How do you write the duel? How can the physical disappearance of the love of your life be put into words? How does he interfere, without anyone asking him, death in poetry?
“The final judgment for us / is to know if it is worse / the fate of the one who dies or of the one who remains / here with no more meaning than nothing / One of the two dead must still stand”, writes the Spanish poet Luis Garcia Montero in “Family Matters”, one of the 25 poems in his latest book, One year and three monthsin which he processes the death of his wife for a quarter of a century, the famous writer Almudena Grandes.
Edited by Tusquets, this collection of poems by the also essayist, literary critic and Director of the Cervantes Institute may be, if not his best work to date, yes. the most touching. Although, he claims, death “is not a literary matter”García Montero cannot avoid her omnipresent shadow in these poems that she began to write during the last months of Grandes’s illness and that she finished after her death, just as she had to finish, at her own request, the last novel by his wife, Everything is going to get betterwhose end had been truncated.
“Everything is weird and difficult like calling me Luis / like waiting for you to call me / like living without you”, writes the poet in “I don’t get the accounts”. His life continues, yes, but knowing that “the happiest days” are over.
However, García Montero -who knows, like anyone who has suffered a similar loss, that lessons and morals are never drawn from mourning- uses the memory of those last moments shared with his life partner to stay afloatno longer like someone who is shipwrecked but, rather, like someone who lets themselves be carried away by the current and can, despite everything, enjoy its rhythm.
I search and touch words
while I put my hand in the river water
that runs to the sea of the cemetery
cultivated and civilian
where is your land
Along our shore we walk alone
under the sunset,
while the footprints come and go.
What brings the foam closer goes with the hangover.
So that the sun does not harm you
We have left almost at twilight,
when feelings are undressed
on the still warm sand
and a murmur of light
write the horizon that looks at us.
like a highway,
where the red lights are brakes of the night,
we see the questions pass slowly
Not knowing what to say.
A mystery is not the same as a secret,
but the two are mixed:
they have learned it now
our contained conversations.
How difficult to walk with bare feet
and fear of what cuts. how difficult
know what is hidden in this shell.
let us dream
It is a plane of the dead.
I got up to go to the bathroom
and suddenly path between corpses.
Ordered stillness under white sheets,
rigid and mute night of corridors,
a row of bodies
Lying in the first death,
sitting in the tourist squares,
the sheets hide
a landscape of bodies,
a harrowing eternity
And the penumbra questions me. Tell me,
are you the one who knows?
Who pilots this silent flight?
Another death perhaps?
with an empty look in an infinite dream?
I appreciate the light of a stewardess
who paints his eyes
in front of a mirror in the cockpit.
I go back to my seat, look for
the blanket that covers me
in the remaining hours. I will call
when I arrive at the hotel to tell you
I’m in Lima, to travel
I’m tired, but the flight has been good,
that everything is calm,
I want to go home.
I dare not say that this is not a poem,
but heto death now, I confess
and I tell the truth
It is not a literary matter.
Surrounds me the same as a disorder,
the same as the shadow that follows me
down this lonely street
the street that is me,
I confess and I mean it.
As much as I repeat myself and murmur… maybe,
I lose it little by little
even if I want it step by step
and take care of her if I speak with the light,
for you to be with me,
so that it does not disappear,
so that no one says anything can be done anymore.
Death is miserable.
I come from vomiting an afternoon of whiskey,
hidden from me
hidden from her.
Business with life defoliated,
but death is miserable,
and I lose the papers, and I vomit
in any bathroom
And I’m afraid they’ll see me this way.
They can be ashamed of me. I am ashamed
many times. But I’m right
death is miserable, miserable,
death is miserable.
When the trays were removed
and the plane was calm,
You used to put your head on my shoulder
we closed our eyelids
and we let ourselves go
for a long journey.
This is how I like to imagine death
Now that I’m alone
It is a human condition
parting and meeting
with the unknown,
recognize the house that is left,
the room that awaits us
between calendar dates.
Consciousness of time does not respond
to animal pain,
not even to the effort of living,
but the loneliness of being alive.
I speak of an experience of death
I don’t want to wake up from.
In the end it was this.
After so many turns, you told me,
everything is simple.
We never had faith
but we had words
to thank us, to say goodbye,
to put a name to not knowing,
to observe the wings
to close your eyes, your head on my shoulder,
on an infinite journey
in which I am still.
Like the stories of the rain
or the logbooks,
disease had its arguments.
I do not complain about anything. today I hold
the bitter optimism with which we responded,
when medical appointments and the sea of analyzes
they mixed from one day to the next
with the sands of life.
I will never complain about the disciplined
the way you had to count our steps
to see the city with other eyes,
physical and mental resistance
that required chemo.
I don’t complain about weaknesses
or Christmas without hair
or the strange way to say goodbye to the year
when love went under the knife
The pandemic prohibited visits.
Disguised as a doctor without a coat,
I went up to hide in the room
We divided the grapes for your dessert by two,
listening hand in hand to those chimes
from the television
what they didn’t sound dead yet.
I’m not complaining about everything we did afterwards,
of the body little by little so defeated,
from hospital windows,
from the wheelchair in 2021,
tired shadows of November,
eight in the morning in the rumor of the Clinic
with ultimate results in the waiting room.
I do not complain about the fear of falling,
from the difficult shower,
from the hard transfers to get to the bathroom.
I’m not complaining either
of palliative care,
memory with gauze
and the inevitable conversation.
I don’t complain about seeing you die in my arms.
I understood that the trips and the books
with their dedications
they have always been ways of taking care of ourselves.
I understood the roots of our militancy,
I understood the invoice of wanting
so completely friday.
I understood the plot of this story
in the starry night,
a love story,
this year and three months,
these final days that already are,
the happiest of my life.
♦ Born in Granada, Spain in 1958.
♦ He is a poet, literary critic and essayist.
♦ Since 2018 he is Director of the Cervantes Institute.
♦ He was the husband of Almudena Grandes from 1996 until the death of the Spanish writer in 2021.
♦ Wrote books like A winter of its own, Behind closed doors, the broken words Y Prometheus.