The Nail, the Star, the Soul
February. And not a moment too soon. I glimpse around and see work that needs completing – one of which is the Lorca poems i’ve been working on these last few years with Stefan Harding. Lorca’s so tremendous. He tells the story of an old woman who once glimpsed Santiago and was blessed by him.
She tells the children:
As he passed he looked at me smiling,
And left me a star right in here.
Where have you kept that star?
A cheeky cub asks her.
Has it left you, has it gone away?
Like a thing of enchantment?
No, my children, the star still shines bright,
For I carry it nailed to my soul.
There’s such nourishment in those lines, and a toughness, and a glimpse of how love can be carried well. That nail: sometimes people try and crucify you, not realising they are accidentally nailing the star of all you love directly into your soul. The opposite of what they want to happen. The beauty that just won’t shift. You become magnificent because of your soul-star.
It’s a fine thing to serve in the temple of Lorca. It glitters and hums, with smoky copal and dark red dapples of sunlight on the archaic walls. There’s leopards prowling, kids giggling, and elegant saddle bags flung in a corner, filled with olives, gold coins and salty chocolate wrapped in lush green jungle leaves. There is a mass being said somewhere, and a sword fight just outside. Frida and Diego call for each other through the long grasses, and dawn takes the trembling shape of a kingfisher emerging from the spray of a dark waterfall.
In all his brilliance, his supernatural leaps of image, I feel Lorca pushing his animal body way out into the drama of the world. I feel all the darkness of the ages sucking on the teats of his wild theatre. I’m not surprised he didn’t live very long, his house is somehow collapsing the second it is erected, and he wails beautifully and deliberately at the debris. His companion is so often the moon:
When the moon sails out
church bells desist
And furry paths
of the impenetrable appear.
I must admit, I’m quite pleased with those lines. His loyalty again and again is to her and the darkness; ”Through my window extends an arm of night, a vast brown arm with bracelets of water”. So often moisture, water, ocean.
Lorca loved the sea; “there is no greater pleasure in life than the contemplation and enjoyment of this happy mystery.” I think we all have to get our sea legs to be in the presence of his genius. After a few hours work yesterday, me and my daughter went down to the beach – She likes Lorca – think’s he’s lively – but alway leads me by the hand back to Shakespeare. She’s not convinced he’d be punctual at the school gates. But does it get much better than this?
A thousand little Persian horses slept
on the moonlit square of your brow.
I took hundreds of lines like that slowly into my heart in the years I lived alone in the tent. The tip of your tongue may become holy through such repetition.
When they shot Lorca, he was only a few hundred feet away from Fuente Grande, the eleventh century Arab reservoir, ‘Ainadamar’ in Arabic, “The Fountain of Tears”. Its water supplied the city of Granada. It’s clear he is still supplying us.
Mother, grandmother, where is Santiago?
Over there he strolls with his cortege
His head brimming with feathers
On his body the finest pearls
With the round moon on his face
With the sun hidden in his breast.
I wonder what Lorca would have written as an older man. Whether he would have taken delight in the loving home as well as the disrupting wind. I hope so. In some other life I wish that for him. I love all his flashing language and pathos, but I search for other reflections on love from those who understood the long game, the hand-made life, calm, as well as those brilliant, brief ascendancies. Those will be my labours. But, when you know where to look, Lorca laces his work with lovely, delicate blessings. So I send one to you.
The wings of the nightingale
Are glittered with dew
Clear drops of the moon
made firm by her hopes.
copyright Martin Shaw 2016