I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades
Forever and for ever when I move.

       ~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson,  ‘Ulysses’, 1833

5th May,
My love,
I woke this morning before dawn, my heart racing from a frightening dream. I was back in the house we used to share in Cordoba, but the furniture had been taken and the ceilings and the walls were crumbling. I was trying to close the window against a stray cat, which was screeching to get inside and in my terror I slammed the sash down and crushed it – half in and half out of the frame. It continued to screech and then out of nowhere other cats appeared, scrabbling at my shoulders and neck, tearing at my dress.
I still cannot shake the sound though for an hour now I have been standing at the window of my pension in Guatemala, looking across to the grey blue hills, so much like the hills to the east of Melbourne. But here a volley of gunshot ricochets across the valley – the sound of guerillas training, submerged in the forest. It reminds me of Guy Fawkes night, when I was a child and how I used to huddle, terrified, on the back step away from the others as they set off firecrackers and lit the straw-filled effigy on the bonfire.
Listen to me – all these words of fear. I must lift myself up and stop counting the days without you.
Darling, you are the air pocket in the wreck I am diving inside, but now the hull lists. How much I want to stay in your hold, your pattern without gods or redeemable time.
Yours,
Alejandra

           10th May

Dearest,
I keep thinking about that night when I woke to find you standing at the foot of my bed. You were naked and earnestly speaking about time; how you needed time as if I were its keeper and had the power to give it to you. And then you accused me of only wanting certain parts of you and I confess I didn’t want to listen. Not then. Much better that I did not wake, and you, like one of Picasso’s engraved beasts, had just continued to watch me sleep.

Let me return you to memory. To earlier the same evening as I poured you weak tea in the yellow light of the bedside lamp. You were lying on your side and when I glanced over you were gazing at me and smiling. You said, you are a woman pouring weak tea.

You told me about the house you lived in as a child in Balmain. The property backed down to the sea and you used to spend hours staring into the rock pools searching for anemones, or maybe even for your father’s face. He died when you were five and your mother could no longer keep the house. I never knew her but I wonder if she, like you, begged for time?

How time rattles through my brain now, like a ghost train. Sometimes I feel something pass across my thigh and I think that it is you  – returned to me in a gesture or the trace of a touch from the dead. But surely you are not dead and it is only my imagination gone wilder in this bitter wind down at the jetty where I have set up my table to write letters. The rigging clangs, frenzied, against the boat poles and I want to stop my ears against this desolate sound. But then all I would have is my sight turned inside. No ears and no touch and nothing between my arms.

I don’t know how to picture you.

Love,

Alejandra.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          11th May

Dear Andreas,

You do not know who I am, but I have watched you walk so many times through the park in our barrio. There is a wooden bench on which you often sit and stare into the flaming petals of our national flower, Erythrina. To me, this red beauty reclaimed from the swamp has always looked uncomfortable there and the more I see you, your face downcast with heavy thoughts, the more I want to lift you up and spirit you to my side.

           This is what I know: you yearn for someone, a girl, who barely acknowledges your existence so distracted is she by the polo players who parade through her father’s ranch, kicking up dust on their stallions. You cannot get close to her to hear the sound of her breath, so instead you await her glance, believing that even this might sustain you.  You are young so you can be forgiven for frittering away your time. But I do not forgive you for I am young, too, and I watch you and I breathe.

         Each evening after I have bathed, I lift up my window to climb outside onto my balcony above the piazza. Here I sit on a stool and let my hair dry in the evening air and sometimes it takes hours. Andreas, I have a room and the room has an alcove for my bed – the bed I dream of sharing with you after you have worked all day in the stables.  At my bedside Veinte Poemas by Neruda waits in the red glow of the lamp. My love, I would read to you until you are asleep in my arms, or even wider awake. Totalemente despierto, your fingers growing wild on my skin. 
      I shall give you this part: the architecture of your heart in elevation.

         Con amor,
         Erythrina

                                                                                                                                 11th May

My love,

My time without you has no pattern, except for the endless cups of tea I pour here by my window in the pension. It is long dark and there are only a few lights down at the water. Some boys hang about at the cigarette stand and their voices float up to me as they joke and push each other about. I bought a single cigarette earlier and smoked it. I know you don’t like me to smoke and so I had it before I sat down to write this letter.

A man came to my table today wanting me to write a letter to his son to try to entice him away from a futile love. As I wrote he sat nearby and waited and I was about to ask him if he could leave me alone for I was having difficulty concentrating. But when I looked up, I caught him watching me. The utter kindness in his eyes caught me off-guard and I could not recapture my train of thought. Lest he think his money was badly spent, I feigned writing, repeating the same word over and over on the page until finally I felt his gaze turn away. The way that he looked at me was familiar and sometimes I have even seen it in the eyes of a complete stranger. It was as if this man already knew all that was important to know about me in order to make the choice to love.

Darling, it was your name I repeated on the page. Now as I sit here with my tea gone cold, I feel frightened that our separation, which I can hardly bear, is already driving me to seek you in the eyes of another. Let it not be in their arms.  Please do not see this as a weakness or as a deterioration of my love, for you, of all people, cannot blame me for being disarmed by the space of writing. In this space who we are loses all origin. You have told me this many times yourself.

I crave something from you – anything – more than just your memory.

Yours.  Always.
Alejandra

 

 

 

   15th March

My dear Elena,

           It has not been an hour since you left my bed this morning, and although I am not a man who is given to write, it is the only way I feel I can taste you twice.  Yesterday, when I was traveling on the train to work I overheard a young man, whose bag was loaded with books, speaking to his female companion.  I think they were fellow students because he spoke as if this was something that might be on their history exam that day and there was no tone of seduction in his voice.  He spoke of lovers in ancient Japan and how after a night of lovemaking it was incumbent on the man to produce a poem, which then had to be delivered to her bedside before she awakened.  So, Elena, please take my letter in this spirit and forgive its late arrival, for even had I the talent of a poet I doubt I could have taken my hands from your beautiful skin as you slept last night – a beautiful skin which bears the marks of your life’s travels thus far – or avert my gaze from the fine lines across your brow. I hope to be around long enough to see these lines deepen. My dear Elena, these are early days for us and I understand that life will lay down its series of obstacles. But for now, let me tell you about the thrill I felt as I was undressing you last night and you gripped my arm suddenly. Through the window you had caught sight of the moon, which was barely a sliver in the clear night sky and one star was burning brightly.  As you watched your moon and star, I began kissing your shoulder. Your utter sense of distraction is just another part of you to fall in love with. When finally your arm encircled me and you turned your face to mine, the rapture you had given to the heavens did not seem to alter when you met my eyes. I cannot stop thinking of you.

Until we meet again, amor,

Nacio.

                                    ∞ ∞ ∞
30th March
Dearest,
As I fell  to sleep last night I retraced the night, the last night we spent together, before you left Australia on a cargo ship before sunrise. You woke me in the middle of the night (my darling, you never seemed to sleep!) and made me sit up so that you could read to me my favourite poem by Tennyson, although you left out the line which suggested he was tiring of Penelope.  I want you to remember this line:
“I am a part of all that I have met.” I will explain what I mean when I can, but not now for I need to make the bus in time.  I am making my way to Mexico.
Love,
Alejandra.
∞ ∞ ∞
                  7 April
My darling,
I crossed the border into Mexico today from San Diego. As always, I was arrested by the expanses of green lawn on one side of the border, which give way into shanties and dust on the other side. And dryness. My mind leaped back to the time we were traveling through Honduras on a bus with a rusted floor. The mud from the road was shooting up through the holes, dirtying our bags and feet. We watched it together but weren’t moved to shift our legs. Our trip had been grueling and you were awake most nights trying to write. We both know that writing can and does save lives. And it also means death.
                   I was reading something the other day about beauty or was it the sublime? I can’t remember.  How when we gaze at stunning landscapes, the awe we feel connects us deeply to the rhythms of our existence. We are reminded that we are alive and have a place, however insignificant we are as human beings in the vastness of the universe.  
                Uni – verse.
                We are part of an infinitely reaching song, which reaches into other songs we shall never know.
                I find you beautiful (or sublime) in just this way. For me our times together had a texture which would be there even if I did not write, though perhaps you would not agree. You have said to me before that it is writing which creates boundaries around our experiences and in this containment, makes them more palpable and yet also distant – landscapes intrinsic to us, which arise, then, as a series of distinct impressions.  But you, my darling, are impressionistic with or without my will, or writing. Perhaps it is because of your utter difference to me. Or because our separation makes me guilty of the kind of idealization we have for the dead.  Of course, we had arguments and our last one was bitter. But despite this, for me, to want you was to be plunged into connection, into the currents of my time. Remember Bergson? Élan vital. I never wanted us to be one, for our time to merge completely. At least not until death.
           These past nights I have slept heavily and woken each morning exhausted. They say our dreams occur in the seconds, minutes before waking, but these with the stories they tell of you seem to stretch across the whole night. I do not feel tortured when I awake and nor are the dreams disturbing. They are just unsettling because they show you in ways I do not know you at all, and inside them I have to work out who you are. You have children in these dreams, but they are not mine. Trawling my mind now, I cannot remember the events, only one of you at the water and you had grown a beard. We were speaking intensely but not fighting.  I know my dreams are usually vivid – I am not withholding from you – but these narratives have become shapeless due to their sheer quantity. I remember little of their content.
             Waiting at the bus station I notice three clouds in the sky,which form the legs, torso and head of a man flying ,with his face and also his back to me in the dismembered manner of a Picasso painting.  The blue holes of his eyes grow bigger and bigger until they gape. Soon his head disperses, followed by the torso and legs.
              This travel is wearying. I never wanted to do this alone.
             
Love,
Alejandra.
∞ ∞ ∞
21 April
My love,
This evening I walked the length of the pier and back to the shore many times. I had no letters to write today since  the whole town was quiet and the ferry due to arrive did not come.  The harbour master told me that there had been a storm and looked at me strangely as if to say, why didn’t I know this? But I had remained in my bed the whole of the day before, the curtains drawn against the sky. I have fallen prey to the darkest of thoughts. What if I might be replaceable to you, or what if we see each other again and your love has altered?   I try to remind myself of simple truths. You rewrote Ulysses to never tire of Penelope. How we fought bitterly in the little time we had left, but alas we did not know how events would turn. How a conversation about time would throw our fate to the sky. Clichés become clichés because they are true. If I could wind back the clock, or cast a spell. One, two, three.
There are so many men who cannot write their hearts.
Yours,
Alejandra
Under the Forest
Ladyswamp