Iguatu | Cassandra Voices

Editor’s Note: To mark Earth Day 2020 we bring you a new song by Bartholomew Ryan of the Loafing Heroes with a new recording at the end.


I read a line from a Mineiro poet who wrote:
A ausência é um estar em mim.
Reading a poem is a slow act of contemplation
in a moment of the day that the devil cannot find.

I was born when the Sun and Pluto
fought for my location
the burning, brightest, boiling giver of life,
and the coldest, darkest, remote star deep inside the soul.

I’m caught between
absolute defeat and absolute desire
under the canopy of stars
we are wanderers.

ah Iguatu

We have been a civilisation of sky worshippers
children of a celestial father
the forests were monstrous
but they have always been divine,
in the shadow, they have always been my home.
It is time, with the animals, the plants, the stones and the streams,
to return again and stay loyal to the earth.

ah Iguatu

When I opened my eyes
it brought me back to when my brother died
twenty years ago today
his spirit still crackles in my mind’s eye
his charming sneer wakes me up to vitality again.

I’m travelling now through
the luminous green continent of Brazil
full of magic, full of pain,
full of sun, full of rain,
to find another one of my kin.

On my way
I saw thousands of Sub-Saharan Africans in chains
forced over in slave ships
Tupi and Guarani driven from the coast
and desperate folk from Ireland
in coffin ships arriving dead or sickly on the shore.

This is tropical truth
This is celtic truth
This is Hy Brasil
In the Kerribrasilian sea

ah Iguatu

I sauntered up to the sertão
in the northeast to a town called Iguatu
to find the river
where my cousin drowned in 1973
the name of the river was the Jaguaribe
they called it the dry river
but as his sister Joan said –
‘there was nothing dry about it that day.’

Patrick was born in Castlecove Kerry
he just had that glow
he became a Redemptorist priest
and headed off to Pindorama
he learnt the languages, he played the tunes
he rallied the kids, he said his prayers
he laughed everywhere he went.

He sang a song about the devil
who supposedly was buried down in Killarney
and then rose again and joined the British army
he used to make up the verses here and there,
and the displaced locals shone with him.

ah Iguatu

We are the only creatures
that are allowed to feel that we don’t belong here
while we seem to be there
our identity and presence can be absent entirely.

Tupi, Guarani, Irish and African
the love songs are sad
the war songs are happy
we sing when we are grieving
longing is the loss of life
and loss is the life of longing.

This is tropical truth
This is celtic truth
This is Hy Brasil
In the Kerribrasilian sea

This is Real Absence
a presence I carry in me
sing for the ancestor
smile with the stranger
wandering like the orphan
my mother, your father
my sisters, your brothers
the rivers, my lovers
the mountains, the trees
the leaves, the seas
these dark geographies
oh tears of drowned liberation
oh heretic-holy laughter

ah Iguatu

The Loafing Heroes: https://theloafingheroes.bandcamp.com/


About Author

Bartholomew Ryan is a philosopher and musician, and currently coordinates the research group ‘Forms of Life and Practices of Philosophy’ at Nova University of Lisbon. In 2022, he released a solo album called ‘Jabuti’ under the name Loafing Hero, which includes the song ‘Iguatu’. He also leads the international band The Loafing Heroes; and is part of the experimental audio formation Headfoot.

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