José Saramago’s Sexy Punctuation

Ricardo Reis

The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis


José Saramago


Forgive me, José Saramago, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, for what most interested me in your novel The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis: its punctuation. It is not that I have anything disparaging to say about the rest of it or am exercising discretion as one might when praising a fat lady’s bikini in lieu of what the apparel cannot hope to conceal. I have no dietary recommendations lurking and fighting their restraints in the back of my mind. And so do not take it as a slight that I am not particularly moved to comment on matters more literary and how these speak to your arguably more substantive writerly concerns. To me it is not a small matter that your work moves me to focus rather upon your strategy of commas and periods with no recourse to the other available marks of punctuation. The advancement of the possibilities of literary expression is what it accomplishes, moving the reader to greater alertness (why, indeed, can one not write, as do you, Unknown to him he has a sign stuck to his back, a paper dangling from a safety pin, Beast of burden for sale, no one has asked the price so far, even though they taunt him as they pass, Are you such a beast that you don’t feel your burden. Or. To exemplify again. You said the reason you didn’t come back was that you were annoyed, It’s true, Annoyed with me, Not so much with you, what has annoyed me and left me feeling weary is all this going back and forth, this tug of war between memory that pulls and oblivion that pushes, a useless contest, for oblivion and forgetting always win in the end. No quotation marks, no dashes, semi-colons, question marks or unnecessary full stops, all these implicit in the sense of what is said, quite like how we comprehend each other when we speak, quite like our distant literary forebears who were oral, think Homer for one stand-out.) Both reader and yourself feel to be more and more liberated, sensible of the mind’s operation, you become intimate with yourself and we with you. In addition is the inextricable thrill we have in the increasing claims of creative freedom and new territories that await. Let me offer my gratitude for the faith that you have in your readers’ capacity to intuit your scribed intentions without flags and semaphores, your trust in intelligence. To further your enterprise, for this reader, at least, a mere few spaces between thought and its qualifications would work. As for capitalization, not unlike a bikini upon a shapely form, it designates beauty and, if not wholly necessary, should remain.

1000 Lifetimes


1000 Lifetimes


“I’ll wait for you a 1000 lifetimes.”

My dental hygienist considers. And then,


“We can have a 100 children.”

“A 100!”

“That’s 50 each. And we’ll live in separate houses.

Preferably across town from each other.”

She really is very pretty. Has muscles too.

The dentist, on the other hand, wears a mask

as he pokes around. I’d tell him he is gorgeous – he

isn’t – if the mask didn’t stop me.

It’s spring, after all, and never mind the chair

and drill.

“You look fresh as a daisy.” (He doesn’t.)

Speak the words that come into your mind.

When all is said and done, as it is at the end

of the visit, take the toothbrush.

My secret is that I can wait 10,000 lifetimes.






Universe of the Crumpled Fridge

Universe of the Crumpled Fridge


No, he’s not going to go out today. The winter light is golden outside the window, and he stares. It’s light reflected off a building and giving beauty to a flat blue sky. Thin branches of close trees form their traceries without pattern. The UPS guys retrieved the damaged shipment, hauled it out of the basement, the same two who made the delivery. Equally cheerful, first and last. Beginning and end. Call it, universe of the crumpled fridge. (Go back to sleep, Einstein. It’s just him again.) He went out this morning. Out this morning. First thing. After a long nap, it’s best to put some cheese on bread into the micro. It fills the tank. That fridge – he won’t say “poor fridge” – had been serviceable, but the negotiations broke down and now it is somewhere out there. Someone dropped it. Squashed it. Buyers will flock elsewhere. They should have taken his offer. He would have made use of their damaged goods.

As for himself, he will continue to inspect the golden light and perhaps not go out.



The Girl in the Tree


The medium-sized tree grew in the park. In the crook of one of its branches stood a girl. Her dress covered her from neck to ankle. Hair to shoulders. No shoes. Hands clasped before her. One morning she was there in the tree and the next and the next. All the visitors to the park and those who walked through it got used to her. She was in the air, asked for nothing and caused no trouble. Spring, summer, fall and winter followed each other.

An elderly couple visited the park and sat on one of the benches in front of the girl in the tree.

The next day, they decided to return and visit again in their own quiet way.
At first it disappointed them to find that there was no longer a girl in the tree. When they looked about, they noticed that other trees held in their branches girls similarly dressed as the one who had disappeared. The couple stayed where they were a while longer and, when they finally got up to go, they saw other couples just like themselves seated on park benches.

Once back on the street, if they had turned around, they would have seen that the park had become empty except once again for the girl in the tree.


No Lead in the Water

The salt truck passes by, no fuss, no bother. No bothersome, hysteria inducing alerts on wall-to-wall TVs. It sprays crystals in a broad wake, The driver drinks from his thermos. He has his radio on and he listens to the national emergencies south of the border in the most prosperous country on the planet. They are into year two of electing their president. He watches it all on TV. It’s better than a canoe race. Unless you have a paddle in the river. He will scoop his hands into the water and drink. He will feel smug until something happens.

Most of his surprises await him in the bedroom. He is subject to strange dreams, that is all, and he finds he has difficulty uncurling his toes.

His wife is drop-dead gorgeous. That’s how it is.



A Warrior Poet’s Hard-Won Epiphanies

Short Verses



Kurt Brindley’s

Short Verses & Other Curses
(Haiku, Senryū, & Other Poetic, Artistic, & Photographic Miscellany)


A Warrior Poet’s Hard-Won Epiphanies


Self-made and/or naturally insight-endowed, Kurt Brindley has the soul of a poet; further, he has the soul of a warrior poet. He makes passing reference to the martial tradition that has also been a part of his life in the poem “If I Were A Samurai:”

I would know

when to bow
and when to ignore
when to speak
and when to be silent

when to eat
and when to fast
when to think
and when to meditate
when to advance
and when to hold
when to strike
and when to parry
when to kill
and when to die

All writers — the serious and the not-so-much — inevitably find themselves in a battle, as often as not Biblical in proportions, for the human soul, their own as it happens. (The New Testament’s words along these lines — Ephesians 6:12 — are more reminder than news.) Although drawing upon the culture of ancient Japan, the lines also resonate with those of the Preacher in Ecclesiastes. Certainly, the outcome of this inner struggle determines how writers view themselves or what they have made of themselves by means of their literary endeavours. They have dared to partake of forbidden fruit whose concentrated energies fuse words together in a manner guaranteed to produce light endlessly in recipient minds.

Here is what is at risk when one trespasses upon this discipline:

the moment is nigh
when once self-evident truths
succumb to madness

Writers task themselves to pursue and to lay down truth that is hard-won in the full confidence that it will “receive its pardon.”

what must be endured
before the blossom unfolds
heaven only knows

Here the epiphany has come through relentless struggle; its visitation is in the nature of grace.

Paradoxically, the greater the responsibility one assumes, whereby it claims to embrace all, the lighter becomes the burden and the meditative being can declare it to be lyrical in experience.

nay, the setting sun
’tis we, a reflective we
who settles the day

The cynic may argue that it is all a matter of raw assertion — empty metaphysic — but a literary Coriolanus will flash his body’s reminders of battles fought to the incredulous:

the blood turns not red
until the wound has occurred
truths are bound by scars

And, no matter the devastation,

still, the sun rises
still, the wind blows, the trees sway
still, I live to thrive

Giving voice to our most indomitable attitudes of being, the poet has strengthened and enriched us, and, sometimes, simple logic leads to profound reflection:

If we are all of the same matter
Then mustn’t we matter all the same

In addition to his warrior spirit, it is a Rabelaisian welcome that has made Kurt Brindley’s web-site a much trafficked gathering spot. He never fails to rejoice even in complaint, giving every evidence that he knows what could be instead of what is. “’Tis the warden found within/That keeps us from our freedom.”

“Meet Me In The Courtyard/Where The Blood No Longer Flows” — one of the final poems in this most admirable collection — speaks (the reviewer will presume to say) to the spirit of transcendence that ever renders humanity “sacred in our time.” Our time is no different than any other in being one of bloody execution.

The one regret that came from having downloaded this book is that a hard copy would have enabled going back and forth with ease and delight, choosing and balancing poem against poem. It is frustrating to be unable to satisfy more gracefully the need to experience again and again the individual contents that have given pleasure, insight, and the companionship of profound thought of a type that can only be poetically rendered. As the Bard himself would say,

when all is perfect
less even just one thin thread
nothing is perfect

That’s the trouble with all things virtual. So far.