Pico Ruivo


All summer long I piled up stones and scattered stones

I watched clouds and shadows in the fields
made of cliff walls fallen into the sea
the same solitude dangerously
transcribed on that reddish grey
beneath the sky’s chambers
the heather that survives the harsh season
two or three goats, a tent

tunnels, footpaths and icy waters
take us to our destination
the leaf and the flower belong to the wind
a gaze (still mine?) distractedly follows them
during the steep climb

down below, where the path began,
patches of moss indifferently covered
the names of the places we’re going to
and those that we’ll never reach



Discussion Apropos the Geological Activity in Delphi


We owe the following scene to a potter from Athens:
a meticulous woman sitting in a low-ceilinged chamber
with a laurel branch in one hand
and in the other a cup, from which falls the water of auguries
in the juxtaposition of visual planes
That’s why an invincible king rather than a frightened youth
is consulting the woman about what cannot be foreseen

Strabo, the geographer, must have looked at that vessel
for with much science he explains it: “The secret of the oracle
is a grotto hidden in the ground.
Its breath rises through a narrow opening.
Sitting on top of the fissure
the soothsayer inhales the vapour of prophecy.”
Pliny, Diodorus and Plato were of the same opinion

Decades later, Plutarch mentions
how little is known about the aspects:
the pneuma is deemed to be a form
equivalent to that unpredictable fragrance
emanating as if it issued from a spring

But the world had already become vague and erratic
no philtre could make its pain bearable
And everyone said: either the vital essence has dried up
or the vapour has perchance found a new outlet
And Pausanias, a traveller of the next generation,
in fact reports having seen, on the slope above the temple, a spring called Kassotis
that went underground and then re-emerged
but now in the silence of an empty chamber





What do the explorers,
the wayfarers, pilgrims we’d thought had long since disappeared,
the Berbers, the nomadic herders
and the exiled
say to people like us whose law is of the letter and testament
not of the unknown necessity
which moment by moment
is revealed

Beyond us, where they live, there’s a ghost language
which accommodates what no language
can say:
the photons generated by the stars’ clashing
how the antelope wends its way through the orthography
the yellow that returns to the rugged slopes
after the heavy snows



The Taxidermist


The unstable form, acceleration, temporality
life lurks within a fluttering leaf
but the taxidermist who carefully removes it
seeks merely the inanimate
without perforations

In like manner he draws muscles, cavities,
he plots the veins that serve
as a guide to the strangeness
as if there had been no point to the body’s
falls and losses, to the secret
vastness that feels
so desperately close by

Then the taxidermist makes the model
of wire, wood, clay,
plaster or even paper,
and when at last he stretches and sews the skin,
something infinite dies in his hands

Not content, he adds other elements
the manuals guarantee that painted hollow eyeballs
instead of glass eyes
give the preserved animal
a natural expression





Behind you stretches the luminous path
as if the abyss had a head of white hair



Stone Tablets


The paintings of Ilda David’ bring to my mind what Heidegger said is at the innermost core of each being: the awareness of a deficiency. A deficiency that is not a transgression, nor a shortcoming vis-à-vis any law or authority, but a lack, a lacuna waiting to be filled, a fault such as occurs in those millenary geological formations that arouse the endless fascination of scientists and ordinary travellers alike.

In certain silent entreaties that only we feel, or in unexpected rifts in the landscape, in our emotions, in our thoughts, or when something inexplicable completely disarms us so as to connect (or reconnect) us to what the visible world announces, we find ourselves face to face with that deficiency.

These images of Ilda David’ form a detailed report in which Madeira’s mountains and mountain paths are exemplary objects of meditation, not just a hazy background. The Achada do Teixeira footpath. The slopes of São Roque do Faial. The basalt dam above the Fajã da Nogueira and Cidrão rivers. The platform of Ninho da Manta. The place called
Homem-em-pé. Pico do Gato. Pico Grande. Pico das Torres. And, a bit beyond this last-named peak, Pico Ruivo.

The stone tablets contain a testimony that predates the tablets of the law. They reflect what is most hidden: our deficiency.