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  • Through the Neighborhoods of the World a Slow Saxophone Is Playing
  • Félix Grande (bio)
    Translated by Ana Valverde Osan

Through the Neighborhoods of the World a Slow Saxophone Is Playing

from Blanco Spirituals (1966)

While William Faulknerfinds the bitter words in a language,roots in Yoknapatawphagetting it up, boiling it,takes care of the ferocious constructionof a new novel and takes careof his undeniable, epilepsiac talent;while William Faulknerbursts onto the black conflictwith an ambiguous neigh, satedwith tradition, disdain for the North,a sterile discourse and a foolish pride,blacks, many blacks,some blacks, stirred bythe horrible history of Mississippi,with the memory drippingby the sweat of cottonand several centuries of black grandfathersresounding at their feet under time and the earth,sing, they see themselves impelledto keep on composingmusic in parentheses:negro spirituals.

Much of what we sawis life in parentheses.Whites cutting rice in Tarragona,the leeches of the rice fieldsfeeding on them.Western newspapersinforming about whites who diedin the front, or of hunger,or under an old, ruined rambling house.Whites who are unemployed. Whites in exile.Whites putting shoe polishover their holsters.Whites drinking the wineof the hidden defeat.Whites looking fortheir own respect in brothels.Whites, meditating, depositingbitterness over bitternesson cynicism, thatsublimation for those who lack resources.From the Seine to the Plata, [End Page 653] from the Thames to the Rhine,a white rumor is looking for leftoversand it is rummaging through the hostile reality,and through its reason, scattered and inharmoniousfrom one parietal bone to the other.Also many centuries of white grandparentsbetween tense days of work,difficult fruit, twisted flesh,the insomniac mud of the soldiers’boots, the campaigngreatcoat, the radio station that mentionsthe white Mississippi,the white lynching with a bullet,the feverish activityof the gynecologist officiatingover the tablecloth which the tug of warwill throw on the floorcracking its momentary content;the slums wherethe disconcerted whitessubmit and sell themselves, drunkwith wine and slandered whiteness;many centuries as well with white grandparentswith their simple hospitals,their heritage of coins, their pocketsfull of crumbs or their templesblazing with clarity or torsion,they make you think about a musicwith parentheses, with digressions,with ruthless questioning,with confusion, with quavers of eyes,biting with sarcasm,pauses of confusion,accelerandos with an enormous grumble:white spirituals

(You know it, James Baldwin:it’s not only your color.It’s the old trapthey would like to pervade.Your know it, James Baldwin:They need you black so they can hate you,so they can survive under their fearthrough hatred. But,you know it, James Baldwin:they also need youdeclassed, idle, availableso they can use your armsat a low price. You spreadyour gaze on the neighborhoods of Europe,you scan the South American Indians,you burn over India,you sink in the outskirtsof industrial cities [End Page 654] and you see brothers of other racesdiscriminated against, condemnedin the other skin of man: the salary,in the other skin of man: the culture,in the other skin of man:freedom.You have brothers of other races,every sweat is familiar,all misery carriesspits on the skin.)

From Charlie Parker to Edith Piafa deluge of black spiritualsand white spirituals poursover civilization;piaf rains, parker rains,Manolo Caracol, Louis Armstrong,Discepolo, John Coltrane, Billie Holliday rain.It is water that seepsthrough the cracks of Parliaments,through the crevices of programs,through the UN’s holes,it soaks strategy, it getsimmortality wet and shrinks it,it enlarges the dark woodof coffins and freezesall the magnificent fire of life.It rains all afternoon, it rainsall night: and behind the windowon which the rain patters,that deluge is observedby a white or a black manwhile a saxophone playsand it rains. [End Page 655]

Félix Grande

Félix Grande, narrator, flamencologist, and poet, is the author of more than fifty books. He has...


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