--Allen Ginsberg, from "Salutations to Fernando Pessoa"
Fernando Pessoa crosses the Atlantic and it's dark,
dark like the river Styx. In the distance
he sees the last lights, the rockets, the bright flares
of the Titanic. It's before radio. Somehow, though,
he knows that Leonardo Dicaprio is freezing in the cold still water, and that Kate Winslett is floating
like an angel above him on piece of bulkhead.
It's unlike Melville, who imagined the ocean to be like a prairie, who imagined the One Eye of the Oversoul projecting itself out of the depths. Like a comet from darker skies, major poetry journals acclaim his arrival:
for one critic, he?s like the hysterical, drug-soaked Poe,
and for another, he reads like a militant Cristopher Smart without Geoffrey the cat.
Still, there is no sense of time on his passage,
but there are fellows in New England practicing a kind of spiritual folk magic afterall, and the docks are still thick with poisonous intrigue, the slap of chains and rope. The crisis begins with postmodernism,
the crisis begins with the colonial instinct he carries, they say. So in desperation he meets every gang-plank by begging,
Have you seen my men, have you seen my ships?
Pessoa crosses the Ohio and it's green,
slimy with gasoline. By this time he?s been waiting
for hours to cross into the great Heartland,
riding a modern coal barge all the way to St. Louis.
He knows the old Greybeard is there, singing
long flat songs in an accent he doesn?t know.
You see, the lobstermen of Nantucket and the catfish farmers in Louisiana know they have options--traps, tools, and a good road to make a living, the slap of brotherhood. Stuck with his poetry he toughs it out along the great vein of North American might until March, unable to sail, but able to fish the muddy waters for fish he never imagined,
red-gilled things that writhe in the fire,
thick-finned things that taste like so much salt.
There?s a point in the story when Pessoa
reaches San Francisco, where the steel ships are
the size of castles and the dreary, Japanese Pacific awaits him. But now, this is America, or as you would say, North America, and because of Whitman
he's mistaken for a Beatnik or even a later-day
Essene who might make soap near the sea.
I can't help it if Richard Henry Dana is there with him, barefoot, selling seal hides in the harbor from a sloop.
In the pseudo-romantic light of the bay, it's just a story.
Copyright © Albino Carrillo, 2006. All Rights Reserved.