BOOKS — A Glimpse of Death from the Vantage Point of Love
A one-of-a-kind, large format book (16 5/8 x 15 1/4 x 1 7/8") designed and hand-bound by Fernando Llosa, housing eleven poems by Mario Hernandez, as well as essay and a collection of some seventy photographs also by F.L. The essay and the poems were written late in 2014. The images were selected from a large body of photographic work made during 2013 in a relatively small section of Taughannock creek, near Trumansburg, New York, mostly upstream from the famous waterfall beating the same name. Each image comprises from three to nine different exposures made of different sections of a single scene subsequently stitched together using a computer program. The prints were made in the studio,
We still hope to find the funding necessary to make an edition of 50 copies of A Glimpse of Death from the Vantage Point of Love.
Please click here to read Fernando's essay. You will find Mario Hernandez' poems with their respective images below and in between two galleries of other images that appear in the book.
An Ancient Heresy
Although on some nights I have wished for death,
And on others nearly died; although I have awoken in hospital beds,
It was only tonight, driving, daydreaming of a girl—
Only at the realization that the cloudy glass of this fantasy
ineluctably would break, and its substance never be fulfilled,
That this delirious pill would dissolve,
Not in my mouth, but in the rain—
Only then did my rage gave me the strength
To meet your eyes, O Death,
That are forever leveled at us all,
And understand: your lordship is supreme,
And immortal are the angelic host and God
Solely at your pleasure.
O Death, I am sorry I feared you, and I lament all those children who
Associate your name with horror and derangement,
And not with the soul in her ecstasy.
I remember the stories of gods coming in fire
Scouring the hillsides for maidens, alighting at last on one,
To squeeze her rind and drink the elixir of her will.
And now I hear you, displacing the atoms of the air as though they were harp strings,
Flying to me, as though the flaring of the sun
Had resulted in the emergence of a wing
From the molten eggshell that carried you,
And the first place you thought to come was to my side.
There is so much to be afraid of. Although life is as thin as a bubble,
It is as thick as our bodies, and it tightens like a fist around our souls.
We must love age and failing health; we must love loss and loneliness,
And we must love death—if we will transfigure transience
And experience infinity in ourselves.
Immortality is too light without the severity of death,
Its grand potential underused.
Death, you stand in the circle of my body now
Under the net of my neurons and tendons as beneath the canopy of the sky,
And someday you will cut my arteries and veins like the ropes that tether boats to the shore.
You will fly over the world with me, sewing my riotous substance into the void.
There is no distinction between understanding and death.
In both, we plunge through the unthinkable;
We see love where love was impossible—
We see suffering’s emaciated face smiling in the window of delight.
We see the writhing sun hung on gravity’s knife,
Its copious blood evaporating in flares.
Strength achieves nothing but murder,
A crude simulacrum of death,
While death rends strong men like songbirds in its hands,
And weak boys death cradles and kisses, and sighs.
And it is not sex, but death that trips the trapdoor in the womb
And sends the fetus like a Molotov cocktail through,
That burns in ribbons of flesh.
Nothing is weaker than the membrane of the uterus,
Where the universe itself splits on the grain
Like a log split by a hatchet.
And we may learn either through understanding or through death
That the Sovereign God was a lie of human kings,
But immortal is the soul
And death the mother of all.
Happiness is an ancient, organic propaganda
That grows on the lids of the eyes like grapes against the eaves,
And is as irresistible.
To live without sorrow is an impulse as vulgar as racism is—
It builds a cage around our beating hearts
And makes us enemies to ourselves.
Most of death’s work is spent collecting happy fools from their beds:
Freeing their poor, dead hearts, like putrid dairy hens from iron cells.
It must pain death to know these dead denied themselves for fear of her,
Because they couldn’t tolerate her face.
When you open yourself to the black face, the white face,
To your own suffering face, it will kill a part of you.
But it wasn’t long ago, you traded your mother’s body for a bigger room—
You cut away nine-tenths of your flesh,
And held death’s hand the length of the birth canal.
Where was happiness then?
Death swore to you there in your agony,
She would never betray your trust.
And yet we prefer to kill or die than to admit
he steadfastness of death’s commitment.
Just as a teacher will push all the metal structures away—
Table and chairs and the mesh bladders beneath them—
Blowing them like leaves against the corners of the walls
So she and her students can sit in nested rings on the floor
To listen to the poetry they’ve written;
Just so, death blows the bird nests of our skeletons away.
What was I then while I was dying?
I was a thunder sheet composed of gas and light
And I felt a constant tightening and a constant relief.
It isn’t intellect that survives the dusk of life—
In life everything was various; complexity decayed into greater complexity.
All was made of atoms, and their crisp webs were ourselves—the air we breathed, everything.
I think the release I felt in dying was the experience of all my atoms breaking,
And the understanding that the tyrannosaurus and sperm whale were made
From the same wooden toothpicks that composed me.
We spend our lives striking poses for the fossil record.
Our bodies mass like pollen on the thighs of stone;
We are devoured in the mouth of that rose.
It becomes strange to remember having walked in our bodies,
Like dancers on stilts,
Once we have condensed into the suspension cables
That brace the elastic universe:
It seems impossible, being light, to have feared speed;
Impossible, being water, to have feared profundity;
Impossible for anything that exists to fear agony.
My Mother Is Dead
My mother is dead and I’m happy,
Not happy from anger or vengefulness,
But because joy runs in a parallel vein beside them,
Through the body of death,
And of the three, joy’s circuit is the most rewarding.
I love her.
She used to beat me, and shoplift,
And suspect the rest of us of crimes,
But that isn’t why I loved her. It’s because she smashed
Everything, all of it, inexplicably.
She drove Atlas from the rim of the world
By stabbing at the back of his head
Through our open kitchen window,
Sometimes climbing out into his hair as onto the shoulders of a bull,
And riding her knife down his scalp, back into the window,
Until the rudderless Earth rolled to a stop
In the drainage ditch of the Milky Way.
She shattered the dome of the sky, laced our meals with broken shards,
And she brought down in fire every star she could reach
From her step stool, as though they hung
From hooks like potted plants on the ceiling.
She is dead.
She and I lived as animals, free from the burden of self-respect,
From any responsibility but to survive,
And it’s true—nothing deserves our respect but existence itself,
The element and fabric of night, encompassing and consecrating all:
That was what my mother was, that was the one thing she couldn’t tear apart, And that is what I am.
I am experiencing joy like a golden cannonball shot straight into the sky,
Spit living from death’s artery like a parasite from a blister.
She isn’t dead.
Everything I loved about her is still here:
The fallen world,
The fire reaching through the prison bars of darkness,
My soul, my unpardonable soul.
Rebels against Life
We realize life is worse, is how it happens.
We are told that death is the evil one,
The night marauder, and we fear her—
But invariably, life double-crosses us: we are abused, betrayed, ignored,
By the living people we love; or we shrink from defending ourselves,
Or an accident cripples us, softening our attitude toward death.
Once we taste what cruelty is, we can no longer attribute it to dying.
Only life has a motive to kill.
A killer might throw my brother—who loves me—out of a window at me,
And succeed at using this human projectile to take my life.
But I could hardly blame my brother for that,
Or counsel others to fear him. The same is true of death.
It is the killer alone who’s inhospitable, coercing docile death into committing an anachronism;
When death comes to us in her own time, she bears our faces, and takes our hands.
So those of us who appreciate death aren’t dangerous.
Consider this: many despise the oligarchs, the hardened thuggery of contemporary democracy,
But very, very few will take up arms to rout it. And why should we?
Free will abhors an instinctual response,
And the true offense of violence is its lack of creativity.
So it is with the rebels against life:
We would never kill—murderers blaspheme against the dignity of death
By usurping her sacred prerogative; they tread her Eucharist with their bloody feet.
You may safely entrust your children to the devotees of death—to us, everything that lives
Does so with death’s blessing, and is a blessing to the world.
Impatience is no part of piety.
But do not speak too well of life in our company:
The subject is a dead end without death.
To enter the stream is to bid it farewell:
Farewell for we are merely alive, while the water moves eternally;
Farewell for we are limber sparks,
Anthropomorphic embers, arising from her angry womb,
Living out our hundred years on a parcel of her thigh;
Farewell for loneliness is a constant in the universe;
And farewell for we will never mean enough to each other
To stay together, even though she loves us.
There is an emotion I associate with leave-taking—
It stirs gently, like strings when a musical instrument has been bumped,
A keening without limbs,
A sorrow that extends from the heart like green shoots from felled trees.
The feeling is hopeful, but not hopeful for we who express it:
It is a hope that form will follow upon form,
Day will follow night,
And chaos will resolve itself into a tale that can be told,
Told by something not yet born, among miraculous companions.
We say goodbye in a dead tongue to a stream that has forgotten speech.
And long after our strings have come to rest
By some bank along the shore,
Death crouches beside our bones
And breathes our names.
All writing is the impression of some invisible part of the animal made in the soft clay of the page. As the human face is a camera opened to the world, gathering in its cavity filaments of light, everything written in this book is a proof and true record that beasts once trod on this Earth.