Dreaming of Lorca

A nice night. Andrew (my nephew) brought his lovely new girlfriend Miss Catherine, over for dinner at our house. We ended up outside, sitting by the fire, eating melon, drinking wine (yours truly working with absinthe again as well…) eating fudge cookies, talking about Catherines’ home back in New Orleans. She came out here first getting away from Katrina, and finishing her semester out, and the second time for Andrew. He beams, he beams.

I am very happy for the both of them! It is truly delightful to see.

Rowan is finishing art projects tonight, tomorrow being his last day at school. I tried to talk him into working with me tomorrow afternoon, but nooooo. He is off for some bowling with friends. His art work is truly bizarre. Strangely Surreal in a Rowanian kinda way.

I have been dreaming of Spain. I have for years. All the dreams tend to be from the 1930′s, set in the Civil War. Durutti Column, Abraham Lincoln Bridgade… you know the routine. I have pondered this for some 25 years and I have yet to figure it out. The events happened 15 years before I was born, and yet I remember it. Ideas?

So, the title of the entry today says it all. One of my all time favourite poets. I need to pick up a new copy of his works, preferably in Spanish with a decent English translation… His works are so moving, and so “present”. I am dreaming and I feel ghost, and I see Lorca…. smiling forever.




On the Menu:

The Links

The Article: Backs to the Future

The Poetry: Lorca


The Links:

I’ve found God, says man who cracked the genome

Putting the Dark into the Dark Age

Life Saving Beer Ingredient!

Coming Soon To Radio Free EarthRites: Bombay Dub Orchestra!

Much played at Caer Llwydd, soon migrating to the playlist at Radio Free EarthRites. Some 20 tracks on 2 CDs, and not a duff track in the bunch.

Fairly Lush, with a nice blending of Eastern and Western Musics. It could be Bollywood, it could be Hollywood, but what it really is, is Chilled, delightfully…

Check out the site, and look up their MySpace account if you can. Sample it!

More on them later, I am sure…


Backs to the Future

The future is behind for the Aymara: The speaker, at right, indicates next year by pointing backwards over his left shoulder. Copyright Rafael Nunez, UC San Diego

New analysis of the language and gesture of South America’s indigenous Aymara people indicates they have a concept of time opposite to all the world’s studied cultures — so that the past is ahead of them and the future behind.

Tell an old Aymara speaker to “face the past!” and you just might get a blank stare in return – because he or she already does.

New analysis of the language and gesture of South America’s indigenous Aymara people indicates a reverse concept of time.

Contrary to what had been thought a cognitive universal among humans – a spatial metaphor for chronology, based partly on our bodies’ orientation and locomotion, that places the future ahead of oneself and the past behind – the Amerindian group locates this imaginary abstraction the other way around: with the past ahead and the future behind.

Appearing in the current issue of the journal Cognitive Science, the study is coauthored, with Berkeley linguistics professor Eve Sweetser, by Rafael Nunez, associate professor of cognitive Science and director of the Embodied Cognition Laboratory at the University of California, San Diego.

“Until now, all the studied cultures and languages of the world – from European and Polynesian to Chinese, Japanese, Bantu and so on – have not only characterized time with properties of space, but also have all mapped the future as if it were in front of ego and the past in back. The Aymara case is the first documented to depart from the standard model,” said Nunez.

The language of the Aymara, who live in the Andes highlands of Bolivia, Peru and Chile, has been noticed by Westerners since the earliest days of the Spanish conquest. A Jesuit wrote in the early 1600s that Aymara was particularly useful for abstract ideas, and in the 19th century it was dubbed the “language of Adam.” More recently, Umberto Eco has praised its capacity for neologisms, and there have even been contemporary attempts to harness the so-called “Andean logic” – which adds a third option to the usual binary system of true/false or yes/no – to computer applications.

Yet, Nunez said, no one had previously detailed the Aymara’s “radically different metaphoric mapping of time” – a super-fundamental concept, which, unlike the idea of “democracy,” say, does not rely on formal schooling and isn’t an obvious product of culture.

Nunez had his first inkling of differences between “thinking in” Aymara and Spanish, when he went hitchhiking in the Andes as undergraduate in the early 1980s. More than a decade later, he returned to gather data.

For the study, Nunez collected about 20 hours of conversations with 30 ethnic Aymara adults from Northern Chile. The volunteer subjects ranged from a monolingual speaker of Aymara to monolingual speakers of Spanish, with a majority (like the population at large) being bilinguals whose skills covered a range of proficiencies and included the Spanish/Aymara creole called Castellano Andino.

The videotaped interviews were designed to include natural discussions of past and future events. These discussions, it was hoped, would elicit both the linguistic expressions for “past” and “future” and the subconscious gesturing that accompanies much of human speech and often acts out the metaphors being used.

The linguistic evidence seems, on the surface, clear: The Aymara language recruits “nayra,” the basic word for “eye,” “front” or “sight,” to mean “past” and recruits “qhipa,” the basic word for “back” or “behind,” to mean “future.” So, for example, the expression “nayra mara” – which translates in meaning to “last year” – can be literally glossed as “front year.”

But, according to the researchers, linguistic analysis cannot reliably tell the whole story.

Take an “exotic” language like English: You can use the word “ahead” to signify an earlier point in time, saying “We are at 20 minutes ahead of 1 p.m.” to mean “It’s now 12:40 p.m.” Based on this evidence alone, a Martian linguist could then justifiably decide that English speakers, much like the Aymara, put the past in front.

There are also in English ambiguous expressions like “Wednesday’s meeting was moved forward two days.” Does that mean the new meeting time falls on Friday or Monday? Roughly half of polled English speakers will pick the former and the other half the latter. And that depends, it turns out, on whether they’re picturing themselves as being in motion relative to time or time itself as moving. Both of these ideas are perfectly acceptable in English and grammatical too, as illustrated by “We’re coming to the end of the year” vs. “The end of the year is approaching.”

Analysis of the gestural data proved telling: The Aymara, especially the elderly who didn’t command a grammatically correct Spanish, indicated space behind themselves when speaking of the future – by thumbing or waving over their shoulders – and indicated space in front of themselves when speaking of the past – by sweeping forward with their hands and arms, close to their bodies for now or the near past and farther out, to the full extent of the arm, for ancient times. In other words, they used gestures identical to the familiar ones – only exactly in reverse.

“These findings suggest that cognition of such everyday abstractions as time is at least partly a cultural phenomenon,” Nunez said. “That we construe time on a front-back axis, treating future and past as though they were locations ahead and behind, is strongly influenced by the way we move, by our dorsoventral morphology, by our frontal binocular vision, etc. Ultimately, had we been blob-ish amoeba-like creatures, we wouldn’t have had the means to create and bring forth these concepts.

“But the Aymara counter-example makes plain that there is room for cultural variation. With the same bodies – the same neuroanatomy, neurotransmitters and all – here we have a basic concept that is utterly different,” he said.

Why, however, is not entirely certain. One possibility, Nunez and Sweetser argue, is that the Aymara place a great deal of significance on whether an event or action has been seen or not seen by the speaker.

A “simple” unqualified statement like “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue” is not possible in Aymara – the sentence would necessarily also have to specify whether the speaker had personally witnessed this or was reporting hearsay.

In a culture that privileges a distinction between seen/unseen – and known/unknown – to such an extent as to weave “evidential” requirements inextricably into its language, it makes sense to metaphorically place the known past in front of you, in your field of view, and the unknown and unknowable future behind your back.

Though that may be an initial explanation – and in line with the observation, the researchers write, that “often elderly Aymara speakers simply refused to talk about the future on the grounds that little or nothing sensible could be said about it” – it is not sufficient, because other cultures also make use of similar evidential systems and yet still have a future ahead.

The consequences, on the other hand, may have been profound. This cultural, cognitive-linguistic difference could have contributed, Nunez said, to the conquistadors’ disdain of the Aymara as shiftless – uninterested in progress or going “forward.”

Now, while the future of the Aymara language itself is not in jeopardy – it numbers some two to three million contemporary speakers – its particular way of thinking about time seems, at least in Northern Chile, to be on the way out.

The study’s younger subjects, Aymara fluent in Spanish, tended to gesture in the common fashion. It appears they have reoriented their thinking. Now along with the rest of the globe, their backs are to the past, and they are facing the future.

Source: University of California, San Diego


Poetry: Lorca

Gacela of the Dark Death

I want to sleep the sleep of the apples,

I want to get far away from the busyness of the cemeteries.

I want to sleep the sleep of that child

who longed to cut his heart open far out at sea.

I don’t want them to tell me again how the corpse keeps all its blood,

how the decaying mouth goes on begging for water.

I’d rather not hear about the torture sessions the grass arranges for

nor about how the moon does all its work before dawn

with its snakelike nose.

I want to sleep for half a second,

a second, a minute, a century,

but I want everyone to know that I am still alive,

that I have a golden manger inside my lips,

that I am the little friend of the west wind,

that I am the elephantine shadow of my own tears.

When it’s dawn just throw some sort of cloth over me

because I know dawn will toss fistfuls of ants at me,

and pour a little hard water over my shoes

so that the scorpion claws of the dawn will slip off.

Because I want to sleep the sleep of the apples,

and learn a mournful song that will clean all earth away from me,

because I want to live with that shadowy child

who longed to cut his heart open far out at sea.


Romance Sonambulo

Green, how I want you green.

Green wind. Green branches.

The ship out on the sea

and the horse on the mountain.

With the shade around her waist

she dreams on her balcony,

green flesh, her hair green,

with eyes of cold silver.

Green, how I want you green.

Under the gypsy moon,

all things are watching her

and she cannot see them.

Green, how I want you green.

Big hoarfrost stars

come with the fish of shadow

that opens the road of dawn.

The fig tree rubs its wind

with the sandpaper of its branches,

and the forest, cunning cat,

bristles its brittle fibers.

But who will come? And from where?

She is still on her balcony

green flesh, her hair green,

dreaming in the bitter sea.

–My friend, I want to trade

my horse for her house,

my saddle for her mirror,

my knife for her blanket.

My friend, I come bleeding

from the gates of Cabra.

–If it were possible, my boy,

I’d help you fix that trade.

But now I am not I,

nor is my house now my house.

–My friend, I want to die

decently in my bed.

Of iron, if that’s possible,

with blankets of fine chambray.

Don’t you see the wound I have

from my chest up to my throat?

–Your white shirt has grown

thirsy dark brown roses.

Your blood oozes and flees a

round the corners of your sash.

But now I am not I,

nor is my house now my house.

–Let me climb up, at least,

up to the high balconies;

Let me climb up! Let me,

up to the green balconies.

Railings of the moon

through which the water rumbles.

Now the two friends climb up,

up to the high balconies.

Leaving a trail of blood.

Leaving a trail of teardrops.

Tin bell vines

were trembling on the roofs.

A thousand crystal tambourines

struck at the dawn light.

Green, how I want you green,

green wind, green branches.

The two friends climbed up.

The stiff wind left

in their mouths, a strange taste

of bile, of mint, and of basil

My friend, where is she–tell me–

where is your bitter girl?

How many times she waited for you!

How many times would she wait for you,

cool face, black hair,

on this green balcony!

Over the mouth of the cistern

the gypsy girl was swinging,

green flesh, her hair green,

with eyes of cold silver.

An icicle of moon

holds her up above the water.

The night became intimate

like a little plaza.

Drunken “Guardias Civiles”

were pounding on the door.

Green, how I want you green.

Green wind. Green branches.

The ship out on the sea.

And the horse on the mountain.


City That Does Not Sleep

In the sky there is nobody asleep.Nobody, nobody.

Nobody is asleep.

The creatures of the moon sniff and prowl about their cabins.

The living iguanas will come and bite the men who do not dream,

and the man who rushes out with his spirit broken will meet on the

street corner

the unbelievable alligator quiet beneath the tender protest of the


Nobody is asleep on earth.Nobody, nobody.

Nobody is asleep.

In a graveyard far off there is a corpse

who has moaned for three years

because of a dry countryside on his knee;

and that boy they buried this morning cried so much

it was necessary to call out the dogs to keep him quiet.

Life is not a dream.Careful!Careful!Careful!

We fall down the stairs in order to eat the moist earth

or we climb to the knife edge of the snow with the voices of the dead


But forgetfulness does not exist, dreams do not exist;

flesh exists.Kisses tie our mouths

in a thicket of new veins,

and whoever his pain pains will feel that pain forever

and whoever is afraid of death will carry it on his shoulders.

One day

the horses will live in the saloons

and the enraged ants

will throw themselves on the yellow skies that take refuge in the

eyes of cows.

Another day

we will watch the preserved butterflies rise from the dead

and still walking through a country of gray sponges and silent boats

we will watch our ring flash and roses spring from our tongue.

Careful!Be careful!Be careful!

The men who still have marks of the claw and the thunderstorm,

and that boy who cries because he has never heard of the invention

of the bridge,

or that dead man who possesses now only his head and a shoe,

we must carry them to the wall where the iguanas and the snakes

are waiting,

where the bear’s teeth are waiting,

where the mummified hand of the boy is waiting,

and the hair of the camel stands on end with a violent blue shudder.

Nobody is sleeping in the sky.Nobody, nobody.

Nobody is sleeping.

If someone does close his eyes,

a whip, boys, a whip!

Let there be a landscape of open eyes

and bitter wounds on fire.

No one is sleeping in this world.No one, no one.

I have said it before.

No one is sleeping.

But if someone grows too much moss on his temples during the


open the stage trapdoors so he can see in the moonlight

the lying goblets, and the poison, and the skull of the theaters.


Federico García Lorca is presumed to be buried in a mass grave in Viznar, a village which lies at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Granada in Spain.

He was regarded by Franco’s fascists as a dangerous intellectual and was arrested on the 16th August 1936. Three days later he was dragged into a field, along with a schoolmaster and two bullfighters, and shot. His writings were subsequently burnt in the main Plaza in Granada.

While a student in Madrid, Lorca became friends with the surrealist painter Salvador Dali and the film maker Luis Buñuel. Dali designed the set for Lorca’s play Mariana Pineda which was first staged in 1927.

In 1929 Lorca traveled to New York. While in the Big Apple he wrote Poeta en Nueva York and also began El público (The Audience) – an explicitly homosexual play.

After returning to Spain, Lorca was appointed Director of the Madrid University Theatre ‘La Barraca’. The company toured the provinces giving free performances of classical Spanish plays.

Lorca is, today, regarded as one of Spain’s greatest 20th Century poets and playwrights. However, due to the fascist regime, his plays were not performed again until the 1940′s and certain bans on his work remained until 1971.

Lorca’s Andalusian upbringing had a profound influence on his writing. One of his finest poems, Llanto por Ignacio Sánchez Mejías, is an elegy for his friend the Andulusian bullfighter.

Tardará mucho tiempo en nacer, si es que nace,

un andaluz tan claro, tan rico en aventura.

Yo canto su elegancia con palabras que gimen

y recuerdo una brisa triste por los olivos.

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