Dima Cioran

Traveling Light

I always thought
that my beloved
literary hero,
Henri Beyle, the
selfnamed, selfappointed
Chevalier de Stendhal,
was exaggerating
when describing
himself as ready
to go with a suitcase
and a few books,
anywhere anytime.
I always thought,
in good faith, he
was a liar and a
mild affabulator,
until the same
happened to be
my case aged
and turning forty.

(I am quite sure
I forgot to tell you
I had elected him
my personal hero
many years ago, upon
discovering I was
born the same day
and at the same hour
he was dying, march
twenty second)

Stendhal had to leave his
beloved Italy, where he had
spent the last ten years.
Two reasons for his sorrowful
departure: the fears that the
Austrian political police may
have suspected him of liberal
sympathies and even of being
a carbonaro, a revolutionary
organizer; and the hopeless
condition of his passion for
Mathilde Dembowski, whose
portrait will be glimpsing
from then on in all of Beyle's
novels, letters and conversations.
Returning to France, he was
contemplating suicide but,
as every good writer, he was also
taking with him the unfinished
manuscript of the book he had
started writing to
analyze his own experience
and conceptions of love.
It was the summer of 1821,
when he was aged thirty-nine
and turning forty.

I don't even have the books,
disks have replaced them,
and I usually travel and
find help and lodging
with friends and colleagues
with whom I can share
at least the same software.
More than any South American
or Eastern Bloc custom border,
computers are now difficult
to penetrate and to invade:
the list of anti-viral programs,
passwords, security checks and
other keys is endless or almost.
And since I started traveling light,

aged thirty-nine turning forty,

this has been my only

constant fear and worry.

I am wearing a mixed bag
of items: an elegant pair
of 1987 Mac Affee shoes,
dark brown, repaired once
1989, and built again
September 1992,
--twenty-two dollars pre-paid--
by Art's Shoe Repair,
Commonwealth Avenue,
near the Belair Hotel,
where I moved with all
my belongings and met
my younger lover, that Irish
cerebral beauty of twenty-seven nearly 8
(" I feared these present years,
the middle twenties,
when deftness disappears,
and each event is
Freighted with a source-encrusting doubt,
and turned to drought.")

A grey-green suit, custom
tailored in Florence for a
wealthy industrialist friend of mine
now to fat to wear it, reminding me
of Stendhal's *****:
describing "present time" as
a period in which the general
mass of the society, the "common herd",
are ignorant of values other than
those of money and social status
in a variety of degraded forms:
vanity, convention, fashion, "love-vanity",
ridiculous role playing, social position.
Other values, more particularly feelings
of love and friendship, political convictions,
honesty, virtue and religious faith,
the love of art and culture,
are for them hollow pretexts.

Grey-green is a non descript
colour, which in fact I can't describe
but the suit has three or four advantages:
it fits me quite well, even if the trousers
are a little to short and wide, but
I have ways of hiding this and by now
I seldom meet my bespoke tailor;
grey-green is a colour
I can wear almost everywhere
and it goes with my eyes,
the tone of my complexion
the colour of my hair, or what's left of it.
Underwear, boxer shorts only,
-- I never use anything else,
much to the dismay of
my master Raffaello Misiti,
master by exemple of life--
are four pairs of shorts:
two by the Gap of recent American vintage
and two of Irish descent, from
the local branch of Marks & Spencer
now showing signs of age
and soon will have to be replaced.

Shirts, I have plenty
the only luxury left
from the days I was rich and famous*
more than I will ever use
on a single trip, but proudly
il catalogo è questo
Brooks Brothers, three;
Hilditch & Key, two
--which I seldom use, they
require cufflinks I've lost
memory and use of--
Paul Stuart, four
a gift from my in-laws for
my birthday ten years ago;
Boston Traders and Swear
from Singapore, a dollar a piece
at the Salvation Army
at Main and Halsted; six;
and most appropriately
for my present predicament
the ones I wear the most
are from Land's End, finis terrae

Accept, o fellow travelers
and beylist egotists
of present and future eras
the only piece of advice,
a modest opinion based on Stendhal's
reaction to industrial society: I know, it's
immediately polemical, but truly,
the new society is eminently industrial,
that is to say that one adores wealth,
one hates the nobility, following,
one must yield to those who can procure wealth.
Courtiers and wholesalers hate equally
philosophers who claim that beyond money,
there is a certain thing called virtue
which it is also necessary to remember
sometimes when one claims to be happy.

If you want to claim to be happy,
and if you can afford it,
buy socks of the best quality,
mostly grey, dark brown and bottle green,
made out of the finest wool
and some reinforcing artificial
fiber--nylon Dacron Lycra 5%, no more--
Mine are British ones
and seem to last forever,
acquired when I was still
in better shape and fortunes.
I also possess and carry
three paisley ties from
my wife; one sweater
my nephew dumped on me
with two holes and a
stitched one on my right shoulder
-- bottle green, you can wear anytime
and never shows spots or dots.

Alas, the most difficult part
comes with the so called
winter clothes, for having to
choose only one, the one I wear
is a sort of hunter's jacket
found last fall on a bench
at Rome's airport, while connecting
after my lectures on modernity:
the price tag was still inside
and a roll of fresh Italian liras
I promptly pocketed: the
jacket and my found
providentially resulted in my
not having to chose
what to buy or wear
for winter gear.

Inside my pockets, by
now there is a complete
set of basic medicines:
Advil; Aspirin; Lexomil;
Blistex; Noctamid;
Prozac and Dexatrim;
all contained in two
small translucid pill-boxes:
I know how to get to them
without anyone noticing around me,
at least so I think.
From London, every year,
in early November,
Smytson of Bond's Street
continue to send me
Featherweight diary
with two flap pockets: and
one of these days
I should either stop
my standing order
of better times
or pay the bills:
I would like to publicly praise
the tactfulness of
Smytson of Bond's Street
for never losing patience
with unpaid bills and
never giving up on customer:
who knows, reversal of
fortunes can happen again.

Passport and IDs
I carry under great protection:
I even kept the expired copy
of my diplomatic passport
-- of strictly no use, but
often useful nonetheless
when crossing borders
to avoid avid questions
from severe custom polices--
In my wallet, soft and weary-thin
like my second pair of trousers,
there is also a student card,
but getting discounts is
becoming somewhat of a problem now.
I also have a couple of US driver's
licenses, but my last cars,
a grey and a red Volvo Station Wagons
were equally divided
between wife and lover,
the address of the body shop
inside the driver's door:
I wonder if they
now go to the same mechanic
and have a chat about me.

Strange paradox: always alone,
two of us at the most, I only
bought station wagons. (Ask my
friend Marcelo Marques, the psychoanalyst,
next time he invites me for dinner)
God, when was anyway, the last
time I drove ? I vaguely remember
renting a car with the
architectural historian
to shoot pictures of a
Sullivan's funeral home
in Ohio, after her lecture tour
and being fined twice for speeding.

My wife has silently left me
a few years ago: she kept my
prints and drawings--I'm sure she'll
have a better use of them--
and all my winter clothes--
I hope the lover she found
is more appreciative of her and
of my vestimentary taste--
she left me but has not
requested my return of her
credit cards: I am quite certain
she has forgotten, but
nonetheless I appreciate
her kindness and attention.
From time to time she'll
get a small bill, complains
about my life and goes on with hers.

My younger lover, that uncertain
beauty, is now living
with my colleague at school:
a bright man on the move, just raising on top
with prose of this kind, which conquered her hart:
"What does philosophy see when it looks
at texts artifacts palympsests traces
such as architectures, artifacts and art history:
what does it "demands"
of such texts so that they can be read,
what it takes to be fragments of philosophy,
and how it decodes them ?
Maybe an helpful analogy here
is a mother speaking to an infant.
When the baby is learning to talk,
it seems to be speaking a combination
of "babble" and English."
Baby, baby is learning to talk,
it seems to be speaking a combination
of "babble" and English.
Folly, o my folly, you were
so open legged and free of your flesh,
whatever happened to you ?
She kept most of my summer clothes
the only credit card in my own name
and all my vintage wristwatches.

The ATT phone card is a rather
trickier matter: I can only call
numbers in the States and
the list, I confess, is getting
rather short: in-laws, friends,
university colleagues
publishers and editors
are fading away, no reply
necessary, these things withdraw.
Calling lover and wife
at their new numbers
presents two major disadvantages:
both turn into fiery creatures,
lower their voices, their hearts
turn into stone
plus the charge and the numbers
end up on my wife's bills.

The real luxury are my
two precious containers:
a French 288 pages
Grand Carreaux
Velin Surfin 90 grams,
and the suitcase, a present
by the mother of my son:
indestructible my son,
blond blue-eyed beauty,
and indestructible the bag.
The side reads:
and carries my initials.

e-mail the poet at ciorandima@netscape.net
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