20 mar. 2007

My flight on Sunday from Madrid to Newark was 7 hours late. So I got in a line with about 400 or 500 other people to redo a connection and get a hotel voucher. 3 1/2 or four hours later I reached the end of the line. I was asleep at 3 a.m. in the Meadowlands Hampton Inn. (I had arisen at 5:30 a.m. on Monday in Santiago de Compostela.) I made it back to St. Louis on Monday evening.


While on the plane from Madrid I looked at a poem by Miguel Hernández that I figure most be one of the first Spanish poems I read in Spain on my program abroad in 1979.

Pintada, no vacía,
pintada está mi casa
del color de las grandes
pasiones y desgracias.

Regresará del llanto
adonde fue llevada,
con su desierta mesa,
con su ruinosa cama.

Florecerán los besos
sobre las almohadas
y en torno de los cuerpos
elevará la sábana
su intensa enrededera
nocturna, perfumada.

El odio se amortigua
detrás de las ventanas.

Será la garra suave.

Dejadme la esperanza.

I remember I bought a book by Miguel Hernández in a bookstore in San Sebastián in the summer of '79, Poemas de amor. I still have the book and I still have acess to the particular quality of emotion that I felt on first reading this poem. It doesn't matter that I know Spanish better now than then, because this was precisely when I learned Spanish. That is, it is a decisive moment for me.

They say that chess masters can memorize the positions of pieces on the board if those pieces are engaged in a meaningful game, but if presented with a purely random set of chess pieces on a board, they do no better than non-chess players at memorizing those positions. Memorizing poetry is a similar task. I re-memorized this poem of Hernández in about 10 minutes on the plane, because it makes aesthetic sense. There's an inner necessity there.

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