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    Lisboa, bom dia (or Heart with no coat)

    Some wind was blowing, Fernando. Those frequent april rains have piped down for an instance and your city smelled of dusk and ocean’s vestibule. It is easy to get lost in Alfama. In crowd by day, through winding streets, flowers, restaurants. In secrets, by evening. You start following the sound of tram and wander off lead by child’s footsteps and lights beneath old doors. As if coming down into an enchanted circle, where stone tolls and anxiety echoes. We walk, mapless, not knowing what we seek, two small animals obeying their urges and pushing compasses and plans away from themselves. “I possess no pfilisophy, I have senses.”, you said. The streets are almost empty, in air we feel density of Tezao over the walls, rustle of tablecloth and beddings, discontinued fado. A few mushy faces, a couple of wonderful eyes, a few hands and pockets, an occasional whistle, one loneliness, a rare laughter, mixture of boredom and disorientation, a little bit of routine, somewhat more uncertainty, nomadism in gaze, blue skies above the tower, hope slippery as a step we race and love supposedly, supposedly love somewhere…Those small, real lives on slopes of tourist attraction and our fear that sides of world no longer exist.

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    Finally, we reach the summit. Of something. Small plateau surrounded with conifers, with humble tables and magical view upon the City, on its lights, on the bridge of 25. April, on magic for which we headed here. Mysterious, gentle tones arrive with ordered drinks, music that disarms God himself and pins you to your true Self. Enchanted, I ask the kind, young waiter in whisper what that is. “Rodrigo Leao”, he answers with a smile. Musicians gathered around one of the founders of former Madredeus. With pride he brings the CD, tells me where I can purchase it. There is no reason for us to burden ourselves with conversation. We understood each other. We became just like this night – blue and starry, tall, the only ones possible, while it lasts. And the wind, it does not cease, Fernando, like silk it descends on us and I repeat your words with tranquillity: “For what is everything, other than what we think of everything”.

    Lisboa, my twin city. Finally there. We met long ago, between Remark’s pages when, just like now, it smelled of night, rain and freedom. And waiting. To leave alone. For someone to return. Very strange, the heart of Portugal. Fenicians, Romans, Moors. Colonialism, dictatorship, neutrality. And always there is grand Spain behind your back, so your being extends into immense ocean. The only way out. Countless possibilities. Of conquest, secretive, rescuing, discovering. Then the wind brings melancholy and anxiety. And your words: “Choose yourself for your pier”.

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    Lisboa. Fell in love with it I did when Venders baked his tale in match-making way and allowed me, conspiratory, to see off city’s every sound together with Philip Winter, its pulse and soul. Since then, Lisboa turns alive. And ever since I sailed into fado and I discovered all of its faces, Fernando, it became a metaphorical Mise-en-scène of my fate.

    “I begin to know myself. I do not exist.
    I am a distance between what I want to be
    And what others made of me
    Or half of that distance, for there is life there, too…”

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    And to you, my sweet Pesoa, I was acquainted by an artist from Dubrovnik’s nudist beach, while I waited for the evening to be an extra in Calderon’s play “Life is a Dream”. How convenient, you sensitive and sincere friend of mine! We are all nude and confused, subtle and imperfect. “We are something that happens during some play’s intermission”, you claim.

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    Now you sit alone, Fernando, in front od Brasilerie where you used to make stops for coffee. Coffee is still good, the best. You did not taste capuccino, but it is amazing, trust me, like eating a chocolate cake with cinnamon, the foam is so thick you could shave with it. Some unkown peaople hug you, they take pictures with the footprint of your soul in a statue. You care not. But, you are not happy, either. The one you waited for did not come, nor will she. Your Ophelia. The one you glanced upon furtively, shy, excited, some ten years older, whom you approached, speaking…oh, what else if not Hamlet, and dared kiss her. The one you wrote to and called her dear, naughty, doll, Ibis, cooed her with “tiny” and told her she was terrible, the one you loved, in whom you disappointed, whom you let go, to whom you returned, whom you spared, for whom you were gentle and crazy. Ophelia Queiroz. “To love – that is eternal innocence.”, you stammer with a timid smile. Then, I hear you go on, with sigh and closed eyelids: “If heart could think, it would stop.” Eroticism of mirage, poetry of destiny and moment. As if Byron, with Andrić, came down from Sintra.

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    And through the streets of Chiado, youth permeates still, the artistic spark, relaxation and joy. It is vibrant. Every now and then, everything stops, to revel in own gaze, wandered off down the street to Tezoa.

    “Let the lights go out, and doors may be shut
    Let nothing but murmur of slippers in hallways be heard
    Let us stay in this room alone, myself and my endless peace
    It is a cheap universe…”

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    I could not help myself and not to look for your house. Meager, not far away from park and basillica Estrella. Plenty of glass, supposedly to accentuate your fragility and reflections. Simple as your modesty and Whitman-like nature. Photographies, a suitcase, a bookshelf, a simple bed, written notebooks. “To be a poet, that is not my tendency, it is my way of being alone.”

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    And Lisboa still, like Rome, rolls around on seven hills. Full of parks, free of metropolitan hassle, wide, cultivated and tousled, simultaneously. I descend from Square of Marquis de Pombal. This first Royal minister brough Lisboa to life after devastating earthquake in 1755, when the quake, a tsunami, fires, lack of hygiene and diseases destroyed it almost completely. Under motto “Bury the dead, heal the living”, Lisboa has risen from the ashes. Pombal sealed the brand new urban scheme, and it was his merit that wide avenues came to being, while town center was displaced to Baixa. In complete relaxation, I walk down the Liberdade avenue. Today, it would be dubbed pedestrian friendly and eco friendly. Spacious enough for pedestrians to feel completely protected and safe. Green enough, with long, straight park between two directions of roadway tracks. Romantic enough for one text message in verses for me to arrive, just then. Luxury shops are tucked in amongst gracious buildings and hotels, everything is parenthetic in sophisticated way, with no aggressive lights and commercials. Well- dressed, smoothly shaved men are passing by, who acquired something of a cheeteh strut with their business styling, and charming women, some of them quite simple, modest, some glittery in details or their uniqueness. In cigarettes between fingers that sway next to hips while she rushes down the street. In rippling of sash. In waving of hair.

    I set my foot into Bairro Alto. Immense stairway. Street painters. Graffiti. Restaurants. In one of them, we listen to fado. The voice of pursuit for happiness.

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    Forgive me, Fernando, I dare not write about the truth of fado. Venders and Saura let it speak for itself, you know this. In this city, Carlos Paredes breaths under the pillow, a Amalia is part of water. And every day is special, and every sip distinctive. A backward look on small things and deep feelings. And plain breakfast, and light veil, and a slap in the face, and a cry. And love, and death. Saudade. Heart with no coat.

    And you, if you had wrote fado, you would probably say:

    “This old anxiety,
    This anxiety I carry in me for ages,
    Poured out of pitcher,
    Into tears, into desolate fantasies,
    Into dreams like nightmares with no terror,
    Into intense and sudden excitements, devoid of any meaning.
    It poured out,
    I barely know how to govern myself in life
    With this grouch from which my soul frowns!
    Heaven forbid I truly lost my marbles!
    And instead: this neither here nor there,
    This approximately,
    This could be and it couldn’t…
    This.”

    And this has to come out. As if from cage. To find an echo. And a name. To burst. To collide with meaning. To paint the day. For that day to be today. To put a stop to it. To be. “Burst, heart made of coloured glass!” you shout. I hear you, and I smile. Lisboa, bom dia, I say.

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    I love the facades of Lisboa. Those smooth, bright, new, also. But moreso those decrepit, eroded. There is some defiance of life in them, stubborn resistance to transience, reminder that there is light in patina and harmony in old age. And those ceramic tiles, in whom they are smeared, this azulejo, multicolored shield from Atlantic humidity. Thus tiled, Lisboa resembles a kitchen of passion and a great cup from which one drinks time and meaning.

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    I immerse into Portuguese cuisine with complete devotion. Grilled sardines, homemade red wine, my salty fingers and glamor of simplicity. White porto entices the appetite with sea fruits chowder and little goat cheeses that melt on tongue. Codfish baked with potato and tomato, pallate purs in satisfaction and flavors make one dizzy. Finally, dark porto rounds off the whole thing, In charming shop near Afama I buy pumpkin and tomato marmelades, and wines from Douro region. I eat outside, even when it rains. I am not the only one. We are protected by tents and fine mood. Waiters are serviceable and unobtrusive. This tranuquility in conjuction with enjoyment lingers everywhere in the air. Just like a smile of a friend, approval, safety, belonging, peace. Hedonism of Lisboa is like a spark in a fireplace on a first autumn day. Like a loved one’s gaze over a glass of finest wine. Flavors are the spice, orchil paper showing the wholeness and splendor of a being turned to life.

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    Within walls of St. Jeronimo monastery it is extraordinarily vibrant and smelling of sweets. It is afternoon and time for pastis de Belem. A cake made of vanilla and yolk, renowned far and wide, sprinkled with cinamon, hails from very long ago, and from the very chambers of monastery. Clothes used to be sown with egg whites and then a remarkably delicious way to use the remaining yolks was found. The building with glorious park is now within the service to city and tourists, the monastery is closed just like all the monasteries in Portugal. This is the consequence of a historical event, when monks betrayed the King to the Spanish, and were therfore punished with exile. Only churches are open.

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    And me, Fernando, the road takes me to Torre de Belem. This tower, this trace of manuelian style, is surrounded by some membrane of mystique. Somehow it seems to be that, here, in scissors of skies and river, past and present, some strange rays are intertwined, some western vision of northern lights, some awareness written in stone, left to be unriddled. “He who wants little – has everything, he who wants nothing – is free. He who nas nothing and does not with, is a man equal to Gods”, you whisper into waves.

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    The spirit of Portugal, Fernando, is shaped with winds, as well as cliffs of Cabo de Rova. Pushed to the very West, lonely, elevated above water, sharp, silent and adjustable. Strong and magnificent, sprinkled with salt and Sun, persistent. Like a tree who, because of wind strokes, cannot grow upwards but matures kissing the ground.

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    I hug you, Fernando, in this city of baroque forms and wandering, thirsty souls. Don’t be alone. Let the gentleness of morning and clarity of afternoon splash you, juicy scents of groceries and markets, melodious voices of women passing by. Invite Tabuchi or Saramago to a cup of coffee. And Jose will speak, as if passingly: “Loneliness is not to live alone, loneliness is when we are uncapable of keeping company to someone or something that is deep within us, loneliness is not a lone tree in the middle of barren field, it is the distance between hidden juices and crust, between leaf and root.”

    I kiss you, Fernando, keep this city safe until I return.

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    For World.Pulse:  Tatjana Venčelovski

    Posted by on 1. November 2014.. Filed under Stories, Poetry, Travels. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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