Love Poems, Where Have You Gone?
Today I am somewhat bewildered. I could claim it was the 2 hour change of time from the Yucatan to here (it's usually one hour). Or that it's jet lag. Or being in beautiful Bahia Soliman for a week and away from the news, the Internet, television, and English speaking media. Or that it was spending a week with my boys, now grown, and then having to return to the workaday world here. Or I could make some other unsatisfactory excuses. But the thing that I keep coming back to is the library.
This past October I was building a library in Bahia Soliman. I wrote about it, and you, dear readers, made suggestions. I continued to carry suitcases of books to Bahia Soliman whenever I went, trying to avoid the over-50-pound surcharge on airlines, putting them on the shelves, and labeling them, "Please don't take from Bahia Soliman." The library has grown to about 65 volumes.
When I arrived on March 23, 2007, I was delighted to be again at the house on the pristine bay with the beautiful coral and the tropical selva. I took a look at the books-- I was finishing one and wanted to start another-- the books, that my daughter painstakingly placed in alphabetical order by author. And, alas, some were missing. I searched the bedroom, the rest of the house, the closets, the drawers. Nothing. They were just not to be found. It seems that Neruda's Memoirs and some books of his poems-- these had the Spanish on one side and the English facing it-- have left the Bay. And, as if that weren't enough, Jorge Amado's books Teresa Battista and Gabriela, Cinnamon and Clove have vanished without a trace. Without a note. Without a promise of return. Into the world far beyond Quintana Roo.
Apparently, my original presumption was incorrect. I assumed I would build the library and the guests who rent the house would appreciate it by reading avidly but leaving the treasured volumes behind. Clearly, I didn't fully understand the magnetism of these used, paperback books. I do now.
What if, for example, I myself was two thirds finished with Gabriela, Cinnamon and Clove, and I had a flight in less than 24 hours. And I couldn't miss the flight. And I wanted to savor all of the rest of Amado's prose without making believe I was Evelyn Woods on speed. And I wouldn't want to leave, and fly home, and order the book, and then wait for the book to arrive from abebooks.com. That would be too much trouble. No vale la pena. Wouldn't I too steal the book? Probably. And then, wouldn't stealing it make it all the more a treasure? And wouldn't I put it in a special place on my shelves. And wouldn't I look at its bent spine and think of glorious days on the best beach in Mexico's Yucatan. Wouldn't I savor my trip again and again as I sat in cold Minneapolis or Fargo, North Dakota, waiting for a spring that is predicted but unwilling to declare itself?
And then we have the lovers. Oh, the wind on the reef is not the only producer of sighs in Bahia Soliman. And if the lovers had seen the movie the Il Postino, or had read Antonio Skarmeta's novel, El cartero de Neruda. Or if by chance they found Neruda's poems by chance and for mysterious reasons read them aloud to each other in English and Spanish. Wouldn't that be romantic and wonderful? There is, after all, a very good reason why I love these poems.
No, I don't subscribe to the view, expressed by Guillermo Cabrera Infante in Infante's Inferno, that "a love poem is a declaration of impotency." Maybe that's true to a monomaniacal onanist like Infante's hero. But that has nothing to do with these poems. Neruda's love poems are so very, very sensual and seductive. And so, the lovers might decide to bring them home with them. To try reading them in colder climes. To place on their shelves as an exotic souvenir of distant but exquisite sensuality. And why not?
Why not indeed.
I have decided I will continue to build this wonderful library. I have now placed a new sticker on the front of each book yet again requesting that it not be taken home. But I'm moving past mere loss prevention. Yes. I have today begun to expect magic: that these tremendous books, and other great ones just like them, will start to show up unexpected and unrequested in my mailbox, asking me to take them to Bahia Soliman to be read under the palapa roof, under the clacking palms. To be read just as the tide of Quintana Roo flows into the rest of the world and eventually returns.