Pájaro muerto cuando estaba vivo (2016). Enrique Enriquez.
Pájaro muerto cuando estaba vivo [Dead bird when it was alive] (2016). Enrique Enriquez.

Almost a decade has passed. When I met Enrique I thought of two things: that he was intriguing and that he was a sham. I imagined that he charmed his clients, especially women, with the candid and sagacious face of an escapist that keeps a deck of cards in his pocket. An acrobat of the word, who was in New York when they brought down the towers. A montage. Later, I myself stumbled upon a woman who read the tarot, and I learned something about the business because I was in love with her son—those are the things we come to when we plunge into a lulling symbol. Corominas says that «symbol» comes from the Latin symbollum, from the Greek symbolon, of symbállo, which translates as «I bring together, I make coincide.» Finally, all these years later, Enrique speaks on the other side of my questions about this and that, by means of Facebook Messenger notifications, while I debate myself between common sense and contemporary illusionism, between him and the distance from himself.

 

ENRIQUE ENRIQUEZ: A woman has spent this entire week telling me, in small increments, of how her father’s ex-girlfriend is accusing her of witchcraft and threatening to unmask her. Day after day, the woman receives text messages which aggressiveness increases line by line. As the details develop, my advice has remained constant: “Ignore her, show the texts to your dad, let him deal with his lunatic.” On the seventh day, the woman tells me about a dream she had: “I saw a scorpion, but I cut off its stinger. It still continued to chase me.” In all the dictionaries that this woman consulted, the scorpion is regarded as a bad omen. “Yes,” I said, “a scorpion is bad, but if you cut off the stinger it becomes harmless. It may persecute you, but not sting you.”

“Ah! You’ve finally given me calm,” she said. That «finally» stung me. It reminded me that we are condemned to looking for signs because common sense has no emotional impact, nor does it generate memorable images.

  

ENZA GARCIA: My dad killed a scorpion this morning. It was yellow. Common sense is a dull artifact, I suppose, and the rest of the time we are terrified creatures. We have rites so that the darkness does not grow too much. I don’t know. Today I swing on my own babbling. The coincidence of the scorpion makes me shudder.

 

E.E: That’s how it works.

 

E.G: Like this? Do omens exist?

 

E.E: Everything we see auguries something.

 

E.G: Where are the words, the magical words that will make me resurrect everything?

 

E.E: One can see a line for what it is, a line. Many people will bounce, swearing that there is nothing to see there. For them, the line is an opaque mirror. It’s difficult to know how to put an end to the anecdotes. Magic, like poetry, is suffocated by exoticism and sentimentality, which is why both are almost impossible today. The word magic is exotic. It is preferable to think that hammer is a magic word, or flour. My suspicion is that you have to play a dangerous game: not reveal, but make the other witness a revelation. Those who cannot see will always hold a grudge against you.

 

E.G: What do you mean by sentimentality?

 

E.E: The distance that social networks abolished between poetry and self-help.

 

E.G: And, most importantly: what is the best way to pull a rabbit out of a hat?

 

E.E: I wanted to tell you that my dad owned a fox. The problem is that he also owned a cunaguaro.[1] They were both females and hated each other to death. They lived in separate rooms and the one day that the cunaguaro slipped into the fox’s room, the fox threw herself out the window.

A broken fox on a sidewalk in Los Dos Caminos.

Almost all animal stories have endings like this. Animals don’t seek happiness; they only seek to win over the terrain. This is why I have always wanted to make myself a pair of shoes with the skin of a PETA member. And you? How do you know when to draw a bird or when the word bird is enough?

 

E.G: In a world full of acrobats and apothecaries, with more suspicions than elements, I decide what day is a bird and what day is a boat, ball, wire or mirror, when darkness requires no other rite than an almost imperceptible shudder: I will jump, I want to know to what extent I am invincible.

 

E.E: You say «apothecary» and you remind me of a very tall Persian photographer, who always wears tiny hats, who told me that in Farsi the name Attar—as in Farid ud-Din Attar, the author of The Conference of the Birds—means «pharmacist.» On the page, the word is caged. In the air, it can fly in any direction. The French word for cage is volière, which paradoxically contains voler, the French word for flying. The beauty of volière-voler is not exactly aesthetic. What gives value to the marriage between them is that it has been officiated by the intelligence of chance. Events like volière-voler are concrete truths, there is no subjectivity or expressive intention in them, only the explicit fact of two words aligned by the reality of their contours. This is the way language finds to become an oracle, a limited system in which sounds and images are constantly recombined following arbitrary rules that, once in motion, construct a coherent structure.

Do you also suspect the dead or only the living?

 

E.G: The dead are my favorite playing cards. My first important departed was my father’s grandmother, who commanded a country brothel and got rid of my fatherwhen he was fourteento defend one of her husbands.

Have you seen any ghosts?

 

E.E: I don’t know where it comes from, this faith in that the symbolic speed is reached by repeating ourselves. Perhaps it is from the experience that tells us that to be a ghost one simply has to continue appearing in the same place at the same time. To repeat oneself is a kind of impertinence that rebels at random. You insist on remaining, for life to derail.

 

E.G: I took three cards from my deck: Three of Cups, Page of Cups, Eight of Swords. What do you see?

 

E.E: Where there are three cups there used to be four, the Page takes it away, offers it to that opening the Eight of Swords that shows a flower. I am describing the cards from memory. The ones I carry in my pocket, and yours, which I’ve never seen.

 

E.G: And you? When do you know that a bird is not enough?

 

E.E: Drawing implies a contraction: from the world to the page. The eye likes to concentrate there. That’s why every drawing is a dead end. Writing implies an expansion: from the page to the world. It is a gesture that spreads like an oil stain, inviting the eye to lose itself. The grammar of the world of forms is composed of these two movements. A woman I know broke up with her boyfriend the day she found a dead bird. A few months later, she was talking to another man and a bird of the same species as the previous one stood at the table where they drank coffee. We are again faced with an event that, like the cards, allows us to abolish common sense. We must accept the inevitability of this, without romanticism.

 

E.G: I took three cards: zorro (fox), mezquita (mosque), celaje (cloudscape).

 

E.E: All potential combinations are known and forgotten at the same time because they continue to be modified. Whatever we see is always in process. In that sense, a card works like a memory. In ZORRO (fox) is the ORO (gold) and in MEZQUITA (mosque) a TAMIZ (sieve). In the combination of both is EROTIZAR (to eroticize). The word zorro suggests a geometry reminiscent of The Tarot Tower. That’s the mosque.

Z

OR

RO

The Z is a lightning bolt that breaks the tower in half. In French that is a coup de foudre, which at the same time is slang for love at first sight.

Eroticize the cloudscape.

Today I found this extraordinary quote by Richard Tuttle: «If I can free a humble material from itself, perhaps I can free me from myself.» That is the faith, a rare faith, through which these are not simple games.

 

E.G: To have a first name is an early interpretation of borders and an early acceptance of insomnia. At night, you know, brooms and shotguns murmur while the crickets ignore that we assign significance to their song. There are no sleeping magicians, it is also known. «Enrique»—«Henry»—, Germanically speaking, is the domestic monarch. But it also reveals that the cunaguaro and the fox, when they traverse the cloudscape of memory, W A N T the same thing: to devour birds, to diminish the authority of the heavens. «Superstition,» in its origin of Latin prestige, is to remain standing over the reality. What else comes for you at night?

 

E.E: I once killed a cockroach with my hand. I did not kill her before or after. It isn’t worth it, shrinking in expectation of a blow that, when it comes, will not land where one is waiting for it. Ever since I started looking at tarot I don’t dream. The night is a flicker.

 

E.G: So, you never lose control anymore?

 

E.E: I’ll tell you my most useless words, lost words that I repeat regularly with the stubbornness that makes one a ghost: one does not look at the symbolic world to know the future, but to lose the fear of the future, knowing that this will not relieve you of the pain. There is no control. Everything is what it ends up being.

We all sleep like Rousseau’s gypsy, while the lion smells us.

 

E.G: I took three letters: carpa (carp), abedul (birch), culebra (snake).

 

E.E: carpa abedul culebra

u     u

e           e

a   a   a                  a

ar                         ra

r a                      ra

c  r                   c r

be             eb

ul    ul

I was once told that the Congos don’t speak in sentences but in clouds. I felt like I had wasted my life speaking in a straight line.

 

E.G: To have a face is to live with a comfortable abyss, you are the object of desire or mockery; you are possession, catalog, and oblivion. You are an abyssal fish. Pamuk says in the mouth of a tree: «I do not want to be a tree, but its meaning.» And why. It’s like when you’re moaning and your throat is dry and you want to cough while you’re being invaded, as if to warn you not to lie too much: signs divide our desire to signify into monsters. Everything rushes you to desperate reading, the interpretation of life or death. Everything is a cloud that must be written betrayingly in a straight line, like the precision of a crocodile. Silence is a great bourgeois farce: in the end everything babbles, if not to say that it also groans like an ancient coyote. In Istanbul there are men who kidnap birds to dissect their singing. It is nearly as perverse as the discipline of the mime.

 

E.E: A face is also a boomerang. Reality is divided into natural documents, such as trees, and imaginary documents, such as the taxonomy of plants. Here comes to mind Gary Snyder’s idea of how, in order to be a poet, it is necessary to know:

all you can know about animals as persons.

the names of trees and flowers and weeds.

the names of stars and the movements of planets

and the moon.

your own six senses, with a watchful elegant mind.

at least one kind of traditional magic:

divination, astrology, the book of changes, the tarot;

dreams.

He speaks of the six senses, but a magician has only two: sense and nonsense. He uses one to create the illusion of the other.

 

E.G: So, what color are your eyes?

 

E.E: Perhaps what matters is that, at certain times, they are the same color as my grandmother’s eyes. Genetics is also semiotics.

 

E.G: I get the feeling that you live, in a way, dedicated to an audience. Surrounded by people who seek to know and trust you. Do you like that? Are you an artist?

 

E.E: It is very difficult to find a form. That is why it’s so easy to want to clothe oneself in the forms that one finds outside, instead of negotiating the influence that what is already in the world exerts on what one intuits, to take it in in homeopathic doses. The most perfect form of terrorism is to aspire to beauty, knowing that after the first kiss everything collapses.

 

E.G: I took three cards: beso (kiss), jaula (cage), brujería (witchcraft).

 

E.E:

bes ,     u  ,   ruj a

    o  ja  la  b eri

h                           nto

 

And you, how did you learn to draw?

 

E.G: It took me years to believe in my face. I would say, “I will never be clever enough to design a labyrinth like those in movies.” And I suffered. Perhaps I confused dignity with suffering. Once, we went to a spiritist session in a dark river in the hills of Anzoátegui. Afterward, I arrived home, ten years old, frightened by St. Michael the Archangel and Tibisay the Indian. Which of them will come to kill me? Damn adults, I thought, none of them can make me feel safe. What games are they playing? At that time, blank paper was rationed in my home because it was destined for important things, like schoolwork. But I would steal it. It was my answer to not knowing how to talk about my burned and volatile body. Drawing was a clean prayer, a possession that no one had allowed me. Even though my hand was and still is clumsy. One day I drew a fox and I accepted that I was the labyrinth, as if to say “Oh, quit nagging me, damned everyone.”

 

E.E: In the supermarket, the man at register number 15 is called Aidan. His colleague at register number 14 is called Alicia. I show them how their names are united in the soul because they share the same vowels in the same order. They are not interested in the least. Alicia says, “Oh, are you a poet? Help me out with something. I accidentally drank from the same bottle as a certain woman. I’m feeling things I had never felt. Do you think I should go after her?” We only see the signs we have on our agendas.

 

E.G: As you know, my parents owned a lottery sale for many years. In this Eastern part of the country, there is a lottery in which people bet on animals—thirty-two in all, among caiman, lion, or snake. So the first contact I had with fortune telling came from clients asking my mom to interpret their dreams for a winning hint. If you dream that you are fishing, you must bet on the heron or the fish. If you dream of a robbery, then bet on fox or cat. If you dream that you’re cheated on, bet on the bull or the goat. My mother also told me that there was even a little book of dreams and bets.

 

E.E: Yes, of course. I have a Cuban dream dictionary that includes lottery numbers for each animal or figure. I would like to do the opposite: translate the numbers into images so that each week the lottery announces its winning numbers and people dream of the corresponding figures that night.

 

E.G: I want to tell you something else. I started to publish my bird drawings on Instagram and a fool left me an obscene comment.[2] Why does a custom hijack a word? So bird becomes forever and ever a phallic object, and so on. By the way, I can’t draw birds’ feet. It’s very frustrating. My impatience is proverbial.

 

E.E: I went to the library of the Museum of Natural History to read the letters that Louis Agassiz Fuertes—the most important bird-drawer after James Audubon—sent George Miksch Sutton, a 17-year-old ornithologist, on how to draw birds: What I liked best was Fuertes’s accuracy on how the feathers of a bird reflect the colors of the landscape that surround it. No color exists in its pure state. Thus, Fuertes invited Sutton to look at everything through a tiny little hole made in a sheet of paper, the only way to see a color by itself.

I wonder if, instead of being a way of writing, poetry might instead be a slow, attentive mode of reading, a wishful willingness. I arrived at the museum at two in the afternoon and finally entered the library at three. That place is a labyrinth full of dyslexic minotaurs.

 

E.G: Do you think people look for you to tell them who they are?

 

E.E: I used to see a horrible woman every Friday, for free. She was an ex-banker who advised mining companies on where and how to invest. She collected gold. In spite of being racist and classist, for a time she had been the lover of Robert De Niro’s driver. She was always suing people, she would pick up fights with everyone. The last time I saw her, she pulled out three cards and I started to detail them. She was excited because I was smiling. She imagined that I was seeing something extraordinary for her. “What? What do you see?” she asked. “Nothing,” I said, “just that they are very beautiful.” This infuriated her. Common people completely overlook that magic transits an aesthetic content. There is a great weight set on how materials look, how their shapes relate. It is a poetry that operates on the imperishable need we have for signs, for symbols. Eventually one realizes that this language of forms is revelatory.

 

E.G: Sometimes, I lay out the arcana on my bed and think of this great nonsense: to request answers from a handful of symbols, from art in general. As you may have guessed, I am often lying when I tell you that I took three cards; I just mention the first three that spring to mind, or I choose them with absolute premeditation depending on their interpretation by the book. Why aren’t your readings like the rest? Why am I mistaken when I try to read them myself?

 

E.E: At my son’s school they told them they had to talk about their parents’ work, so he asked me to teach him to see the tarot. Within fifteen minutes, he said: “Oh, I understand. It’s about the transformation.” It took him fifteen minutes to understand what took me fifteen years! People strive to think of tarot as a «tool,» when one might actually regard it as a material. When we affect a material, it reveals us things about itself. Knowing the nature of tarot involves understanding that the symbolic world is in a constant state of transformation and that this transformation follows precise rules: Similar forms attract, they align to crystallize into new forms which are simultaneously dissolved again by their differences. We could say that the grammar of the world of forms has its systole and its diastole. Tucked in our pockets, tarot is a beating heart. There is something exorbitant in pulling out your heart to set it on the table. This is not my poetics, but a way of understanding the spark between forms that is at the root of poetry—the spark that one is always looking for in the world. But that spark is nothing more than a magical gesture, a transformation of elements that combined lead the mind into an unexpected walk towards certain experiences, in a way that materials in their pure state fail to achieve. In that experience, one is not the center of the equation; if anything, whoever looks at the tarot is the tool that, by affecting the tarot, allows it to talk about itself. There is freedom in accepting our own irrelevance. The tarot returns us to the condition of witnesses, of those who gaze at the landscape. In this case, it is not a natural landscape, nor a psychological one: it is a symbolic landscape, which autonomous existence only finds a bridge to ours through coincidences. That is why tarot can only predict itself—i.e., it can predict that a form will align itself with its analogues.

 

One of those days, I told Enrique I had dreamed that he was a bear. Logically, his response was to send me a picture of a bear that was actually a snake on a bicycle. Have you noticed that most locksmith shops are called The Magic Key? Andrew Bird has a song that says I write you a story / But It loses its thread / And all of my witnesses  / Keep turning up, keep turning up dead.

 


[1] A type of small leopard, similar to an ocelot.

[2] In Venezuela and in some other Hispanic countries, the word for “bird” is colloquially associated with male genitalia.


 

About the authors:

Enrique Enriquez (Caracas, 1969) lives in New York City. He is the author of the book Tarology (2011), which inspired the film TAROLOGY, The Poetics of Tarot, directed by Chris Deleo. He is also the author of two interview books, EN TEREX IT & EX ITENT ER (2012), and of a volume of pataphysical poetry, Linguistick (2013).

 

Enza García Arreaza (Puerto la Cruz, 1987) is an editor at Backroom Caracas, writer, and poet. She obtained the VII Cuento Contigo Literary Prize bestowed by Casa de América (Madrid, 2004) with «La parte que le tocó a Caleb». In 2007, she won the prize for unpublished authors hosted by Monte Ávila Editores with the book of short stories Cállate poco a poco (Monte Ávila Editores, 2008). In 2009, she received the III National University Literature Prize, hosted by Universidad Simón Bolívar, with the book El bosque de los abedules (Equinoccio, 2010). Her writing appears in the anthologies Cuento Contigo 2 (Madrid, Siruela, 2006), and Zgodbe iz Venezuele (Eslovenia, Sodobnost International, 2009); in the collections De la urbe para el orbe. Nueva narrativa urbana (Caracas, Alfadil, 2006); Joven Narrativa Venezolana III. Premio de Cuento Policlínica Metropolitana para Jóvenes Autores 2009-2010 (Caracas, Equinoccio, 2011); De qué va el cuento. Antología del relato venezolano 2000-2012 (Caracas, Alfaguara, 2013); Tiempos de nostalgia / Tiempos de saudade (Caracas, Ediciones del Instituto Cultural Brasil–Venezuela, 2013), and in Voces -30. Nueva narrativa latinoamericana (Chile, Ebookspatagonia, 2014). The book of short stories Plegarias para un zorro was published in 2012 by bid & co. editor. El animal intacto, her first poetry book, was published in 2015 by Ediciones Isla de libros.

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