“What is your great hunger?
To understand your great hunger, you must understand what breaks your heart.”
Thus Tererai Trend teaches us to be vulnerable. What breaks my heart? This question, in fact, is about what breaks our heart as Humanity and what we can do to mend it, to mend ourselves.
We're in March, and the pandemic that has slowed the world down is here. We are not yet fully aware of the trauma that has been devastating especially Chinese and Italian citizens for months. This open wound is not lived by all of us in the same way, just like life too was not. Days expand, days contract us; the air loses the fight to anxiety, we find ourselves experiencing and repeating all sorts of contradictory emotions and affirmations. Between news and memes, the bedroom and the living room, the kitchen and the supermarket, here we are, locked out of the world. Locked in with ourselves (and in many cases with our family), with no distractions or end in sight. People with privileged views of themselves going within inside. What do we grieve, at the beginning of this privileged quarantine? The dead who are not yet of ours? The unemployed? The hungry? Are we even aware that we are grieving? Are we truly aware of what we have lost, and that we had already lost it?
I make my peace with losing a Paris trip I booked impulsively, not knowing I would need it to help me finish grieving the recent, sudden death of a friend. Somebody wrote, "Only [the friend] and Pontius Pilate make it." This sentence has not left me since. I placed my faith on clouds I have not managed to reach and have only become heavier. If we were given a bag with what we carry inside, we would be quick to say we could not bear the weight. Horizontality already kept me company like a sick pet nestled in my lap. All I had left was being with myself, with my feelings, looking after. I am my sick pet. I am responsible for myself. When I am sad, when I am happy. I, a light drinker, have a last alcoholic drink with a friend on March 12, while social media liberalise happy hours for whenever one wants. After all, the days confuse us, right? I go to the office to get my computer to work from home, I see my last acquaintances without knowing when I'll be meeting somebody else again. I buy groceries in excess, proportionally to the collective absurd, to the sorrow of ourselves, to the uncertainty of all futures. Netflix, making bread, ordering food and examining how the different platforms deliver it, ordering books and going down two flights of stairs every day hoping they have already arrived, thinking on the right way to disinfect letters, washing apples with soap and leaving them in the sun to dry, cleaning the house constantly, like never before, even for somebody who usually does it rather often. I am sick of this, ready for it to end, but only sometimes, for a few seconds. Making plans to aspire to become my best self, to desire to live my best life. If not now, when? Deleting all social media once, twice, thrice. Failing miserably to do any of these, watching TV shows and films and cartoons. Not focused enough to read. To work. Being grateful for the work I hate and for this period of individual-scale peace. The peace for which I had yearn for so long. Lamenting the world-scale catastrophe. Infinite lists of what to do, learn, cook. A huge obsession with focaccia. Rejecting almost all online live videos and challenges.
In April, five years will have gone by since my gastric sleeve surgery. The five-year appointment was by phone still in March, the in-person one postponed to November. I spend the whole month speaking with people who have been operated on, are practicing intermittent fasting, or are writing doctoral theses on canteens. I could talk about food nonstop. After all, it's all I think about, seeing as I work in the food industry. After the initial collective impulse originated by shock and boredom, which compelled us to cook too many meals a day, locked up at home as we initially were, an idea that has not left me since Summer 2018 returns: undertaking a water fast. My surgeon removed eighty percent of what they call "second brain."
I wrote verses about the report: "O que perdi em estômago / ganhei em coração." [What my stomach has lost / My heart has gained] What breaks my heart? How do you mend the heart?
Kintsukuroi, or "golden repair," is the Japanese art of repairing pots, vases, and general pottery using joinery, a golden dust being commonly added to the matter that joins the broken or cracked parts. The flaw is not disguised. It is celebrated, and the piece becomes more valuable. Photographer and art director Carlota Guerrero writes on her Instagram page about how we are all connected by a filament, an invisible braid. In the last couple of years, I have repeatedly found throughout the internet excerpts from an Anne Sexton poem I did not know the title of. Everybody's favourite lines seemed to be: “Love and a cough / cannot be concealed. / Even a small cough. / Even a small love.” In Small Wire, Sexton firstly states: “My faith / is a great weight / hung on a small wire.” And proceeds onto the almost nothing that God needs, but how needed that nothing is: “just a thin vein, / with blood pushing back and forth in it, / and some love.” In my poem Deus [God], I say: “Deus não me pede nada / mas eu culpo-o de tudo.” [God asks nothing of me / but I blame him for all] When I wrote it, I had not yet read Anne Sexton's poem, but I had already known God for a long while.
Eid Mubarak was heard and read so many times on this second to last Sunday of May. I write during the night what I meditated on every day: why? For whom? With whom? I will deconfine in my own time. I still need time. I fast once, twice, thrice. Intermittently, water-only, the Buddhist way, one, two, three days. I fail. I drink more water than ever. I search, find houses. I stopped drinking coffee exactly fifteen days ago. The ginger tea cools off, and as always I find my immaculate reflection on the bottom of the teacup through scratches and cracks.
Gisela Casimiro (Guiné-Bissau, 1984) é a writer, artist and activist. Erosion, her first book of poems was published by Urutau (Brazil) in 2018. She has studied Languages, Culture and Literature. In 2020, her individual exhibition of visual poetry "O que perdi em estomâgo, ganhei em coração" was shown at O Armário, curated by Ana Cristina Cachola (project "quéréla").
Translation: Diogo Montenegro.
Foto: Lucas Foglia. Ice to Protect Orange Trees from the Cold, California 2015. Courtesy the artist.