According to scientists, memory and music processing are situated in a deep, ancestral part of the brain, where it is zealously guarded. Perhaps this explains why even after our bodies have been destroyed down to the bone marrow, when nothing is left of us but the murky eyes of death, music and song appear.
They precipitate towards our vocal cords, our tongue and our lips. It rushes forth like a cascade of near impossible notes, rapidly, before it all ends.
One night, amidst the guards’ shouting and bustling, all the prisoners were taken away from Cuatro Álamos. The rest of the night was very quiet. They had taken the birds away from the big hall.
Very early the next morning, I was awakened by the voice of a woman calling my name. Still half asleep, I thought it was Diana calling me from some place in the 'afterlife'. The voice cautiously persisted. The voice came from the right side of my cell. Naked, I went to the window (I always showered dressed wash the blood off my clothes, which I then hung to dry from the bars of the window.).
“Who are you?” I asked. “They’ve taken everyone away. They told me they were going to kill those that are still here,” she said. “Who are you?”. “They call me La Jovencita (The Young Girl). I am from Argentina and they caught me in Valparaíso. Do you think they will kill me?”
“No, they won’t kill you”, I told her. “That will be me, not you”. I told her this almost without thinking. After a long silence, La Jovencita said: “I feel very sad and very lonely. Would you sing to me … that song you sang the other night, the one about the doves?” My voice rose, as before, like it had a will of its own. When I finished, she said: “Thanks a million. I feel better now”. But that’s not the only thing that happened: from my left I heard hands applauding.
“Bravo!”, croaked a man’s voice. “Very beautiful. I am a priest (Belgian? Dutch? I don't remember). “Do you think they will kill me?” the foreign-sounding voice asked me. “No…”. I never saw or heard anything about the Argentine woman or the European priest again. But I did learn that she survived. I still feel satisfaction at having embraced them with my song and my voice.
A casida is a pre-Islamic form of poetry, employed extensively by Federico García Lorca. This song is based on Lorca’s poem of the same name.
Published on: 12 January 2015
I saw two dark doves
one was the sun,
the other was the moon.
Little neighbours, I said,
where is my grave?
In my tail-feathers, said the sun.
In my throat, said the moon.
And I who was out walking
with the earth around my waist
saw two white snow eagles
and a naked girl.
The one was the other,
and the girl was neither.
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