Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse; together with many others. Schizophrenia, another affective disorder that encompasses 0.3 to 0.7% of the population, is characterized by abnormal behaviour and a distance from reality. Hearing voices, conspiracy plots, depression and reduced social engagements are some of the most common symptoms. Artists such as the previously mentioned Antonin Artaud, the sculptor Camille Claudel, the writer Zelda Fitzgerald and singers Joey Ramone and Nancy Spungen are examples of famous artists that had bared schizophrenia.

In pop culture it is almost a cliché that artists are tormented souls, with intense mood swings going from bottom-of-the-pit depression to a childlike euphoria in just a very short time span. However, is such an affirmation an exaggeration of the truth or simply a one-to-one relationship? Anecdotal evidence from self-reports and autobiographies seem to suggest a link between artistic and creative endeavours and mood disorders, especially bipolar disorder. For instance, a study published in 1997 with a cohort of writers from University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop [1] showed that the rates of mood disorders were extremely high in the writers, with 80% of them presenting some type of mood disorder and 30% showing bipolar disorder.

Many bipolar disorder patients who are in fact artists (plastic artists, writers, poets, theater producers, etc) report fear of compromising their creativity whilst undergoing treatment, thinking that settling down their emotions might send away their muse. Mogens Schou investigated 24 artists with manic-depression who were treated with lithium to assess whether the treatment would lead to a decrease in creativity abilities [2]. Interestingly, half of the reports were of improvement, saying that the treatment actually increased their creative capacities. Another quarter of the group reported no change in productivity, and the remaining portion of artists said that their creativity powers were diminished.

Even though one can find studies that hint to a link between social and affective disorders and the artistic gift, this link is still fragile and a matter of controversy, as there are not enough evidence to establish a relationship between these two phenomena. A group on the United States, upon investigating the link between creativity and schizophrenia, found the correlation to be negative [3], however stating that this finding could be due to the many possible different ways of assessing creativity. Having a finite answer to this “egg or chicken” dilemma might still be far ahead, but at least it still bring us interesting discussions on the matter.

Van Gogh died in 1890, two days after having shot himself in the chest, having only sold one painting in his whole life. Today, he is graced with exhibitions worldwide that name him one of the most talented, genius artists of history. We might wonder what is it about his paintings that make them so appealing to the eyes – is it the confusion, yet orchestral harmonization of colours? Or the spasms of the brush strokes, that seem to undulate and dance right before our eyes? Perhaps what speak to us are the eyes of Van Gogh’s characters, endowed with pain, hysteria, hallucination, serenity, making the whole painting come to life before us. It is indeed an uttermost achievement to notice that, even in agony and excruciating conditions of mental health, Van Gogh was still able to make colourful, vibrant and lively paintings – leading the viewer to an extreme state of catharsis, pathos, awe and, above all, compassion.

References:

[1] Nancy C Andreasen. Creativity and mental illness: Prevalence rates in writers and their first-degree relatives.

Eminent creativity, everyday creativity, and health, pages 7–18, 1997.

[2] Mogens Schou. Artistic Productivity and Lithium Prophylaxis in Manic-Depressive Illness By. The British

Journal of Psychiatry, 135(2):97–103, 1979.

[3] Acar, S., Chen, X., & Cayirdag, N. (2018). Schizophrenia and creativity: A meta-analytic review. Schizophrenia research, 195, 23-31.

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Arquivado em Bipolar disorder, English, Essay, Mental diseases, Mental disorders, Neuroscience, Real life, Schizophrenia, Science

Holistics

(translated/adapted from portuguese)

Scuola de Atene, Raffaello Sanzio
Scuola de Atene, Raffaello Sanzio

holistic
/həʊˈlɪstɪk,hɒˈlɪstɪk/

adjective

PHILOSOPHY characterized by the belief that the parts of something are intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.
MEDICINE characterized by the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of a disease.

____________________________________________________________

[I hereby present a Gedankenexperiment]

In a room there are several people. Each one look different: some have a beard, others are short, others have a hoarse voice. There’s even a guy looking crestfallen and depressed, sighing for unrequited love. The vaulted ceiling is high, causing the coolness of spring to be carried to and fro, airing the entire room and everyone present.

In the midst of this seemingly normal and ordinary scene, a man stands up. It was the bearded guy. He gets up, looks around, walks permeating those present until he finally stops in the center of that luminous environment and points his finger upwards. In his hand there is a book: Metaphysics, by Aristotle. “ὂν ἢ ὀν“, he exclaims.

Being qua being.

And, just as he appeared in the Universe, he explodes shortly thereafter in a shower of particles and hadrons.

Another man approaches the same location of that explosion.

(Location, in this sentence, is only used in a virtual sense because the explosion of the Universe gave rise to a vacuum of nullities – the abyss)

It was Kierkegaard. He walks around the location, not having the slightest intention of jumping in the void. He began to ramble and daydream, circling around and around the vacuum – then, in a frantic rush, he cries: “You become a real self! In such nihilistic times, it is how we manage to recover our senses that our lives take on meaning!”

Kierkegaard jumps in the abyss.

And boom. There goes another cosmic rain.

And he took Nietzsche with him; poor Übermensch!, who was just in the corner observing the scene.

The man with the hoarse voice wanted to cover the void in the middle of the room. He wove a carpet of asymptote dimensions to infinity, which managed to cover almost all the nothingness that was concentrated around the room. The carpet, of course, was imperfect, and it showed small cracks of the void; the hoarse man, however, pretended not to see those imperfections and distortions that shouted for attention. “Existence precedes essence,” he said.

Little did he know that, although existence preceded essence, both were continued by explosions.

Many others showed up and tried to fix that abyss that just seemed to widen – but, like the previous heroic men, none of them succeed. The room, with each new attempt, erupted in different colors due to the cosmic explosions. Photons and electrons collided and excited in an almost obscene way in that dance of electromagnetic radiation and hadronic dust.

The crestfallen and depressed man, engrossed in his thoughts of his beloved, finally realized that he was in a completely chaotic environment. He got up from the floor with regret, feeling the pain in his legs, hips and heels. With his head bowed, he saw that the rays of light entering the room did not cast any shadows on the room – there was no one else there but him.

The man walked to the edge of the abyss.

He sighed.

His heart leapt when, looking deeply into the nothingness in front of him, he saw the face of his beloved.

Euphoric, his face lit up and his body strengthened: he stiffened his spine and removed the hair that covered his eyes. He took a deep breath, as if to absorb all the oxygen in the room, flexed his knees and stretched his stiff arms out in front of him, preparing to plunge into the abyss.

And then he jumped.

As he jumped, he bellowed his war cry:

“GESTAAAAAALT!”

The sound reverberated throughout the room as his body gracefully rose from the ground, forming an elegantly arched curve – such a curve that would make Euclid thrill to geometric perfection – into the air.

The body rose until it reached its maximum height, only to eventually be attracted by gravity and begin to descend.

The man contemplated the abyss that increasingly approached him, seeing the face of the beloved being projected with more definition and perfection of details.

His heart was racing.

The surrounding echoed his last cry of “Gestalt”…

Both gravity and his loved one accelerated the descent of the man even more…

THUMP.

The man slumped on the concrete floor.

concrete floor or Concrete floor?

[end of experiment]

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Arquivado em English, nonsense, philosophy, surrealism

Alors on danse

The day, Ferdinand Hodler

Derrière mes dents je sense le goût d’alcools qui ferment, cette liquide infernale qui séduit mes synapses vers un danse inhibitrice – oh, la vertige! cette vertige que viens de mon âme, mon tourmente, mes rêveries…

Je cours vers le salle du bain, e je peux pas reconnaître ce visage qui me regarde, qui me lis, qui m’étude entière au delà du miroir.

D’autre côté de cette monde!

Là, justement là bas, derrière ce rideau de vèrre, d’autre côté de ce miroir, ton visage est lá et toi tu me regardes… tu me regardes avec dégoût! et je peux seulement domander – siffler en retour! – porquoi tu me regardes comme ça, quand on sait qui nous sommes les mêmes, que la seule difference c’est que toi c’est la, au delà du miroir, et je suis ici.

Je suis ici, je suis ici, et j’urine, je pisse

Je pisse le sentiment de honte qui m’envahit, ce sentiment que contrôle chacune de mes actions

Je pisse mon soi d’hier, mon soi du maintenant, mon soi du demain

Je pisse du sang, je pisse du larmes, je pisse sperme

et je pisse jusqu’à j’ai pas une goutte du moi même à mon interieur

C’est aussi, quand je me sens vide de moi-même, que je peux retourner a regarder le miror et je vois mon face, ton face qui me regarde, ce visage qui nous regarde et je sais combien il est difficile de faire face à mon propre reflet

cette reflet dont la main a rampé en moi, grattant et déchirant tous mes entrailles et couches plus profondes pour revenir avec un cœur dans les mains, un cœur de quelqu’un d’autre, qui bat des mêmes battements que le mien, mais qui s’éteint lentement à mesure que la musique à l’extérieur devient plus forte…

alors on danse, alors on danse, me dit mon reflet alors que j’écrase le cœur avec mes doigts et vois le sang couler dans les égouts

égouts , dégouts, âme dégoûtante!

Je me lave les mains comme quelqu’un lave ses souvenirs, comme quelqu’un lave son honneur

mais je sais que ce savon ne peut pas briser la barrière des conséquences des actions

alors on danse, répète ma réflexion, et je me joins à l’unisson, pratiquant un sourire dans le miroir avant de partir.

Je sors de la salle de bain sachant que l’enfer est derrière moi, mais les flammes qui en découlent se cachent dans tous les coins, de chaque sourire, de chaque corps luisant de sueur qui appelle mon nom sous les draps

Ah, ces corps! Comme elles sont belles, comme nous sommes belles quand nous dansons cette danse d’amour et de luxure et de romance, quand je ne sais pas à qui appartiennent ces mains, ces mains qui pénètrent profondément à l’intérieur et me caressent au rythme de mes propres battements de cœur…

ces mains qui me portent dans le noir, ces mains qui les nourrissent et étanchent ma soif,

ces mains qui dansent avec les miennes, avec mon corps, mon âme et mon esprit, et pour un serrement de muscles me font oublier l’alcool, le sang, l’urine, le sperme, les larmes – me font oublier du miroir, me font oublier au delà du miroir.

Alors on danse!, et je sais que pour une danse de plus je peux oublier le monde, et le sens d’être, le sens d’être là et d’être ici. Alors on danse, et je peux enfim oublier mon nom, mon nom et mon visage sur ler miroir.

alors on danse, et puis c’est fini.

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Arquivado em Français, pensière

I am a cage, in search of a bird

Clasping hands, sculpture by August Rodin

I am a cage, in search of a bird

Kafka

Hands which let me hold you

Hands which fingers pull you closer

and which fingertips remove your buttons,

one, two, three

one-by-one

unravelling yourself to me,

the naked truth,

the same truth which hurts, hurts from within

which starts a fire

that I do not want to extinguish.

Hands which strangle you,

Hands that briefly privy you of oxygen

while you are gasping for air,

asking for more, and more

your thighs tremble as they intertwine

for the spill of a secret

that was long needed of being told.

Hands which caress your skin,

Hands which fingers goes deep, deep inside of you

one, two, three

my fingerprints mark their path within you

and on your skin

carmine trails on your back

dug by the nails

of these exploratory fingers of mine.

Hands which let me cradle you

Hands which fingers run through your hair

making you inhale slower,

and exhale your warmth against my chest.

Hands that guide you through the darkness

of this room, momentarily the epicenter of this night.

Hands you hold while you fall asleep,

and make you dream of dreams

of puppets and ventriloquists,

whose life’s are controlled

by these hands of mine.

These hands of mine,

are the same hands that I use to smother,

smother myself into writing these verses

but how could I help

but to open the lock and let if fly, fly away

fingers turn into wings, and they fly

away from here, away from my grasp,

finally free to roam,

away from my reach and grip.

Oh, how I envy the birds without a cage…

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Arquivado em English, poem

morsche Körper

Egon Schiele, Standing nude with blue towel

I live in a house full of empty frames hanging on the wall

Depending on the way the light shines through the creaks of these old, rotten wood planks, sparks gleam throughout the smooth surface of the glass

Only to remind myself what should have been

but still it is not, and it never were.

Standing in front of these rectangular outlines, I ponder

was there ever anything here displayed?,

a crack runs along the nail hammered against the wall, suggesting the weight of those heavy frames

spiderwebs jewelled the wooden frame with their lines of shimmering silver

over the grooves and sulci, dust accumulated in piles as large as the pyramids

no, it has been sometime since something was here.

In my hands I hold tiny, shiny stones,

white as sugar,

sweet and bitter as unrequited love,

that crumbles away in my finger as if made of sand.

50, 100 milligrams of a substance

I take these stones one-by-one

and little by little the cracks in the old, rotten wood planks expand

the light perseveres through the stubborn and hard surface of this house

only to glimmer throughout the faint glass,

cloistered by those dusty frames,

reflecting the ambiance around me

and my new-born expression looking back at me

finally, something, even as faint and unfocused

as my own reflection looking back into my eyes,

was back displayed at this house,

at this house of empty frames

this exact house, that before seemed unhospitable,

jeering, cold, mouldy and decaying,

now hosts a fleeting spark of hope

that gleams throughout the surface of the glass,

reflecting back the smile forming at the corner of my lips.

As the night falls and the moonshine is not enough to create the mirror illusion

I am reminded to wait and be patient

I clutch the shiny stones in my hand

and I continue to roam through this house,

without fear of the dark, as darkness is within me,

and I created a home out of it.

A home of empty frames.

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Arquivado em English, thoughts

letter addressed to no one

Solitude, Paul Delvaux

Dear _________,

I have realized that there were many words left unsaid.

These words are like little creatures of their own, with claws and legs that they use to go climb up,

up up up,

from my stomach, from my insides, from my loins

up until my chest, my throat, my mouth and eyes

only to fall in cascades,

out of the prison of composure

– does that even mean anything for a third?

surrounded by the steadfast cement of these eyelids of mine.

These little creatures – shall I call them monsters? – have learned how to get very comfortable in the inhospitable of my unconsciousness

flying off from the radar of my consciousness,

that at night goes to sleep,

only to unveil the carnival of these little creatures,

that take advantage of my sleep to proliferate,

ruminate,

obliterate.

These little creatures have been around for a while,

and naively I thought I was bigger then them

after all, if they do live within me,

physics, mathematics, biology calls for the impossibility of them overthrowing me

but how wrong, how wrong I was and still am!

How foolish of me to think I could just squeeze those Creatures between my fingers!

For they have grown up, being nurtured by recklessness and pretention

they grew in the outskirts of my awareness

and now, as I lost my compass

and I’m unable to come back home

They show me how much they’ve grown

made out of a repulsive quilt of nostalgia, memory and crumbles of love

these once – millimetric creatures – now are Creatures

that walk beside me,

next to these lost steps

weighing down on my shoulders

while I try to find the way back home.

But how hard it is! the horizon stretches before me,

and I have no idea where to go.

I try to follow the Faceless Man in these dark woods,

a faceless man with the name of Hiraeth.

But he runs, he runs fast

without ever looking back.

Me – I am left

behind.

Out of breath.

With heavy weight on my shoulders

not knowing the path forward

and neither back.

I am left with all these Creatures that overflow from me

that eat away the crumbs I left behind

to mark the path.

For the Faceless Man I write this message,

knowing full well you’ll never read it as there are no eyes

that can see me in the midst of this sea

of words left unsaid.

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Arquivado em English, thoughts

A Tribute to the Superego (or an ideal first date)

Egon Schiele, seated couple

(Inspired by Slavoj Žižek’s ideal, perfect date: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xYO-VMZUGo&ab_channel=BigThink)

It was a September afternoon and the birds were chirping outside, complaining about the finitude of the summer days. Or at least that was what I could interpret from their singing, or what my own set of biased beliefs contaminated their own private conversations.

I realized my palms were a bit sweaty, and that I could not stand still as I constantly paced back and forth on my tiny one-and-half room apartment. I could not focus on just one task: I couldn’t fold the clothes, I couldn’t eat my lunch, I couldn’t gulp down my coffee: I was anxiously waiting for the clock to tick to 15:30, the time were you said you would pass by. It was merely 15:00 when I let out a loud gasp of exasperation: in my constant state of restlessness, I had forgotten to vacuum the floor and take out the trash, and I also had to shower and shave before you would arrive.

I trampled about the house, I vacuumed my beard, took out the shower and shaved the trash and was ready 2 minutes before you arrived. Having one final look in the mirror before opening the door for you I noticed that I had missed a spot beneath my chin: but oh well, I – and you – would have to live with it.

Thanks for inviting me, you said as I opened the door for you. You looked very attractive with your hair loose, hair locks like waves falling on your shoulder and back. I could immediately imagine myself sailing through that sea with my fingers, wandering about the curvaceous mountains of your pale-skinned body, travelling deep down into the jungle that lay obscure beneath the armour of your polka-dot skirt.

My pleasure, I replied to you and opened the door so that you could come in into my apartment. As your eyes skimmed through the walls covered in movie posters, paintings and bookshelves, I had the time to breathe in slowly and try to control myself. I was so nervous I felt my hand slipping away from the door handle, as the amount of sweat coming out from it kept drenching the extremities of my physical body.

I have brought some cookies I baked today, you told me, smiling timidly, pointing to a large tote bag you carried in. A hint of hope invaded my heart upon realising I was not the only person feeling nervous and awkward in that room. Thanks, I replied. But have you brought also the other stuff?

Oh yes, you said, gently tapping yourself in your forehead, in a way of saying how could I have forgotten about that?

You then took out of the bag what we had arranged, and I went into my room to fetch my part of the trade. From the colourful supermarket tote bag you carried, emerged a pink box with the title “Mr. Rabbit’s Ultimate Deluxe Realistic Vibrator” that bragged about “6 different vibrator speeds to ensure maximal orgasm!!“. From the box emerged a 20 cm plastic purple penis with very prominent veins. I could understand why someone would call it deluxe, but realistic? That was a bit far-fetched… ,I commented, and you laughed. I then placed my part of the share next to yours’: a “Flashlight Masturbator with Vibration 3000, modelled after the real pussy of Porn Star Desirée Langoria for a real orgasmic experience“. Again with the ‘real’ talk – what did it actually meant it to be real?

We turned both of our machines on and you penetrated your vibrating purple penis into my Desirée’s copied vibrating vagina. The toys started to fuck with each other mechanically, and we at last had the time to enjoy each other’s company. We had payed tribute to our superego, and we were left alone with our own flesh-bounded personality.

Would you like to have some tea?, I asked bringing the pot from over the kitchen. I had to speak in some decibels louder then normal due to the wheezing and buzzing from the toys. It’s ginger, lemon and cardammon, I explained. You respond eagerly that yes, you would like to have some. I serve it on a teacup I got as a souvenir from Tate Modern in London. You acknowledge the place and start with an anecdote to your last visit to the rainy island of Tea&Biscuits&Royalty, but I’m so sorry to interrupt your story, but I have to turn down the vibration of our vulgar toys as the loudness of their non-carnal, soft-plastic screwing was limiting me to appreciate your beautiful voice.

Would you like to listen to some music? I suggest, intending to mask away the ferocity by which your Mr. Rabbit’s Deluxe ravaged my Desirée’s orgasmic pussy. You agreed and suggests to put on Bach, which I energetically agree to. This is one of my favourite composers, I respond with a cheeky smile, unable to hide my feelings towards you. I start playing the Concerto for Two Violins piece. You agree, saying that he is also one of your favourite composers, but you rather prefer, from the 3 B’s, Beethoven over Brahms and Bach. I try to hide my flailing, acquiescent smile and ask you about your favourite movies. You notice my sudden change of disillusioned expectations, and tells me that one of your favourite movies is Wild Strawberries, one of which a childhood remembrance of unrequited love serenades Bach’s to the winner of her affections. This soothes me and brings me back to pure joy: I tell you, Bergman is also one of my favourites: that is so interesting, and so on and so on.

I reach out to your cup of tea and pour you out some more of that hot liquid: in an instant, my knuckles touch the back of your hand and your fingers, and I feel an electric shock perpetrating every single of my cells, which immediately have one ultimate goal in life: to transfer their DNA to yours and generate a toddler half you, half me.

I look deep into your eyes and I see your cells re-orienting themselves in the same fashion as mine, and, without warning or last words, I submit to it and glue my lips into yours. You get so taken aback by the sudden movement that you let the mug fall over on the desk and roll over to the floor, leaving a trace of hot, steaming liquid behind the broken pieces of the contemporary museum. After a few moments of indecision, your tongue decides to follow mine into the exploration of each other’s oral cavity. The exploration turns out to be successful, and new, un-opened territory calls for precise description and analysis. I proceed to explore your jaw, your neck, your collarbone: those areas show me no resistance whatsoever to my lingual probe. We notice, however, that the inflamed search that we both seek is constrained by the pieces of textile meshworks that hide our most primal desires, and without mercy we get rid of them, clashing down every wall, every obstacle in between our mutual search of carnal meaning.

We hurry off to the bedroom, leaving a trail of evidence on the floor with your socks, nickers, my trouser and cardigan. There is no moment for – neither a need therefore of – closing the door. As we graciously wrestle on my bed, both submitted to the other’s body, we are only able to hear the guttural moaning of our love. Somewhere, far away in the living room/kitchen, our toys are still viciously attacking one another in a ridiculous form of fucking, and their buzzing slowly die out as the evening rises. As you gently fall asleep in between my arms, I hear that our toys are also falling into a mechanical sleep, or simply that they ran out of battery. I hold you tighter, feeling your long exhalation against my chest, and I am glad for the silence I finally have, both in my room and inside my mind.

We had paid tribute to our superego, and then we were finally free to love.

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Arquivado em English, Short Story

Have you seen my mother?

Edvard Munch, Melancholy

Have you seen my mother?

I have been looking for her, everywhere

But I can’t seem to find her

I’ve looked for my mother at the kitchen, the dinning and the guest room,

even the little cupboard underneath the stairs

But I couldn’t find her.

My father, I know really well where he is

He left when I was eight

And he never came back.

Have you seen my mother?

I asked at the bank, at the supermarket, at the café down the streets,

you know, the one with the barista who reads your tea leaves

at the bottom of your cup.

I didn’t find her on any letter, I didn’t find her by the aisles, I didn’t find her on my drinks

Oh! these expensive drinks!, even after I paid for this overpriced tea

Within this fucking hipster scene

I did not find her.

Have you seen my mother?

I’ve asked at the church, at the school

The priest told me to finish my homework

and the teacher slapped me with the bible

I did not find her, by the verses,

neither hiding behind numbers

Geometric, arithmetic, mathematic

Have you seen my mother?

I searched at the butcher, at the morgue, at the graveyard

but my mother was nowhere

In all that while.

Have you seen my mother?

Maybe she was somewhere at the end of this cheap liquor bottle

I just bought at the 7/11 down the street

You know, the one in front

of the café with the barista

who thinks he knows more shit about life then me

Have you seen my mother?

I’ve finished this whole bottle,

and I still did not find her.

I went to the store again,

and bought a few more bottles

just to be sure

I’ve searched for her in every liquid,

distilled, brewed, spirited

but I did not find her.

I even tried to break down the bottle at the head of the barista

but I missed the mark as I couldn’t see,

speak,

or even think.

Have you seen my mother?

They took me to jail and I also did not find her there

I did find some scary cell mates

that promised to do things to me

I couldn’t even comprehend

and was happy –

oh how happy I was! –

when someone bailed me out

they said it was a woman

a woman with the same name as my mother’s

what a coincidence

the world is small after all

Have you seen my mother?

I looked for her at the street corners

down the boulevard

sprinkled with young girls who had a price

I looked for my mother in their eyes who did not look back at me

I looked for her while I had my grip on their neck

and they would come, come and come again

like waves

waves of make-pretend and deceit

but that would still crush at me if I tossed enough money at it

Have you seen my mother?

I’ve looked for her in all corners of this world

in every bottle, in every fag, in every powder known to men

I’ve looked for her in hell and came back

with nothing but my feet charred from fire.

I’ve looked for her in the train lines, at the phone lines

at the lines my seed would make

at the legs of young girls

too young, too young to be on the street

Have you seen my mother?

I am now at the hospital

Coughing blood, peeing blood, shitting blood

the nurses barely can handle

the amount of blood that rains down from every

orifice, cavity, hole

from my body.

They tell me my situation is bad, that there’s little they can do

I ask them

Have you seen my mother?

And no one can reply

these fancy doctors who studied so much

why the fuck can’t they answer

a simple question

Have you seen my mother?

I spat, trembled, groaned

but there was nothing

those smart doctors could do

can they even do anything?

they can’t even save a man from dying

they can’t even say to a dying man where his mother is

Have you seen my mother?

Those were the last words that uttered my lips

as the nurses came with their fancy equipment

shocking my heart, my lungs, my insides

only to quit when I couldn’t reply with a spasm

anymore.

Have you seen my mother?

As they lowered me down the six feet hole underground

I kept asking whether anyone have seen her

but down on the earth it was dark

too much soil covered my casket

probably no one heard me asking

where my mother was.

But there she was, standing in front of my tomb,

her feet some inches away from my perpetual bed

and she complains about the way my inscription was made

in the stone

Do you see her?

She’s there, she’s here

next to my corpse

crying with an endless cycle of cursing and swearing at God and the Devil

Do you see her?

She lowers down a flower, a chrysanthemum, on my eternal resting space

and she weeps and gasps

Child, where have you been all these years?, she asks destiny,

she asks to my tomb.

Child, where were you?

She didn’t get her reply

as I’ve never got mine.

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Arquivado em English, Short Story

Compliant blindness

René Magrite, La réproduction interdite

A cup of tea lay untouched in front of Alexander, getting colder as the clock on the wall ticked by. The window was cracked open, inviting fresh air from the garden outside. The air was chill, and made his fingertips freeze. He should get up and close the window, drink his tea to warm up, start working. All of these actions made sense in his head – nevertheless, he was unable to move.

Alexander sat motionless at his desk, having no idea for how long he was there. Five minutes? Ten minutes? 10 hours? A century? Well, for sure it had spanned enough time to cool down his tea.

His wall clock displayed 9:48 pm. He knew for a fact he had arrived at home from work around 7 pm, had eaten whatever leftover he could find at the fridge, showered quickly, and then sat there at his desk for the sole purpose of writing. Almost two hours had passed by, and the only thing he achieved was writing the date down. Somehow the time slipped from his fingers like sand falling from a broken hourglass.

“I just don’t get it, it used to be easier than this“, he muttered to himself.

The sight of the blank piece of paper, with the minor scribbling of the date, and the fountain pen next to it made Alexander feel sick. The fountain pen lay there, agonizing on it’s own idleness; the paper sheets ashamed to be exposed that naked to the world. Whatever force had motivated Alexander to write was now pointing its finger to his face, laughing at him at a “Ah-ha! Gotcha!” fashion. Breaking his own paralyzing state, Alexander placed his elbows at the table and covered his face with his hands, trying to hide himself from the mockery. He shut his eyes, pressing his index fingers against the skin of his eyelid; soon he started seeing patterns dancing around his visual field, psychedelic creatures that only existed in the absence of light.

“I don’t get it”, he repeated. He breathed in heavily and sighed out, clashing his elbows against the table. “It used to come to me so naturally. Why doesn’t it come back again to me? What did I loose?”, he spoke louder, as if he was speaking to someone else in the room, as if he waited for an answer. But no answer came, as Alexander had been living alone for the past four years. “Now I don’t even get past the point of writing the date on the paper without getting depressed!”

Alexander opened his eyes, freeing his eyes from the misery of compression. He had to blink several times to get used to the light on his office. When he was able to see normally, he saw the pathetic pen and the desperate sheets of paper on his desk. He thought about getting angry at them, about tearing the paper to pieces, about smashing the pen, about spilling its ink like blood on the floor… But he wasn’t able to feel anger. He wanted to shout, to cry, to punch: his body was, however, unable to produce any type of response other than numbness. If anything, he was only able to feel depressed; spiralling inwards into his own misery.

Refusing to let himself go that easily to gravity, Alexander stood up, put the sheets of paper away, placed his fountain pen back on his penholder. He took the untouched cup of tea and went to the kitchen in order to make some more. Perhaps he would just do a camomile and fennel tea in order to sleep. He was in desperate need of some relaxation of mind and body.

“Maybe I don’t have it within me anymore“, Alexander thought to himself. He scratched his face; his cheeks and chin were scruffy with his week-old unshaven beard. “Maybe it felt more natural when I was younger, fresher, more naïve… Also I might just be wasting my time. I spend a lot of time looking for the right music to hear, and when I found the right thing, my inspiration is gone. I go through many scenes in my head, but they seem to evaporate once I finally sit down and have a pen in my hand… I just don’t understand… Maybe I have more important work to worry about than just the non-sense stories in my head.”

Another reason splashed through his mind, but he refused to think of it. Instead he just shrugged and proceed to put the water kettle on the stove.

You know why you can’t write anymore, Alex., said a voice.

Alexander felt a chill running down his spine. His senses all turned on, his body preparing for a flight or fight response: instead he just got paralyzed on the spot, breathing very shortly in order not to cause a sound. His mind started racing fast. Was this one of those moments were a thought is so loud it almost sounds like it is coming from another person?

You know the reason, Alex. And you know it was your own choice which lead to this.

The voice came from within his bathroom.

Alexander’s heart skipped a beat, and instead sunk down to the inside of his intestines, too afraid of beating again and be heard by whatever was lurking on his house. Alexander knew what was awaiting for him from the inside of the bathroom.

Going against his brain, that was aggressively punching his hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis to produce adrenaline so that Alexander could turn away and run as fast as he could from his own apartment, he instead walked in a slow pace in the direction of the bathroom. His brain started panicking, telling him not to follow the steps he was making, but it was in vain. Mind and body were disconnected, and a sleeping part of his brain held advantage on that fight. Alexander was determined to take this path.

Do I sense you want to go back to the way it used to be?, asked the voice seductively. Alexander’s hand was now touching the handle to the bathroom door, and his brain gave one last cry for help – but it’s pleas were diluted into thin air. His heart had now travelled back up to his head, thumping loudly on his ears.

You can come back, Alex! Yes, come back to how it used to be… But remember that there is a price to pay. You remember the price…

Alexander entered the bathroom and there was no one in there, as he had expected.

Getting closer… Invite me back in…!, supplicated the voice.

Alexander turned around and faced his mirror. It was covered with newspapers and duct tape to prevent him to seeing his own reflex. It was an acquired habit from the last couple of years.

You can choose to come back, Alex., repeated the voice from underneath the newspaper sheets. Just remember you have a price to pay. But oh, how much fun it was…!

Before he could realise what he was doing, Alexander had raised his hands and his fingers were touching the different layers of printed words covering his reflection. His heart had migrated to his fingertips, thumping loudly at each word he slowly caressed. His senses were so acute that he could feel the firing of the sensory neurons in his hand traveling to his arms, his spinal cord, his brain.

His fingers stopped at one of the most recent newspaper articles covering the mirror – one about the newly appointed director at the local psychiatric hospital. His left index finger languidly slid down the corner of the page, feeling the colder air of the glass surface chilling his nail. In an almost hypnotically erotic way, his finger traced up and down that opening, feeling his heart travelling back to his chest. His brain, who have long acquiesced, was only working to process the sensory feeling coming from his left index finger. He felt a shiver going down his spine, swirling on his waist and reaching his pelvis. His breathing became shallow and his mouth turned dry. He started to exert more pressure on his index, pulling the paper sheet towards him, and he could hear the paper slightly tearing… He was so close to removing it now… He wondered what type of wonder could happen next…

Alexander was about to remove the paper sheet when a loud bubbling noise came from the kitchen.

The kettle was announcing it had done it’s job of boiling the volume of water it was required, and that it would be very much pleased to be removed from the hot stove, thank you very much. The sound made Alexander’s hand recoil from the mirror as in a strong reflex, hitting himself on the ribs with his elbow on the way back.

The voice was gone and so the feeling of being not alone in his apartment. The sharp pain he had inflicted himself made Alexander leave his hypnotic state. Shivering from this awakening, he splashed some water on his face and left the bathroom, closing the door shut behind him. He grabbed another tea cup and placed two bags of camomile and fennel tea on it. I’ll need double the amount tonight, he thought to himself. He turned off the lights from the kitchen and proceed to his room, picking up a light novel on the way to his bed. He needed to get his mind occupied to try to erase the episode from his head.

After a few pages and half the content of the tea cup drunk, Alexander felt drowsy. He put his reading glasses aside, put a bookmarker inside the book and put it underneath his bed. Having done one last visual check in his room – to identify that everything was where it was supposed to be -, he was able to turn off the lights and finally rest his agitated head on the pillow.

Not everything was where it was supposed to be, however. Alexander did not realize that he had caused a tiny slip on the newspapers covering his mirror. A shinning piece of the reflective glass shone in the dark, now free from the paper prison.

____________________________________________________

Excerpt from my current work in progress novel.

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Arquivado em English

Um café com o Bruxo do Cosme Velho

machado

Está quente, a cozinha; o sol entra pelas janelas fartas, deixando marcos nas cadeiras e na mesa. Um destes raios, atrevido, se estende até a xícara de meu café. Oras! pois é meu, acabei de o fazer, diz-lhe ao raio que, amuado, recuou alguns milímetros.

Com ar de vitoriosa, levei a xícara aos lábios; o corpo e a mente estavam já preparados para receber aquele líquido quente e…

Toc, toc, toc!

E lá se foi o meu gole, caindo em minha camisa. Podia jurar que vi o raio do sol tremular, como se risse.

Toc, toc, toc!

Alguém bateu à porta de novo, quase de forma impaciente. Levantei-me enfim – preocupada em deixar a xícara o mais afastada da iluminação possível – e fui me ter com quem batia na porta.

Não era ninguém menos que Machado de Assis, o bruxo do Cosme Velho.

Estupefata – afinal, estamos nos anos de 2018, 110 anos após a morte do escritor, se me lembro corretamente das datas -, não tinha o que dizer além de abrir a porta e permanecer de pé em frente ao autor, que, de carne e unha, deixava-se entrar em minha cozinha e tomava um lugar para sentar à mesa.

-Uma xícara de café e um copo d’água, por obséquio, pois viajo de muito longe. – disse Machado, como se fosse um íntimo, tirando um relógio de cobre do bolso e checando o horário.

Por conta de toda aquela intimidade e simplicidade de maneiras, me dirigi ao bule de café que havia passado há pouco e servi o resto do conteúdo em uma xícara – inconscientemente ou não, peguei a mais arrumada, leia-se, a menos arranhada, que tinha e ofereci ao escritor. Fui então a geladeira para pegar a garrafa d’água quando me veio um sobressalto – na época de Machado, geladeiras para fins domésticos ainda não existiam. Olhei de canto dos olhos se o escritor expressava alguma surpresa pelo eletrodoméstico – mas este se encontrava distraído com o café em mãos e a observar pela janela a fora.

Entreguei o copo de água e sentei na cadeira oposta ao escritor – ainda em silêncio. Permaneci assim enquanto ele tomava dois largos goles do copo que o ofereci.

-Muito obrigado; faz realmente muito calor hoje. Se me permites, me servirei mais um pouco – ele disse, fazendo pouca cerimônia, entornando mais água da garrafa que deixei em cima da mesa.

– Aããmm… – foi o máximo que consegui consentir.

– Se tens problemas de garganta, recomendo tomar uma colheirinha de mel e pigarrear – ele disse, com ar genuino de preocupação. – Nada me molesta mais que permanecer com a garganta travada quando me vens o ar de conversar.

–  Aããmm… – tornei a repetir, desta vez, um tanto encabulada. Tomei um golé de café – que desceu rápido e quente demais -, pigarreei e prossegui a minha fala, que soava como um menino passando pela puberdade – hm, Senhor? Poderia perguntar o que fazes em minha cozinha?

Vi um sorriso se formar no canto de seus lábios.

-Senhor?  Por favor, não sou senhor de nada, já me viu com terras e enormes propriedades?  Talvez, sim, eu seja senhor de palavras, isto é, quando elas decidem se comportar e a obedecer minhas canetas. Não, por favor, não me chame de senhor; pode me chamar de Joaquim, já que aqui estamos em um ambiente informal – disse ele pausadamente, lançando um olhas às minhas roupas, que consistiam de trapos com desculpa de serem pijama, com a recém mancha de café devido à minha batalha pela posse do mesmo.

Olhei para minhas próprias roupas e, em uma fração de segundo, realmente pensei que não eram as mais apropriadas para receber Machado de Assis em minha cozinha; no entanto, me conformei com o pensamento de que, provavelmente, ninguém se veste a ocasião de esperar Machado de Assis bater à sua porta em um domingo de manhã. Estava, portanto, aliviada. Havia questões mais importantes martelando em minha testa.

– Desculpa pelos trajes. – foi tudo que consegui responder.

-Não se preocupes; vim sem avisar, não poderia esperar uma comitiva de recepção – disse ele, de novo com o sorriso no canto dos lábios. – Penso que te perguntas porque vim, o porque de estar aqui?

Meramente acenei com a cabeça, ainda incapaz de formular frases mais complexas em minha língua.

-Algumas perguntas não necessariamente vem acompanhadas de respostas. Algumas perguntas são solitárias, andam aquém nesta Terra, sem companhia: ora, mesmo que sejam únicas, ímpares, não nos cabe, meros humanos, a simplesmente ignorá-las.

Ele terminou a frase e eu assenti, sem ter mesmo certeza que entendi o que foi dito.

– Vejo que interrompi sua leitura – ele disse, se referindo com um lançar de olhos a um livro que jazia esquecido, desde o momento que fiz o café, no centro da mesa. Enrubesci quando ele leu o próprio nome na capa – Memórias póstumas de Brás Cubas, por Machado de Assis. – ele leu, com um sorriso que não estava na boca e sim no som das palavras – Muito bom, gostei muito de escrever este volume.

Eu acenei com a cabeça.

-E eu gostei de ler. – disse, ainda me sentindo pre-púbere enquanto falava – Um livro escrito por um cadáver, o quão genial foi em seu tempo!

-Não chame genial – ele disse, humilde, apesar de sentir um centésimo de orgulho em suas palavras – Nova perspectiva, talvez, é um termo que prefiro. Gênios são outros, como Virgílio, Shakespeare, Byron: eu sou apenas um pequeno, uma pequena voz em meio a tantas outras que tiveram coragem de publicar seus pensamentos.

Hoje em dia te consideram gênio incalculável, pensei comigo mesma, sem ter coragem para dizer em voz alta.

– Geralmente, quando venho, vêm me importunar sobre Capitu. Oras, que perguntem à ela! – disse o escritor, com um ar de falta de paciência, como se houvesse outras pessoas na sala a quem ele se dirigisse – Dom Casmurro, livro que também gostei tantíssimo de escrever, é o que hoje mais me importuna de perguntas. Se eu soubesse que seria tão complicado assim… – deixou sua frase solta no ar enquanto tomava um gole de café.

Aflita, me mexi um tanto para a direita em ordem à esconder a estante de livros que se encontrava atrás de mim onde, em laranja brilhante, se encontrava o meu exemplar de Dom Casmurro.

– Peço desculpas pelo meu lapso de impaciência – disse ele, enfim, após se acalmar com a memória de pessoas se perguntando da fidelidade de Capitu à Bentinho. – Como vês, sou já velho; aos velhos, cabe o remorso, a rabugice, a falta de paciência. Ah, que deveras falta me faz os meus tempos de mocidade…

Machado de Assis terminou o conteúdo de sua xícara de café e, mesmo sem ter pedido, fui ao balcão para passar mais café no filtro; lembrei-me de minha xícara, que agora se prostava sobre a mesa, esquecida e fria.

-Acho que desviei muito da pergunta que fez, minha cara. Sobre o motivo que eu vim – disse ele, acentuando com a cabeça um obrigado pelo fato de sua xícara novamente estar cheia de café – Vim por vir, sem muito motivo. Me fazia falta de tomar um café e estar por estar, assim, numa mesa de cozinha num domingo de manhã. Alguns prazeres terrenos me fazem corroer em saudades!

Com esse dito, tomou um gole do café fresco e juro que vi seu corpo tremelicar um pouco em alegria e satisfação.

-Vens muito à Terra?  – perguntei, como se fosse uma pergunta banal, dessas que se faz em conversas de elevador.

– Não muito, pois não quero me apegar aos vícios que cá estão e que há muito tempo me despedi. Mas há certas coisas que, na alma da gente, ficam gravadas. Alguns chamam de memórias; eu, no entanto, penso que são como cicatrizes, pois estão sempre ali, a vistas de todos. Memórias são invisíveis, fluídas; podem ir e vir com facilidade, e desaparecer na flecha do tempo. Cicatrizes são, na maioria dos casos, permanentes; causam mudanças em baixo da nossa pele, se re-arranjam as células e o plasma; são individuais, nunca tem duas cicatrizes que se assemelhem. Pois, mesmo aqui, neste lado aquém da vida, a alma ainda apresenta essas cicatrizes que de vez em quando doem e remoem, o que nos força à voltar. Mas, quando o incomodo se extingue, sabe-se que já é hora de retornar.

-Para onde, este retorno?

Um sorriso, desta vez bem largo, se abriu no rosto do escritor.

Há mais mistérios entre o céu e a terra, Horatio, do que supõe nossa vã filosofia – disse ele apenas. A frase me soou familiar, embora não conseguia me lembrar de onde.

Um silêncio se prostrou entre nós dois, e eu não conseguia achar o que falar. Machado de Assis olhava fora da janela, se entretendo com a vista das folhas que suavemente balançavam ao vento e as bicicletas que hora em outra passavam à fora. Ninguém do lado de fora – absolutamente ninguém – parava e olhava cá dentro, olhava para essa mesa onde uma menina de trajes velhos se sentava com Machado de Assis, vestido de terno à moda de época. Era como se tudo isso fosse normal, algo cotiadiano.

-Ouvi dizer que tem ganas de ser escritora – disse Machado enfim, ainda com o rosto virado para a janela.

-Sim, de vez em quando me atrevo a escrever algumas coisas que me vem à mente, mas não são muito organizadas – disse, enrubescida, como se tivesse dando uma desculpa. – Mas sei que tenho muito caminho ainda pela frente se quero considerar algo que escrevo como digno…

-Digno de que? – interrompeu-me ele, desta vez olhando nos fundos dos meus olhos – Digno de receber elogios de críticos literários? Para que, se estes vão te comer viva, se o único papel fundamental destes é criticar a todos os ventos aos invés de compreender? Digno de se transformar em livros? Para que, se estes vão ficar escondidos em prateleiras e enfim esquecidos? Não! Não não… Escrever não é algo que deve ser considerado digno de alguma coisa – se escreve porque se escreve, e ponto. Não tem finalidade alguma; se quiser ter finalidade, escreva comercialmente – esses sim, tens aos montes cá na Terra, inclusive no meu tempo se tinha.

-Escrever é transpor e transbordar o que já existe – continuou ele, depois de uma pausa, após estar mais calmo. – Por isso não precisa ser digno de nada, basta ser uma continuação de quem és. Se escreves para que outra pessoa leia, está fazendo errado – disse ele, em tom de advertência – Escrever é se expor ao mundo, expor suas qualidades e, principalmente, seus defeitos. Por tal, escrever é um ato de coragem. Tu, já que leu meus livros, viu o quanto de peito se precisa ter para expor ao mundo toda a sujeirice que nos enroda.

Assenti, pensando em personagens das estórias de Machado de Assis; todos essencialmente humanos, com suas falhas e conquistas, estupidez e sagacidade, vícios e virtudes.

– Mas uma estória pode existir sem leitores? Existe livro sem leitor? – perguntei, impressionada com a própria assertividade em minha voz.

-Não, creio que não – seu tom foi baixo, como se fosse um tanto doloroso admitir isso – Mas basta apenas um leitor. Basta apenas que uma pessoa leia para que a existência daquelas palavras sejam confirmadas. Basta apenas um leitor, um mísero leitor, para que a estória ganhe vida.

As palavras que sairam de sua boca ficaram no ar e eu me peguei contemplando-as por muito tempo, como se fossem pequenos passarinhos que desenhassem circuitos no espaço em cima da minha mesa. Estes voavam tão rápido e em zigue-zague que sabia que não poderia tê-los pousados em minha mão – teria que me confortar com os rastros de ideias.

Um deles veio a pousar em cima do Memória Póstumas, e se aconchegou ali como se fosse um ninho próprio. Um raio de sol se estendeu sobre o passarinho – que parecia um canarinho amarelo – e este sacudiu as asas, como se agradecia pelo calor.

Olhei para frente, para ver se Machado de Assis também observava com carinho os passarinhos que voavam alegres ao redor de nossa cabeça – no entanto, percebi que estava sozinha.

Os passarinhos, então, tão rápido como vieram, também desapareceram.

Restava apenas um copo de água pela metade ao lado de uma xícara de café, vazia deste líquido escura, ainda meio morna pelo café que uns instantes atrás era bebido.

Levei os copos e as xícaras à pia para lavá-los depois e me sentei novamente à mesa, com a cabeça ainda cheia de cicatrizes, canarinhos e um quê de Hamlet que ainda não entendia direito porque veio a mente.

Deixei estes pensamentos de lado, depositando-os sobre a parte da mesa iluminada pelo sol, e abri o livro para continuar a leitura que havia sido interrompida.

Do canto dos olhos, via o raio de sol tremelicar contente com os presentes que o havia dado.

Lentamente, fora da janela, a manhã se desfazia em tarde.

 

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Arquivado em Contos, Sem categoria, Surrealismo