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… the flesh that burns out, like a bonfire lit by a song

(The Power of Silence by Carlos Castaneda)

“Your problem is very simple,” he said. “You become easily obsessed. I have been telling you that sorcerers stalk themselves in order to break the power of their obsessions. There are many ways of stalking oneself. If you don’t want to use the idea of your death, use the poems you read me to stalk yourself.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I have told you that there are many reasons I like poems,” he said. “What I do is stalk myself with them. I deliver a jolt to myself with them. I listen, and as you read, I shut off my internal dialogue and let my inner silence gain momentum. Then the combination of the poem and the silence delivers the jolt.”

He explained that poets unconsciously long for the sorcerers’ world. Because they are not sorcerers on the path of knowledge, longing is all they have.

“Let us see if you can feel what I’m talking about,” he said, handing me a book of poems by Jose Gorostiza.

I opened it at the bookmark and he pointed to the poem he liked.

. . . this incessant stubborn dying,

this living death,

that slays you, oh God,

in your rigorous handiwork,

in the roses, in the stones,

in the indomitable stars

and in the flesh that burns out,

like a bonfire lit by a song,

a dream,

a hue that hits the eye.

. . . and you, yourself,

perhaps have died eternities of ages out there,

without us knowing about it,

we dregs, crumbs, ashes of you;

you that still are present,

like a star faked by its very light,

an empty light without star

that reaches us,

hiding its infinite catastrophe.


“As I hear the words,” don Juan said when I had finished reading, “I feel that that man is seeing the essence of things and I can see with him. I don’t care what the poem is about. I care only about the feeling the poet’s longing brings me. I borrow his longing, and with it I borrow the beauty. And marvel at the fact that he, like a true warrior, lavishes it on the recipients, the beholders, retaining for himself only his longing.”

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