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Magazine

12 February 2024
This month's topic: (Self)MigrateResident Editor: Queralt Castillo Cerezuela
Notes on Displaced Poetics I and II

This is not a poem, this is not an article, this is not a story. What you have in your hands is a poetic artifact in the form of a glossary, a lexicon, but also in the form of an epistolary exchange between Ale Oseguera, a Mexican poet based in Barcelona, and Laura Casielles, an Asturian poet living in Madrid. A round trip through seven concepts about migration and displacement. A necessary conversation between two voices that live between here and there, between roots and remains, and a bundle of mixed feelings that has given them a specific identity: that of displaced people. We read you.

Notes on Displaced Poetics II: Laura Casielles

HOME

I left my first house almost 20 years ago, when I was 18. My parents still live in it. It’s in a medium-sized town in Asturias. The house is spacious and bright, and it has a terrace with very well-kept plants (and some trees). From it you can see hills in the distance, the church towers and, sometimes, orange sunsets. I go back there a couple of times a year and when I do I still say that I’m “going home.” Except, that is, when I consciously avoid saying it.

My latest home is a very small rental apartment in the neighborhood of Lavapiés in Madrid. I live there with my cat. Every year when summer comes the flowers die on the tiny balcony that overlooks a street increasingly full of tourist rental apartments, which make me live in fear of the day I will be kicked out. When I first arrived, I thought I would stay in this place for a year, two at most. I’ve been here twelve years so far.

Between these two homes I have lived in five others. I know that this isn’t very many and that I’ve been lucky.

When I think that I may never own a home, the unfulfilled desire that weighs most heavily on me is not having all my books together in one place, an orderly bookshelf that extends along a hallway or in the front of a room.

FRIENDSHIP

This summer will be the 20th anniversary of my friendship with Alba. She reminded me when said: We should take a nice trip to celebrate. Our relationship has always had a lot to do with travel. Over these past 20 years, we have never lived in the same city. The closest thing was a time when she was working between two cities and spent part of the week in an apartment five minutes from mine. We took advantage of the opportunity to see each other every Tuesday to share a bottle of wine and the routine of going to the other’s house and being able to take off our shoes. But it only lasted a little while. The rest of the time, our friendship has been built on emails, phone calls, visits and practically daily conversations on Telegram. She is probably the person who knows most about my life. Not only in general, but also my everyday life. We know what time each member of our family has a medical appointment, the moment every morning when our projects get stuck, and the times we feel too lazy to go to the supermarket.

In fact, from the time one firsts leave their family homes, we get used to friendships, lovers, and relationships in general that are not nearby. City by city and over time, absences have multiplied. Not all of them work as well as this one. Some remain dormant in silence and are reborn in each encounter with a magical, beautiful phrase: “as if we had seen each other just yesterday.” There are also relationships that are diluted by a lack of contact or by lives that are separate, without pain and with a serene lightness. Most relationships simply know how to mutate: expanding or shrinking depending on the circumstances, being what each moment asks of them and allows them to do. This is, it occurs to me, a lesson we can also apply to our sedentary lifestyle, if we knew how.

LEAVING TOWN

1)
“I feel a pain that comes from the town. / I am full of walls I / have not built. / To what utopia should I now migrate.” This is the beginning of a poem by María García Díaz. When I first read it, it really impressed me. It is accurate and lucid, but also because María is from my hometown. Those walls were not just metaphorically the same as mine.

I didn’t know María when she still lived there. We are separated by a few years, enough to keep us from exchanging a single word in high school or in the early evenings at bars. We met later, in a bookstore in Madrid. Something similar has happened to me with other people. There are even some people I have heard about and haven’t come across yet but that I want to meet.

This seems strange to me because I used to think that my town was very small and that I would never meet anyone with my same interests. That is why I spent my adolescence wanting to leave, to get out of there. If we had met, would I have wanted to stay? I ask myself this question when faced with certain discoveries.

I guess the answer is impossible to know.

2)
In the city, those of us who claim to be townsfolk recognize each other. A similarity in memories and a certain nostalgia that can’t be removed by possibilities that other people our age knew about or took for granted long before. When people in big city neighborhoods display their pride, we oscillate between “it’s not that different” and “let’s see, it doesn’t look like it at all.” I should say that sometimes we even get a little bothered by their epic feelings in contrast to our complexes.

On the other hand, when we hear someone say that they want to go live in a town, dreaming and romanticizing life there, we grumble and share a knowing wink between us.

My parents saying goodbye at the Oviedo station, taken from the train.

USES OF LANGUAGE

1)
There is a language that I have and that I don’t have. Asturian, the language where I come from, is not the official language. When I was little, we didn’t study it in school, nor was it spoken in most homes. The most common form of everyday speech is called amestao, a hybrid form, neither entirely Spanish nor entirely Asturian, which each person constructs in their own way on a scale of greys. Almost all the people around me who speak Asturian today learned it, to a greater or lesser extent, as adults, adding to the formal language a more or less diffuse background of family or social learning. The majority have done so out of political conviction or for literary reasons.

I’m pretty sure that if I had stayed, I would have learned it, too. Who knows if I would have used it as a language of expression in my own writing.

The fact is, though, I left, so it is a language that I have and that I don’t have.

2)
I remember from childhood a certain mockery of the way those who came from Madrid spoke. Madrid, that place where compound tenses are used.

Will you be speaking like a posh person?

3)
When I lived in other countries, the fact that a language other than mine was spoken was always a plus. I like the strangeness, the way it makes you doubt everything and the world it opens up.

4)
When I lived in other countries, I did not call myself an immigrant. I never called myself that, but it was always there. I read Ale’s definitions in her glossary, and I must say that I am perfectly aware of the distance between us from the ways in which each of us have been able to embody the meaning of the word foreign. In this dialogue, we want to give each other a hand in experiences that may be similar but I know those hands won’t be there if I don’t deal with this explicitly. Even if it is a consequence of a world that neither of us have chosen, that precedes both of us.

Balcony of my apartment in Lavapiés.

WHAT IS MONEY FOR?

1)
The other day, one of my old friends, one of those who has remained my friend, told me how much rent they pay. My eyes widened. This self-employed person who accumulates work far beyond the hours she can put in each day just to be able to pay for her home in Madrid, could rest much more, write much more, enjoy living there much more. In the city, everything multiplies.

But I’m still here.

2)
I have always been very proud of not asking for money or of not accepting it when my family offered it to me. I can get by on my own is a good tune to hum. My parents have always been able to afford to give me a hand, and I’m also an only child. Little by little, this self-sufficiency has been revealed as a somewhat deceptive self-narrative. Starting to accept a little handout from time to time is also, I think, honest. To accept the privilege that I have. A mattress, the possibility of falling.

My cat the night before every trip.

DEATH AND FUNERALS

A long time ago I wrote a poem that went: “To choose this life. The terror of knowing / that one day you will get a call with the news that you must return home / and you will arrive / hopelessly / late.”

It’s ugly to quote oneself, but that says it all.

Except, perhaps, that lately I have been obsessed with the image of what will happen when my lovers and friends from other places accompany me to my town for the funeral.

What will that be like? How will it look? How will I be able to fit in?

FAMILI(ES)

I am writing this text during the Christmas holidays. This is always a strange time, a kind of open tug of war between desire and tradition in which I always have the feeling that I have not completely satisfied anyone. There are those I know who face the obligation of going home and complying stubbornly or angrily with the rituals and those who carry with them the pain of not being able to do so. Others try with more or less success to fit their ways of life, reinvented outside of rules, by observing the traditional days of the year. As if the range of pre-designed postcards were really able to activate longings and resentments in which it is not even necessary to believe in order to undermine.

I oscillate a little between all those things. I take the bus every year (I never remember to get train tickets early enough when they’re still available), thinking if for my whole life I will continue to feel guilty for not spending more than a week with my blood-related family and returning to share the second half of the holidays with the friends and lovers with which I have built my life. I obsessively think about the solution I have found to calendars as if I didn’t already know (so many years later) that, whatever happens, there is no way to get rid of the thought that there could have been a better way.

The lights shine in Villalpando, halfway to home. It’s a half-hour stop. The road unfolds in two directions within the fog.

 

En route. Eastern Rif. Photo by my friend Andrea Villar del Valle.

[Featured image: Terrace of my parents’ house. The small graffiti is made by my friend Martha Asunción Alonso with a stencil that was part of her book of poems Skinny Cap (Libros de la Herida, 2014). It says: “No me pienso morir” (I’m not going to die).]

Laura Casielles (Pola de Siero, Asturias, 1986) is a poet and journalist. She is the author of the books Soldado que huye (Hesperya, 2008), Los idiomas comunes (Hiperión 2010; XIII Premio de Poesía Joven Antonio Carvajal y Premio Nacional de Poesía Joven Miguel Hernández en 2011), Las señales que hacemos en los mapas (Libros de la Herida, 2014) and Breve historia de algunas cosas (Ediciones del 4 de agosto, 2017). Graduated in journalism and philosophy, she has a master’s degree in contemporary Arab and Islamic studies, and a doctorate in the same field, with a thesis dedicated to the memory of the Spanish colonization in Morocco and Western Sahara, a topic on which they have focused several of his projects. Currently she works as a freelancer, doing things here and there in the fields of journalism, communication and culture.

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