Time Capsule is a weekly series featuring the writing of Robert Gibbons
Portrait of Bernardo Yriarte
(Retrato de don Bernardo de Iriarte y Nieves Ravelo)
[Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 1746-1828), 1797
Painting on canvas, 108 x 84 cm.; Musée des Beaux-Arts de Strasbourg]
Open Windows of May
Open windows of May open to more than clean, clear air of the present moment, for although that sensuality the skin feels before the eyes is pleasure enough for all Time, they open to rarer moments in a past one cannot call childhood, for that phase was too full of longing for what was beyond those open windows of May, where thwarted wishes to know far lands, desire for foreign loves ahead of Time set the stage for the woman from Durban, South Africa stepping out of the cab in London, chaperoned by her grandmother, heading toward stairs of the theater one had the gall to speak to, meet for drinks at night, & watch change for bed in her rental with girlfriends. Rare the Times nothing interfered with the future with open windows in May, school winding down, & soon enough the artist one traveled with from Rome to Genoa, Monte Carlo, Nice, & Cannes would return to that self-same house with woodcuts one requested based on Rodin’s Thinker, female images in the diptych staring back at (or turning in nakedness away from) the curious boy in wonder & mystery, all eleven behind glass, inside frames, hanging now in the attic stairwell, where open windows of May reach out, & carry one wherever desires go.
Fully alone, a mere curiosity on campus in Bloomington, older than students, traveling amateur scholar, hair past shoulders, hunched over books he can’t take out on ancient geography & stone tools, jotting down notes one hopes will turn into sentences without a woman so long testicles ache into language & first published poems, however still juvenile, inchoate inside the egg of ignorance. In Mexico City they lock doors behind him at the burlesque. In Cosamaloapan local parishioners beseech the Black Ebony Christ for healing & miracles pinning tiny medals called Aztec Third Eyes to dirty loincloth. In Veracruz holed up in air-conditioned hotel room typing away on borrowed typewriter. Angels of Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire* hover in rafters at the American Library in Berlin. Windows of May open to coffee at Place Saint-Sulpice, often in the past, & to wine with Paz in Madrid, or seated with Esther for the bullfights at the Maestranza in Seville in the future. Stoops to uncover iron tongs abandoned in ashes of fireplace ruins at the birthplace of one grandfather. In the city of ancestors on the other side, Kilkenny, university scholars ask to read his latest work. Right now, at this very moment, Goya’s Portrait de Bernardo Iriarte painted in Bordeaux, hanging in Strasbourg, sent by a friend & fellow writer he couldn’t imagine knowing at one Time, sails through the mail slot as if through magical, open windows of May.
*By mere, or cosmic coincidence this week, after writing this in the morning, Wings of Desire ran on commercial-free late-night TV that evening. The film is better than ever. I’d written an earlier response to it here, however, now the dialogue & background narrative heard, & letter-boxed underneath the imagery, seemed to take over & heighten the impact of the film like an oral Homeric Odyssey. Poet, Peter Handke, who grew up in Soviet-occupied East Berlin (a cruel, dour, hopeless city I walked into at age twenty) wrote much of the open-ended script. I rarely address childhood, although in “Open Windows of May,” call it a past one cannot call childhood, so it was fascinating to watch & listen to Handke intersperse lines from his poem “Song of Childhood” throughout the narrative sequence. The official site links the contents of an issue of the Danish film studies journal p. o. v., entirely dedicated to it. Wings of Desire seems to continue to be the ultimate example of film juxtaposed to everything loathsome out of Hollywood, although as soon as it is singled out, Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats the Soul comes to mind, Kieslowski’s Blue, Rivette’s Celine & Julie Go Boating, the list both familiar & unknown, I’m sure could go on & on…