31 July 2020

Route 138: real, imagined and non-existent

In the year 1933, the P.E.N. Club in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentine had decided to honor  two poets, the Chilean Pablo Neruda and the Spaniard Federico Garcia Lorca, and they in turn decided to resurrect a third, Ruben Dario, the Argentinian who was also a Nicaraguan, a Chilean and a Spaniard.

Neruda described how they went about it in the following manner.

‘We had prepared a talk al alimon. You probably don’t know what that means, and neither did I. Federico, who always had some invention or idea up his sleeve, explained: “Two bullfighters can fight the same bull at the same time, using only one cape between them. This is one of the most perilous feats in bullfighting. That’s why it is so seldom seen. Not more than twice or three times in a century, and it can be done only by two bullfighters who are brothers, or at least blood relations. This is called fighting a bull al alimon. And that's what we are going to do tonight."’

And that’s how they did it.

‘Well, we set out speaking together, with me saying “Ladies” and he continuing with “and gentlemen,” twining our phrases throughout, so that they flowed like a single speech, right to the end. The oration was dedicated to Ruben Dario, because, though no one could accuse us of being modernists, both Garcia Lorca and I regarded Ruben Dario as one of the most creative poets in the Spanish language.’

Here’s a slice:

Lorca: We give you the poet of America and Spain: Ruben . . .

Neruda: Dario. Because, ladies . . .

Lorca: and gentlemen . . .

Neruda: Where, in Bueno Aires, is there a Ruben Dario Plaza?

Lorca: Where is Ruben Dario’s statue?

Neruda: He loved parks. Where is Ruben Dario Park?

Lorca: What florist carries Ruben Dario roses?

Neruda: Where are Ruben Dario apple trees? Ruben Dario apples?

Lorca: Where is the cast of Ruben Dario’s hand?

Neruda: Where?

Lorca: Ruben Dario sleeps in the Nicaragua of his birth under a ghastly lion made of plaster like those the rich set at their gates.

Leruda: A mail-order lion for him who was a founder of lions, a lion without stars for him who dedicated the stars to others.

More than 80 years later, there were two poets who conversed in query. The transcript, as far as both were concerned, was the best literature they had ever produced. They both felt they could never write that way again.  

One of them wondered if they could celebrate poetry and poets in the same manner bookended by an appropriate preamble and sign-off, an ending along the following lines. [the lines in body type to be spoken by one and those in normal text by the other].

I, …………….

and I,………………

separated by decade and generation,

united in the admiration for a poet, cognizant of the fragility of love, leave you,


and gentlemen

with one final question that is query and at once statement: 

Who are we if we are not one another,

who are we if we are not the signature of sky on a leaf,

if we are not the chlorophyll that turns the cosmos into garden and love?

It never came to pass, but that's another story. However, it is lines and designs such as these make people think poets are incurable lunatics. Incurable romantics, would be the kinder way of saying it. And this is what made for the following conversation between one who was sane and the other who was mad.

‘You are going zig-zag on the 138 bus route!’ That’s a description.

Yes, the route that goes from the Pettah to Maharagama and sometimes to Kottawa or Homagama. There’s a lot of traffic. Many impatient drivers and some who should not be driving in the first place.

‘You are going to get knocked down!’ That’s a prediction.

And ‘the lunatic’ responded thus: ‘There are no 138 buses on this route!’

To which, the sane friend replied with a laugh.

The lunatic continued, softly.

‘It’s not just that there are no 138 buses, there’s no such road either!’

Other articles in the series 'In Passing...':  [published in the 'Daily News']   

Eyes that watch the world and cannot be forgotten 
 Let's start with the credits, shall we? 
The 'We' that 'I' forgot 
'Duwapang Askey,' screamed a legend, almost 40 years ago
Dances with daughters
Reflections on shameless writing
Is the old house still standing?
 Magic doesn't make its way into the classifieds

Small is beautiful and is a consolation  
Distance is a product of the will
Akalanka Athukorala, at 13+ already a hurricane hunter
Did the mountain move, and if so why?
Ever been out of Colombo?
Anya Raux educated me about Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)
Wicky's Story You can always go to GOAT Mountain
Let's learn the art of embracing damage
Kandy Lake is lined with poetry
There's never a 'right moment' for love
A love note to an unknown address in Los Angeles
A dusk song for Rasika Jayakody
How about creating some history?
How far away are the faraway places?
There ARE good people!
Re-placing people in the story of schooldays  
When we stop, we can begin to learn
Routine and pattern can checkmate poetry

Janani Amanda Umandi threw a b'day party for her father 
Sriyani and her serendipity shop
Forget constellations and the names of oceans
Where's your 'One, Galle Face'?
Maps as wrapping paper, roads as ribbons
Yasaratne, the gentle giant of Divulgane  
Katharagama and Athara Maga
Victories are made by assists
Lost and found between weaver and weave
The Dhammapada and word-intricacies
S.A. Dissanayake taught children to walk in the clouds
White is a color we forget too often  
The most beautiful road is yet to meet a cartographer