by Fausto Ribeiro
For years, amidst the cold and dirty cement, nothing had revealed itself to me, and I left so many hours, so many days go by in emptiness, without doing much about it. So when I finally felt the moist grass beneath my bare feet, a beam of pleasure climbed up my legs and landed at the back of my neck, tingling. The feeling almost subsided as I thought about the derision it would bring about were I to voice it, but it resisted in defiance when, with each slow step, I saw a bit more of the river: how could its color, in appearing among the tree leaves that separated it from me, be so beautiful? Hitherto, I understood that rivers were no more than paths for putrid waste, flanked by asphalt serpents over which gigantic metallic insects slouched creepingly, emitting their electric lights – red, yellow – and puffing ashes towards the sky; in the heart of such beasts lay anguished beings, encrusted, grabbing onto the wheel, honking, forcing themselves to ignore the imminence of cerebrovascular accidents. But not the Rhone: there I found myself, absurdly, in front of an idyllic valley where the waters ran quietly, and one could drink from them, and one could swim in them; small fallen branches were seen floating serenely, following their path towards the oneiric Mare Nostrum from the history books of my long gone childhood. And if under the sun its green glistened, by dawn the waters transubstantiated into pure methylene blue, and would then be confused in my memory with the swaying brushstrokes of a certain starry night, whose constellations shone magnificently, spreading as if by magic their light upon the river: divine images conceived by a sad soul, who had gone mad and died before anybody could be enraptured by his howls of utter beauty.
The seasons too were to me a sweet novelty. And I, who claimed to be an adult, was consumed by moments of embarrassment every time I caught myself wondering about the beauty of its changes, about the switching colors, about the different animals that came and went with the passing months: it occurred to me that countless poets throughout the centuries had exhausted such matters, and today even those fortunate enough to be allowed to witness these enchantments had to hide their inevitable fascination under the threadbare blanket of cynicism: it was after all a cliché; it could not be mentioned, under penalty of the jaded mockery of those all-knowing to whom everything is familiar and nothing impressive. Well, to me nothing was familiar; everything under the vast sky impressed this frail man, native of a land where winters had never existed, of a city where nature had been obliterated to give place to the horror of human ingenuity: how could I be silent? Nevertheless, I was. The hellish burden of others, of their opinions so much more valuable than mine, of their easy judgments, put me into a frightened muteness. But the translucent green of the river, the spring life that effervesced around me, the peaks of perennial snow that lay on the distant horizon (perfect works of a god in which I did not even believe), none of these splendors cared about my neurosis, about my weaknesses, about my cowardice, and they all continued to penetrate my tired retinas and explode on my visual cortex as a sublime whirlpool of delights, about which I was then required to shut the hell up. How could I remain in silence?