In times of melancholy and nostalgia, I seek solace in the poetry of Dorothy Parker. It makes me wonder what made her have her shirts altered so she could wear her heart on her sleeve, and who broke her heart so that she wore it like a wet, red stain on the breast of a velvet gown.
“Oh, I can laugh and marvel, rapturous-eyed.
And you laugh back, nor can you ever see
The thousand little deaths my heart has died”
Speaking of her loved one, she says: “But, oh, to have you down the lane is bitter to my heart”.
There we see it, the heart, the cradle of our “elan vital”, our life force, the tombstone on which all our aches are engraved.
And with that heart, comes the “oh”, the “oh” that carries the collective sigh of mankind, the “oh” that breaks your heart and exposes it for all to see, the inescapable “oh”.
“O”… the Scarlett Letter.
The “oh” that makes me understand you, a universal “oh” that might transcend language. An “oh” that leaves your lips in an open round shape while all else is shattering and closing down.
On sunday, I watched an experimental play called “In the Heart of the Heart of Another Body”, directed by Nagy Souraty. In it, we saw humans as hearts, contracting then releasing, spasming and dying, screaming and laughing. Hearts trying to live, struggling, hearts that are so fragile that they are made of glass and are hung for display. Hearts that get lost between the masses, hearts that sing old Arabic love songs which bring to memory times before your own. “The heart is a velvet-winged atomic bomb” said one character. “The heart is this milky way that runs from my mouth”, said another.
O heart! The very organ that makes Spanish songs sound sadder, that makes Dalida immortal in her rendition of “Avec le Temps”… parce que, avec le temps, on n’aime plus…
It rains and the heart overflows, it drowns, and you cry for each drop of rain that is born, grows and then dies when it reaches the ground with a silent crash… the birth of a tragedy, a human life in a raindrop, the inevitability of death that comes with life.
The thunder claps and your heart splits open, “fendu”, like a ripe fruit ready to be devoured, it opens itself for you.
The rain grows lighter and less violent, and the heart releases a sigh of relief, the heart exhales and settles back in its place to wait for the final moments of the storm to pass. It is an animal that goes into hiding for it knows that it will soon die. And somewhere along the way, the heart can no longer be a Phoenix, it can no longer dust the ashes and rise again. So it will remain, covered in soot and broken dreams, extinguished desires and dust. The heart will be dead.