Paula Ruggeri' storie
Traslater by Claudia De Bella
The old poet was already dying. The doctor had gone away. There was nothing else to do. In the room, darkened by thick curtains the colour of rage, lighted only by a candle with the glow of death, the poet was lying down. His forehead was turning pale; his hands were already the same colour as the candlelight. His daughter was there. She was fourteen, with a pink complexion and a pain it was useless to show. His son was there. He was almost twenty and the pain in him was wrath-coloured. A blush in his skin, his hair red. His mood, the one of someone waiting for the minute of his liberation. Death was in the room. She was the only one who expressed absolutely nothing, except herself.
“Clarisa. Go get my notebook with the red covers and bring it to me.”
The teenager stood up to do what she was required.
“Son.” The old man tried to speak loud and clear. “I’m sorry to tell you that you must keep the coffin in the house after I die.”
“When you die, Dad, which will happen soon, your dead little friend’s rotten coffin will fly out of the window. Smashed into pieces.”
“I’ve written my will, son. If you don’t keep the coffin, you can’t keep the house. Girl, Clarisa,” he said more softly, “you must read this notebook,” he took the red-covered notebook in his white, feeble hands, “and keep it inside the coffin. You mustn’t sleep in there without reading it first. And you only have time to do it until you turn fifteen. The notebook must be kept with the coffin. I entrust this to you. Sweet Clarisa.”
The girl could hardly speak. Her eyes met his father’s—that old, sad, crazy poet. They understood each other. They’d always understood each other.
“She’s not crazy like you,” the son cried. “And I want to see that will.” Hitting the wall angrily, he left the room.
Clarisa couldn’t stop the tears.
What will I do without you, father? That’s what her fragile hand said to the old man’s feeble hand.
The old man understood and smiled.
“Yes, Clarisa. You are crazy like me. And you’ve been asking yourself the same question since you were born.”
What’s their sanity worth
Compared to my heavenly madness?
His voice quivered when he uttered the lines of his most acclaimed poem.
“Don’t let them beat you. If you have to isolate yourself, do it. Take good care of the notebook. I’m leaving it to you. If you have children, tell them the secret at your dying time. Never pretend the secret doesn’t exist.”
“Blow the candle off. We’re in the dark, little darling. In the dark, light can lie down with the one who’s lying. And whisper the secret to him.”
“Father.” Her sobs felt more irrepressible, more insistent, only because everything was black, everything was dark.
Her crying muffled the old man’s last words.
“You’ll be a poet. You’ll be great. Greater than me.”
He had a confusing, restless dream. Clarisa appeared in the dream, dressed in white, whispering verses. Clarisa was lying still, the motionless lover. He slept that dream and died.
Raúl von Kotsch
His son John and his daughter Clarisa pray for his soul.
“You’re crazy, just like your mother,” Pablo mumbled with satisfaction. “Your mom was crazy. She used to sleep in a coffin, my father says.”
“My mom wasn’t crazy. You´re an idiot, just like your father,” Clara said disdainfully, her complexion pink, her look hard. Life with her uncle had hardened her. When her mother was alive it was different. The house belonged just to both of them. They were happy. Her mom used to write poems, but had never published them. Clara thought her mother’s poems were great. She’d died two years ago. Clara hadn’t seen her uncle Juan in her whole life before that. He’d hardly visited her mother when she was ill. Now, he and his stupid son, Pablo, owned the old house and her life. They’d removed all the furniture, the pictures, the books. They’d sold everything. What they couldn’t sell, they threw away. But they couldn’t get rid of what they hated the most. The coffin. It was one of the valuable objects in the house. Just because her mother worshipped it. It used to be in the red room. She called it like that because of the heavy crimson curtains. Now, both the curtains and the coffin were in the attic. Now, there was a billiard table in the former red room. Uncle Juan used to gather there with his friends. They laughed and drank until dawn, on Saturdays. On weekdays, her uncle went to the Sock Market and Clara stayed at home, alone with her cousin.
“At least I had a mother,” Clara said quietly, almost sweetly.
Pablo turned red. He raised his fist. And Clara started to run.
Up the stairs, down the stairs. Clara spent her days running from her cousin’s fists. Luckily, in summer afternoons he left with his blockheaded friends. And when he left, Clara was alone with her memories and her attic.
Everything that belonged to her was in the attic. The red curtains, her mother and grandfather’s notebooks. Raúl von Kotsch had been famous in his time. That’s why his son, no matter how much he hated to remember him, could never make the decision of getting rid of his manuscripts. They weren’t listed at the Stock Market, that was for sure. But it was worth waiting, in case they had any value some day.
Now Pablo was gone. He’d suddenly remembered they were waiting for him at some wild party and stopped beating her. When the door closed, Clara used her dress to wipe the tears and the blood in her face and, still crying, went to the attic.
The stairway was steep and the ceiling too low. The door wasn’t locked. In any case, she was the only one who ever got in there. No one but her found any value in the things inside. She sat down on the old curtains, her hands on her knees, and cried for a long time.
“Poetry comforts you,” her mother used to say. “If you are alone and feel like crying, a poem is a better consolation than anything else.”
Her mother knew a lot. Clara picked out an old notebook among the many around. It was impossible to read them all. Sometimes she opened a notebook and it was her mother’s. Sometimes it was her grandfather’s. And sometimes it was some hideous accounting book of Uncle Juan’s. So Clara went downstairs, tore it to pieces and threw it away.
This one looked liked it belonged to her grandfather. But, strangely, it was prose. She was curious, despite her tears. When she read the beginning, she forgot her sorrow. It had been written to her.
I’m Raúl von Kotsch and I’m writing this to my daughter Clarisa and my descendants. This is the answer to the question you may have asked yourselves. Why do we have to keep the coffin?
The ink had faded. Clara needed glasses, but her uncle spent as little as possible on her. Just food, and a dress when he had no choice.
First I’ll tell you the story of the Motionless Lover. The coffin belongs to her. Her name was Amalia Beatriz Saenz Zumarán. She was a poet. The night of her presentation in society, when she was fifteen, the whole brilliant local high-society was there. In the middle of the party, she fainted. When they loosened up her clothes, they found she was dead. She had a stain on her hand, which made the doctors decide to bury her at once. The memories of the plague were still fresh. She was put in the coffin, the coffin was nailed, and she was buried the next morning with no ceremony. Just her parents. Not even a priest. The vault was sealed. It was one of the biggest in the graveyard at that time; it had a small anteroom and a barred door.
But she wasn’t dead. She had catalepsy. She woke up inside the coffin. Terrified, she managed to open it with her fingernails and her blows. She was able to get out. She could make it to the vault anteroom. And she died of horror, embracing the bars, in the dark night.
Clara sighed. Her nose kept bleeding, but she’d forgotten about it. She imagined Amalia, the motionless lover. The dark night.
The coffin ended up in our family’s hands, it hardly matters how. My father bought it, together with the weird story it contained. Necrophilia, Clarisa, is an important business for graveyard keepers. For Amelia’s family, the coffin was a horrid reminder. For the man who sold it, it was just money. For my father, as well as for me, it was a sacred relic.
To you, Clarisa, I leave the coffin and its secret. Its blessing doesn’t belong to me; its curse is not mine. They are the Motionless Lover’s possessions.
You’ll know everything
If you sleep inside me,
Death, Life, White, Black.
But when your spring day
You’ll know, sleeping in me,
The same we, the dead,
Know about death.
Never get into the coffin after you turn fifteen. The Motionless Lover never forgives those who live longer than her. But if you’re not fifteen yet, spend a night, just one night, inside it. And you’ll be a poet. You’ll be great. And you’ll tell Life from Death.
Clara closed the notebook. She was excited. There were still twenty days to go before her fifteenth birthday. The time was right. She stood up. She went near the coffin. She took a deep breath. She opened it and lied down inside.
The voice was in her head. She obeyed.
She fell asleep. First she saw her mother in the red room, writing like she used to when Clara was a child.
A man was looking at her. Blonde, high cheekbones. He smiled with tenderness. Suddenly, he raised his head. He looked at her, at Clara. He put his hands on his mouth, and then stretched them out to her—his kiss flew like a swirling breeze. White. Everything was white. The breeze surrounded her, seconds of heat and frost. She got dizzy.
Clara. Sweet girl.
It was a woman’s voice. She saw a young girl like her, strange, dressed in white.
Death turns everything strange.
Black hair, her skin as white as paper or as…
Yes, Clara. Death is white. And life is sometimes black. Come closer.
Clara did. The Motionless Lover smiled.
I’ve been waiting for you. The spring of your life will come and you won’t return. But I’ll do something for you. Something you already know about… and something else.
She stretched her white hand and shook her fingers.
Magic, Clara. I’ll give you magic. Close your eyes. This poem will be yours.
And Clara thought in rhymes, for the first time in her short life. The lines were clear in her head. It was the Motionless Lover’s voice.
The unknown one will come,
The most mysterious.
She’ll come as she is
Tall, sad and painful.
She’ll come from the South
And she’ll be like the river
When she dies.
Clara’s voice joined to the Motionless Lover’s.
She’ll come with the music
Will play for me.
And Clara’s voice went on.
The wounded happiness.
The breeze embraced her, softer, warmer. Now she was alone, writing in the red room.
She’ll be my long-lost love,
She’ll be my unholy illusion.
Will fall on my head
For I wrote her wounds.
Now the Lover was facing her. She was smiling and crying at the same time.
I’ve given it to you, Clara. I’ve given you the secret, as I did to your grandfather and mother. Thank you, Clara. Thank you. I’ve cried through long nights with no days. Long days with no nights. My treasure, the one I never passed on. My secret is yours. You’ll be a poet. You’ll be great. Greater than me.
She’s tall and painful.
She comes from the South.
Clara felt a sudden pain. A deadly pain. She was pulled away from life. She was pulled away from the Motionless Lover’s arms.
Light hurt her. She was shaken with violence.
“Crazy like your mother,” she heard.
“Let me go,” Clara cried.
“Let me go, Pablo.”
“Get out of there.”
Clara got out, crying.
“I knew you were doing that.”
“What I do is none of your business.”
“Is it comfortable?” he mocked.
“Don’t laugh at me.”
“You’re dead,” Pablo mocked again.
Clara hid her face.
“Crazy like your mother.”
Clara shivered with hate. Finally, she said slowly:
“You are scared.”
“Me?” he said in surprise.
“Yes. You don’t dare get inside.”
“Oh, yeah?” He turned red. “I don’t do it because I’m not crazy like you and your mother.”
“You don’t do it because you’re scared,” Clara said. She was still crying, but her voice sounded as mocking as his. Pablo turned red and shot out his fist. She ducked and laughed. She laughed at him.
“You don’t dare”.
“I do, you’ll see. I’m going in, and when I get out I’ll beat you to death.”
“He, Pablo, the greatest. He, the strongest, because he’s a man and sixteen years old. The idiot.”
“Bah. Crazy like your mother.”
Pablo put one leg into the coffin, then the other. He sat down. He insulted her some more and lied down.
And the coffin slammed close.
Clara whispered something. She ran downstairs and shut herself in the billiard room. The former red room.
After his son’s horrible death, after burying him, Juan von Kotsch locked himself in his bedroom, loaded his gun and shot himself.
Buenos Aires, October 24th, 1970
“I, Clara von Kotsch, mentally able, with no descendants or close relatives, leave my house and everything it contains to the Poet Society of the Americas, to be turned into its headquarters or for the purposes their members choose, including the property’s sale. I leave them everything it contains, except for the coffin in the attic. I hereby state my will that it must be destroyed after my death, so I’ve made special arrangements to have it done. The Poet Society of the Americas can dispose freely of everything else. I consider this Society my descendant.”
She is tall and painful.
She comes from the South.
Her feet are tired
And her gaze is sweet.
She is Heaven’s blood,
She is Hell’s crying.
Both of them are her.
She is the Motionless Lover
In the only starless night.