Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sketches of Chile...


For Nissie

"Impression of the Cordillera" Photo by Boris Gregoric

Perhaps South America is the only suitable place in which one is to go all out, blindly, trusting Providence, filling page after page of the most extraordinary, yet most quotidian ‘adventures’.

The only thing I must have however is my morning hour or two —an hour to quietly ruminate and create. For if I cannot then I am truly lost. My morning ‘sketching’, my morning ‘doodles’ are my only proper anchor. All the rest is wind and smoke.

It is good to reach the soil of the multi-millionaire Neruda. It is a sad intuition that one, naturally, arrives about eighty or ninety years too late (St. Exupéry). Will South America be able to resist the bloodied fangs of the globalist specter? (Nope.) I am afraid, judging by first impressions, it has already been commercialized to the point of no return.

On a personal level, it is wonderful to find D. safely nested in the vastly provincial metropolis S.  There are still but a few enterprising spirits who will be able to create a sense of homely comfort and snugness wherever they might settle, temporarily or not.  One creates what one is.

One hour of creative outburst is worth one hundred days of quotidian pursuits; for the true and deepest adventure lies within and not without. And in the end how can this world, no matter how beautiful, not disappoint when put against the immense, meandering river of one’s creativity?

And then we saw another residency of his poetic majesty Neruda.  The sheer square mileage of it would have surely provided comfortable abode for a several hundred of the poets’ sans-culottes.

Everything must be lost, all your possessions, your god damn spare specs, your god damn stolen chargers, techno gadgets —all down the hole —indeed in order to be found again.  There is no way around it; how very few writers understood that, how very few resonated with the truth that lighted the soul of the few who, like Henry M., burnt to the very core of being.  And then, one day, what release from the prison.

Only when you veer off the course of what you truly are you end up lost in the forest of the confused Others.  Nothing is obscure; all is clear and illumined.  Kerouac knew.  Valéry.  Dickinson.  For there were others that threaded the path before us —and, sadly, Señor Neruda was not one of them.

Nothing is yours, you little man.  And never forget to express your gratitude for you can serve Buddha best with your creativity that like a life-vest buoys you in the sea of troubles.

What we try to do is to silently retrace the mystical particles that remain inextinguishable, firmly lodged in the air of the continents that should be renamed after the fearless celestial navigators (e.g. St. Exupéry; Lawrence & the Southwest).

The vast, noxious miasma of the modern cities.

Even half an hour of peaceful stay in a public library will help you anchor in the thick of the metropolitan turmoil.   

Deus quid odio urbes.

In less than 2000 years we have devolved from a perfect, or near perfect, language (Latin) to a barbarous gibberish of the contemporary South American street ‘Spanish’ and, god have mercy, ‘Portuguese’.  Would it not be better to again speak and write solely in Latin and Greek?

What we find seeking refuge in South American soul, is its near frantic desire for freedom (eleutheromania running rampant).  To be rid of the monolithic ‘global’ behemoth, the freedom from its deadly grip, the soul’s utmost imperative.

If one can steer off the sea of troubles and keep one’s ship on straight course without whining, working on at least one great book that would be free of bitching — a nobly extraneous task for a beautiful (early fall) Sunday morning in Santiago.

Time and again, cities prove to be at their best when deserted due to national holidays.  In fact, you should attempt to visit them only when the deserted streets and closed shops assert the magic of the holidays at hand (in this case, the May 1st Weekend ).


Dia de  Mama Day Trip to Valparaiso.

Omelet served in a round (unclean) metal plate —the one you would perhaps see in a penitentiary —also served with a coffee sized spoon.  No knife, no fork.  Chile can never cease to amaze with its unexpected oddities.  The eatery—  (est. 1955 by two Italian immigrants).

And among the general sense of politeness, now and again a shocking instance of rudeness.  A monstrously rude waiter-patron at the café the other day (really hated us because thought we were stupid Yanks?); a snarling foul-mouthed thug in front of my seat, savagely reclining in the bus Valparaiso –Santiago, despite me politely asking if he could recline a little less.  But I guess my broken sentence rubbed him the wrong way. 

It has been a long time since I saw a wonderful, simple, warm film,  ‘old-fashioned’ in the best sense, and that is Gianni di Gregorio’s Il Pranzo di Ferragosto (2008). I love this odd wonderful actors nobody ever heard of, or rather actors that definitely are not 'stars'...Bruno Ganz comes to mind too.

On the bus there, a magically beautiful child traveling with her mom and cousins.  Chileans?  Brazilians?  Who knew, but in the sea of average or below average looking (at the most, now and then, somebody —he or she —poco belli, but generally poco brutti or worse…), one can’t help but notice.  A wonderful flower in the parched unaesthetic desert.  We could have been her parents or, perhaps, even grand-parents.

Coming to the magical verticals of Valparaiso, but at least 60 years too late.  One feels the city very much en declive.

The  Chilean Spanish e.g. on the metro —the parada ‘Los Heroes’ pronounced distinctly as CERVE.  Of course, our lack of  Spanish doesn’t help a bit.  When ordering,  at the bus terminal, cortado doble (para llegar) you end getting te (in a styro cup of course).

Sounds like something out of Cortazar —Paseo Yugoslavo, Valparaiso.  Pretty cool they did not change the name.  A park with some artists and a great palace of some pre-war tycoon of Balkan-Mediterranean origins. 

And, once again, the grand millionaire-hypocrite poeta with another of his five story villas imposing and presiding over the hillsides of Valparaiso.

Vi una flor en la flor más llena.

After the initial excitement of  ‘niceness’, inevitably one starts encountering the strangeness and weirdness of the natives.  This is the rule of any place you stay in for a longer period of time. 

Valparaiso, Valparaiso, a city to steal a wanderer’s heart.

Yet the great age of travel has been successfully annihilated and now the filthy lucre allows the Northern hemisphere Shrimp to infest every corner of the globe.  Or nearly every corner.  Money is the monster ‘equalizer’, humanity's most ancient enemy.

Worse still is the dread of communicating or having to communicate with people all the time; constantly reporting on the crummy little uneventful ‘events’ on the road.  If you see one hostel, you’ve seen them all.  If you meet one young backpacker, you meet them all.  If you hear one British voice abroad, you’ve heard them all.  In every aspect of life, something exceptional, even something a little out and over the ordinary is the greatest, rarest commodity.

Belleza salvará al mundo, lo dice Dostoevsky.

Poema Cometa

soy una cometa
un meteoro
— un fuego que nunca se puede

June 1st 2012

Más que alguna vez antes, necesitamos un día de Dioses.

Best times of our lives are, creatively speaking, between 8 and 12 am; and brain wave wise between 3 and 5 am (‘the Hour of the Wolf’).

If we (my family) had had an escutcheon, un escudo de armas, it would have to be a howitzer or some similar piece of artillery.  Once a gunner, always a gunner, as my dad used to say.

One must steel oneself and become a walking of beauty despite the indisputable, barely disguised, all-pervasive, Orwellian underlinements of Menace (corollary. the Wizard of Oz is in fact malignant).


Yo no soy él quién dibuya y escribe mis reflexiones —estoy escrito por, dibujado por, un ser imperceptible, un ser de poder inmenso quién aquí y allí nos todos da el regale de luz.

No es nadie come la señora Patricia, la lavandera por la calle.  Es la alegría de vida.

De donde viene el mundo ?

Nissie, soy el miel y tu estas la mermelada. 

With a handful of brave conquistadores, the great Hernán Cortés was able to conquer the entire Aztec Empire.  We need a new generation of the mad Spanish conquistas. 


Santiago, April, May, June 2012


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sunday in Santiago

Sunday in Santiago, photo: Boris Gregoric (all rights reserved)

Good source for the contemporary tanka & haiku poetry. (Update: June issue 2013)


Thursday, May 23, 2013


Boris Gregoric:


Listen, a pair of cardinals, it is said they mate for life, cardinals do.  But the northerly is blowing, swift and sharp, carrying it all, carrying it all. You will never suffer again, Myra, the wind will carry it, it will carry you too to the end, to the source…but now …somebody might have…too much suffering, why is there so much suffering, Lord?  It’s cold, it’s dark, the suffering has yet to cease anywhere.  The geese have all gone, flown South, you should have gone South too, this afternoon, tomorrow morning, first thing, pack the suitcase and go, you don’t have much stuff to carry.  Who will take care of the cats?  Always the cats.  Holy little god’s creatures.  Now, sit here for awhile, just for a little while, the sun is dying fast, six months of vicious darkness ahead on this hemisphere, your face in the mirror, the speeding car, the water’s edge, the dam on the reservoir, not a bad little reservoir, but neither a big powerful lake, surely not a big lake, and yet not a bad little lake…the city without a river or a lake is nothing …like husband without wife…like a couple without children…like a country that ignores its elders with their wisdom…then doubt, fear, chaos, distrust reign, shading the faces of nearly everyone, everyone feeling, apprehending, sensing the negatives in their bones, very few able to break free and at the very great cost, to break the chains so to speak —listen, Myra, the cardinal couple is staying home despite the winter at your doorstep.  

All rights reserved by the author  


Night of Narnia, photo: Boris Gregoric (all rights reserved)



Several shoeboxes full of black and white photos were kept in the closet.  The spectacle of the brilliant military career her husband had had, fifty years of maneuvers, parades, social fetes and revelries, and only a smattering of photos of their family, the two of them, embraced, or more often, surrounded by their three small children. On one or two, her smile.  That whore, he had run away with.  Hilda. No, she had never felt jealous. Not really.  But she neither quite wanted to get married at such an early age. The thing was that her late father, a provincial notary M.  had perished, was basically murdered one night at the hands of her mother, a seamstress who was left to bring up her and her two younger sisters up in the hard, bleak post-war years.  So, when the dapper young officer, met her at a provincial dance, and when they went our for a date or two, in all innocence she never expected that her mother would have consented so fast to giving her 19-year daughter to the brilliant young officer of moot origin.

The halcyon days of their marriage breezed by fast, like they always do.  Soon it was only life on the road, a gypsy caravan as her sister Vera had called it———: a succession of dismal provincial garrisons, commanding posts, transfers from one garrison to another —increasing the distance in the married life. One thing about the colonel, he loved horses; in his youth he rode in the tournaments; he was smart and ambitious, definitely rose from the ranks

The days less dapper followed the spell in the Guards. Why the sheen came off and turned into a humdrum career man relocating his family to eleven different garrisons across the country, for the principles he had served with an unwarranted zeal.

As if your family is a sack of potatoes, she’d cry when he’d informed her they were to move again. South to North, East to West. Hundreds of kilometers back and forth.  Different cultures, languages, mores, later during the civil wars, even different little Banana Republic-style states.

Son of a bitch, she would have learned to curse. Then, from left field, an affair with Hilda, the amateur actress —a cocktail waitress to be more accurate. The old old story of this world. Twisted him in a knot, made him elope. Twenty years younger than the colonel. Forty years of marriage.  But nobody has yet escaped the laws of Karma. And now he was gone, they said they had eloped to Argentina.  Like those fascists he always hated.  Others rumored, that the secret service had been involved; for not every day a colonel from the communist system would be fleeing the country.

 She sorted the photographs into smaller piles, taking out the few family pics. A handful of sepia-toned pictures of his mother, whom Lydia had never met because she had died too young. Allegedly she had run away too from her newborn boy.  To Florence. So the colonel had grown up in the care of his grandmother, never knowing the warmth his biological parents.
It runs in the family, Lydia thought, this running away business.  Now she ripped in half another picture of her uniformed husband surrounded by his mates.  The pile of dead leaves and twigs would be greatly invigorated by the stash of torn photographs.  It should burn nicely, she murmured.  Hopefully neighbors won’t complain, as burning in the back yard was strictly against the city ordinance. In fact, almost anything in the country, anything you wanted to do even on your own property, was against some city, state or federal ordinance or another.   The grand age of democracy.
Why did she come here?  No, somebody was bound to snitch, many neighbors had nothing better to do. Outside of their mind-numbing sports, and slaving for wages, they were mostly bored to death.  What happened to the spirit of the famous pioneer men and women?  Darn, curses. Foiled again.  And at least ninety per cent of the mail in the mailbox was junk. Junk mail, junk culture,  junked people.  Lydia was sad.  How nicely the photographs of her former husband might still burn, tonight, tucked under the grill’s lid, so nobody sees it.  Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, amen.

All rights reserved by the author




At the threshold of the greenhouse, a scruffy looking tom licks his old wounds, one eye winking at us rakishly. In Italy the proverb has it that cats have seven lives; in other places, nine seems to be the accepted norm. Both sound decidedly better than the one meager life we humans will get. For we might have tamed rivers, might have razed the mountains, built the dams, flooded the world. We might have hopped toward stars and planets a bit and back, yet we are still here — rather stuck.  As opposed to the feline riches of seven or nine lives at one’s disposal.  It is Japanese maneki neko —a cat that brings luck to the home that the cat adopts. Yes, that cat adopts. For we might adopt dogs, but it is cats who adopt us. Every true ailurophile knows that.  And then, before long, we worship, even prostrate in front of these fuzzy, mysterious gods of great wisdom and godly cleanliness. 

We while away in a wooden Danube boat gently rocking on the small pond.  The reflections of a gray, cool autumn afternoon on the water, the sky rushing rapidly over our heads. It is good to sit like this. The opaque muddy green pond below boat in which we sit without many words.  What is there to be said?  Once you pass a certain age, there’s less and less need to say anything.  Will be going back to the city on two rivers, with our host, the flower wholesaler Dusan.  A nice guy if there ever was one.  Wanted to become an Orthodox priest and live the life of a recluse monk on one of the Orthodox islands in Greece.  Then he met his wife.  Life changes at the drop of a pin.  We always fix on something, and then end up doings something altogether different.  Who is afraid of the big bad wolf of Serbia? Not us, surely.  Confucius and Sun Tzu surely not. They come to our mind, as we study the scudding, shifting cloud formation.  From the deep a catfish suddenly snaps to surface, stirring the murky shallow water in order to snatch chunks of bread that Dusan is tossing in.  It feeds long enough for us to observe the slow, dumb motion of the slimy body; even make a brief eye contact with the cross-eyed monster —oddly, if impolitely,  resembling the famous philosopher Sartre.

A dull slowness unfolds in catfish, indeed like the weighty, solemn thoughts of the philosopher. Unlike those poetic, bright flashes of vitality that we’ve observed in the one-eyed tom, guarding the greenhouse.  or the sunny scream of calendula flower batch we saw still abloom, but fading fast, behind the wire fence, earlier that day. Yes, calendulas seem somehow truer, somehow more vital, than the preternaturally slow dullard catfish.  So easy to catch them, Dušan says pointing at the fishing net casually tucked under the prow of the curious, square wooden boat —typical of the Danube River. We hope its slow leakage is not its typical feature.  So, like in anything, there are hierarchies, endless rich and not so rich hierarchies in our natural world, from the one-eyed tom in the greenhouse, to the catfish at the bottom of the pond, and the calendulas on the farm’s farther end.

And beyond our back, the beautiful, troubled city in the distance humming like a colossal hive —an infinite variety of life, all ringing, coalescing, converging, diverging toward an endless arrangement, to the great cosmos mystery of nature’s hierarchies where nothing is quite equal to anything else.  A stubborn, forever unbreakable veil of mystery, operating under the surface of all visible, observable  phenomena.

No matter how hard we try to pretend it does not, how much we think all is knowable, all measurable, the mystery will always be there.  And the cat will to us always look brighter than the catfish and the catfish, ugly or not, will surely inhabit the universe vastly different from ours,  or the one in which the calendula flowers, full of blazing glory, live its final days of the season.  

© Boris Gregoric 2013