PRINCE IN THE ROSE GARDEN
EVEN THE RUINS ARE FIT FOR LOVE
Hugo dos Santos is a Luso-American writer, editor, and translator. He is the author of Then, there (Spuyten Duyvil, 2019), a collection of Newark stories, and the translator of A Child in Ruins (Writ Large Press, 2016), the collected poems of José Luís Peixoto, which was a staff pick at the Paris Review Daily. He has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Disquiet International Literary Program. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and won a Write Well Award, and has appeared or is forthcoming in Barrelhouse, Electric Literature, Hobart, Puerto del Sol, The Common, The Fanzine, and elsewhere. He is a co-founder of the Brick City Collective and is associate editor at DMQ Review.
PRINCE IN THE ROSE GARDENListen this is a poem does not speak of love does not speak of the blue scarf draped over the shoulders of a singer on the tips of his toes at the edge of a cliff Does not speak of a Rolex nor of the Uruguayan Fencing Federation’s pennant Does not speak of a drained lake in an American forest Does not mention the fetid bakery receiving night owls for morning coffee after the day has turned This is a poem does not speak of commotion at 7 o’clock mass nor of the percentage of women in awe at the sight of their husbands shaving unexpectedly Does not speak of broken tractors across American forests does not speak of the idea of north in the city with all the revolutionaries Does not speak of tears does not speak of confused virgins does not speak of publicists with worn out elbow pads Nor of herds of deer Just listen this is a poem it will not define concepts like liberty equality and faith Will not fix the haircut of the girl keenly working the supermarket register Will not improve Will not improve this is a poem just listen does not speak of love does not speak of angels does not speak of God nor does it speak of the farmer who dedicated 38 years in the search of a mystical vision of the singer who crossed the interstate by foot in hopes of arriving home or someplace close to home.
EVEN THE RUINS ARE FIT FOR LOVEI remember well that Basque singer who used to celebrate summer rain I didn’t pay any mind to conspiracies recurrent nocturnal topic under the archways of the city during the time of lunar intermezzo This was after the fascists, a bit before the democracy embroidered in magnolias The singer, the arcades, the perfume, and gunshots taught me to appreciate transitions as the best time to understand light Revolutions were always the right place for finding peace: maybe because no home is safe maybe because no body is safe or maybe because only after facing a gun can we finally understand the multiple possibilities of a gun.
It’s been a year and a half since they flooded the Danesdale Canal to allow the procession of beavers. I still don’t know how to make a poem but at least I know how to fold laundry. I have refused to discuss the usual topics, like the heart of God, children’s games, macroscopic vision that falls upon the folding of gym shorts, the eyelashes of a black fish that scratches against the chest of the diver every morning, the final score of the baseball game in Connecticut or the right way to spell baseball. I think sport is a comforting thing because it takes place on fertile ground and also because I can abandon it at any moment or return to it at any moment. Fred is still alive, still wipes down the bar counter with a filthy rag and I know that whenever I return to this city I can go to the bar, belly up and ask him about Hank Aaron. Fred knows everything about flight. I learned about numerous transforming elements of desire, but I won’t distend into curses or overwritten sentences just to recover a sense of process in this sentence. The best piano player in the country died this afternoon and he had hair of fire. Sonia says that he was like an eruption of cherubim on the asphalt, Eric won’t stop crying. The almond tree on the canal was carved with a pocket knife but the engraved drawing is not the ugliest tattoo in the world. Etc. Etc. Etc.
You know how it is, my sensibility often becomes a great impediment to the execution of delicious things like diversion, dance, song, acrobatic leaps between two beams on an island or reading in braille. It’s that I invest so many hours in perfecting a circle that I sometimes forget the actual dimensions of Novak’s mansion—I am filled with a sadness so profound that I flail mute, sad clown at a New Orleans stoplight. Waiting on flowers to rain down, singing of war to my grandfather, watching a blushing whale under the canopy of a tree, all of this. Investing more time than is warranted to watching the natural stacks of bamboo or trying to understand why the hell the body of an animal is not as malleable as the natural stacks of bamboo. In saying malleable I mean capable of being altered or controlled by outside forces or influences. I think harshness is a dagger carving grooves into tenderness, that’s it. But don’t worry: “Blessed are the merciful/Blessed are the merciful/Blessed are the merciful.”