I had forgotten the last time I played guitar.
After I became unemployed in late April,
I had focused on writing frantically
Until I finished the novel I’m still revising,
And my new contract for the entire summer
Caught me as I was trying my hand at poetry,
But creative people should play instruments
As often as they can, to keep their minds free,
And to widen the breach into the subconscious,
So its insights flow as unimpeded as possible.
On this sunny July Saturday afternoon,
I sauntered again to my favorite spot,
A couple of kilometers into a trail
Which runs among grassy, hilly fields,
And tranquil cottages still as if deserted.
The sun shone warmly down on me.
The sky was clear blue above,
The air clean and fresh.
I reached an isolated bench,
Where I put down my guitar bag,
Then sat myself down beside it.
My calluses had softened after a few months,
So I played the songs with sore fingertips.
I had forgotten how good it felt to play,
Like swimming in the ocean on a hot day.
I lost myself again in the feeling
Of being captured in the song
That my hands and voice are making.
For as long as it lasts, I have never held a job,
Nor aged, nor suffered defeats or any pains,
Or felt anything except the pleasure of music.
In other words, I was like a young child
Who has no worries or cares about tomorrow.
(A group of tweens passed by, yammering
As they played reggaeton on speakers.)
A rough cement path leads uphill
From the bench where I usually play
Through the narrow space between fields,
And disappears behind old, tall trees.
I had never followed it before,
But for whatever reason, yesterday I did.
As I walked up the steep path,
Soon I ceased to hear the city noise.
I only heard the birds and the breeze,
And the quiet rustling of leaves overhead,
While to my left, in a fenced, wavy field,
A group of horses chewed some grass,
Their muzzles deep in green clover.
The blue sky above me,
The green leaves around me,
The smell of fresh grasses
And flowers and trees,
All these things were communicating
Something deep inside me,
Some message from the depths,
One so important and profound
That it cannot be expressed.
I passed by large, hedged estates
From which came echoed barking,
Past old telephone poles standing tall,
And upon reaching a plateau,
I walked through a farmyard
Where chickens wandered around.
I trudged further uphill
With this old body I have to drag,
Until I felt like stopping to look behind.
A chain of mountains hid the horizon.
Despite the isolated houses
Built on the gentler slopes,
I would have faced the same view
A hundred, or five hundred years ago,
No matter how much the city changed,
And all the progress they think they do.
There’s so much beauty left
In these hills and mountains.
Having been born here,
I must be fortunate.
Goats were grazing on the garden
Of a farmhouse passed down for generations.
So high up on this rise, wherever I looked
I was surrounded by mountains and hills,
And a silence so deep it made me shiver.
Tomorrow, I will have to traverse
A city made out of dozens of nationalities,
People who fight to assert their rights
Caring nothing about what came before
(An engineered reality we are told to support),
So I can return to my anxiety-inducing job
Where loads of people will call with problems
That I’ll have to squeeze my mind to solve
Until I get to return home drained,
When all I ever needed in this wretched world
Is a chair, a notebook and a pen, a guitar,
And hopefully music and some books.
As I passed by a large estate
Where cows were grazing peacefully,
A pair of old dogs were lying motionless
In the shade of a tall, lonely tree.
One of them was awake, and looked up
At the seagulls circling overhead.
I thought about those dogs’ lives,
With their drooping faces and greying fur,
And how they had spent their years
In the peace of nature,
With little to worry about
Besides yearning for a spot to loll in.
How much better their lives had been
Than the one I’ve had to lead.
A family was working in an elevated field,
Probably located in front of their estate.
Their tractor’s engine rumbled:
It was ploughing, sowing or harvesting
(I know close to nothing about farming)
While other people followed on foot
As they worked with rakes or pitchforks.
One of the people was a shirtless, hairy man,
And the others two young women in T-shirts
(Both of the women looked quite fit).
I passed them by as I worked on my ebook
(I’m still revising the latest novel I wrote).
I wished I could stroll around in nature
While as invisible as a ghost.
I didn’t venture much further,
Because a hundred meters up ahead,
A big tractor was blocking the path.
Its driver was busy chatting away,
So I turned around to return home.
The two women on the elevated field
Were silhouetted against the hills
As they held their rakes across their shoulders.
A bit further ahead, the rough man
Burped loudly as I passed by,
Which left a sour taste in my mouth.
This guy said goodbye to me with a tone
Between embarrassment and annoyance,
As if he was used to burping at people
And them considering it charming behavior,
But I was more disturbed
By a stranger telling me goodbye.
I stopped absentmindedly
To check something on my ebook,
And I heard lazy growling
Coming from the estate to my right;
I had stopped in front of the old dogs,
And the second one, now awake,
Had gone back to doing his own job.
As I walked away, I wanted to apologize.
I was intruding upon a world
Where I didn’t belong.
I ended up walking down another path
That I didn’t know if it would lead home,
While my heart got squeezed by sorrow.
I felt something had been stolen from me
When I was a child. A whole life
That I can never get back.
I should have lived somewhere else,
Surrounded by nature and animals,
Focusing on stuff that truly mattered,
Instead of trying to find my own place
Among thousands of human beings.
If someone proved to me that people
Had been placed here by aliens
So they would make a mess of this world
And destroy it if given the chance,
For no other reason than their desire
To create chaos and confusion,
Our existences would have made sense.
I am a dog in an old age
That has not yet begun.
I want to escape from it all.
I’ve had more than enough
Of this rotten civilization.
As I descended the cement path,
I noticed an opening in the vegetation
Of the forest to my left, an archway
Into a narrow trail in the cool shade
Of the many old, untended trees.
I sat down on the trunk of a fallen birch.
I pulled out my guitar and played a song
For the squirrels and the birds.
When I returned to the streets
That I have seen thousands of times,
They looked different;
I had spent time in a landscape
I never knew before,
And it made me feel like I’d become
A person slightly different
Than the one of who I’m sick.
This Sunday is running out,
And my head feels heavy,
Like a leaden weight tied to me
By a rope around my neck.
Tomorrow I will return to work,‘A Pair of Old Dogs’ by Jon Ureña
To start a whole new week
Filled with anxiety and dread,
Having to solve everyone’s problems
When I’m unable to solve my own.