Apollo's Shadows

Image: Carlos Cruz–Diez


A variation around Freud's essay on Jensen's "Gradiva", as well as a reflection on the dialectic of light and shadow

I had a shadow in me, so obscure I didn't know or recognize it. In the shadows of myself she was lost. Only when I felt the shadow that was in you and prevented me from snuggling up to you, did I begin to suspect the extensive shadow that extended in me, haunting the mind that I so lucid intended.

I had lost myself, dazzled in light, in what I thought was light. In the darkness of mourning into which your inner shadow threw me, I discovered little by little how obscure was the light that seemed to illuminate us. You taught me to walk slowly in myself, the shadow that was in you taught me, more than you, it taught me to weigh the darkness with my hands. It was thick between us, casting its illuminating blackness and making us disappear into the day.

It was the hour of ghosts, Apollo in the midday sun, no shadow and full image. There seemed to be no shadow on anything, everything was shadow and glowed as if it were day. Everything was light, everything was shadow, everything was shadow in the light. The shadow had dressed in light to hide its nakedness. In plain sight, no one saw her. It was night at noon. Night was in the light of day.

When I walked through the streets of Pompeii, I jumped over the cobblestones of the streets as if I were an ancient Roman avoiding the wheels of wagons that no longer passed. Zoe passed two streets over quickly, but as quickly as if she had never passed. There were those who sought Gradiva, the grand diva, pregnant with perfidy and the divine life, while I just wandered around distracted with my hands in my pockets and an Argentine tango on my lips. I didn't know then that my heart and my life were already lost in these streets of Pompeii, diverted forever from the beautiful beast I should have found and could never embrace.

Today I walk through the streets of Lago Norte like the old people who fight against the years that are digging holes in the solitude of the night. I had a heart for the Sleeping Beauty of the North, but she didn't hear the song at the foot of the tower. I looked at God in the heights, he didn't hear me. I see the sunset, I sleep with my head to the north and I still welcome the dawn, but nothing changes. Mute.

A day passes, a week, a month, maybe years pass, everything changes and nothing passes. I will continue walking alone in the dark paths of my chest: not mine, but already in the dark field that ended up in your eyes and turned me upside down. I have nothing else to add but the same imperative that made us lose the pride of solitude and the glow of pride. I touch the shadows that exist in us, shadows envelop and revolve in the midday bed: they were lost in the streets of Pompeii, long before they were our mismatch.

I wanted to stay with you, but you just wanted your peace. Out of weakness you were the fortress that did not open its portals to my mortal horses. Your walls waved no flags. In the silence of midday, when all the birds are silent and nothing moves, not even the invisible wind with the winged dove that should bring the branch with buds, I come to understand the blessings of heartlessness: from death lives life, our good is to kill what wants to kill us.

Night after night I hear the cries of a lone owl from a lamppost on a corner that leads nowhere. His companion has been gone for a month and has not left a trace. The lonely peep cries out to the moon and the wind, but only the neighborhood dogs respond. Happier seems those who cry missing what they once had. I miss what I never had.

No response I get, and I don't want to. I see our death exposed, an aborted fetus in a shoebox buried under banana trees, as if the beckoning of the long leaves were the rustling of the ghosts of what could have been and never will be. I do not ask forgiveness for having tried to walk in your solitude. I tried to walk through your darkness, I stretched out my hand and saw it hanging in the void. Your loneliness walks in me. She is the light I have from you. It's already too much, I don't want you anymore. Midday solitude, half past night solitude.

* Flavio R. Kothe is a retired full professor of aesthetics at the University of Brasília (UnB). Author, among other books, of Benjamin and Adorno: clashes (Attica).


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