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March 10, 2005

Vasia de Barro

In the searing summer of 1984, in the long months after my lover J. died, I went back east for a few months to be my sister's labor coach.

In between birth classes I spent a lot of time in the library.

I read dozens of books, trying to lose my grief in the printed word. It worked, sort of. I don't remember what I read, aside from Barry Lopez's collection of coyote stories.

Mainly, I borrowed music from the library, LPs and the occasional cassette, searching through the backs of the collections to find albums other than Cyndi Lauper and Boy George. I found jazz, and folk, and Cajun and creole music, delicious angry Puertoriqueño chants, Ghanaian highlife, plaints from union organizers in Appalachia. I spent hours pouring music into the hole I had become.

The month that J. died, as I sat in that private hell of my own devising, my housemate in Berkeley brought home an album of Andean panpipe music. I wore that record out, listening to it over and over before I headed back to Buffalo.

In the back bins of the music room of the Buffalo and Erie County Library were two, three dozen albums of South American folk music, Paraguayan harps and bailecitos from Argentina, the rough authentic themes from which the panpipe bands sprang. I had a new interest.

I had no money. I cadged a few dollars from my father, bought a bunch of cheap drugstore cassettes (eight for a dollar), and recorded those LPs on my brother's stereo. It was before I realized that South American music would be a lifelong obsession. I didn't write the names of the tracks, nor the performers, on most of the tapes.

Which meant I didn't know name of the song that haunted me for twenty years afterward, playing from an increasingly deteriorated tape on a cheap boom box, month after month at three in the morning, looking at the ceiling as the mockingbird sang outside the house I moved to in Virginia, across the Kansas plains in the U-Haul, in the warm East Oakland nights. Fifteen years until the anonymous tape frayed, and a few more hearing it almost continuously in my mind. I had no idea how to find even so much as the name of the song. It was an instrumental, at least the version of it I had taped.

I found it again this week.

Posted by Chris Clarke at March 10, 2005 10:37 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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wait a minute...

YOU USED MY STEREO?!?!?!?!?!?! Who the &*&@%# told you you could use my stereo!?!?!?!?!?


Posted by: Craig at March 11, 2005 04:49 AM
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It's a haunting piece of music. Really beautiful. I am glad for you to have found it again.

Posted by: Rexroth's Daughter at March 11, 2005 09:07 AM
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yes, it is haunting. The music and the words also.

First Swainson's hawk of the year is currently soaring outside my window at work -- a great match for the music.

Posted by: Pica at March 11, 2005 10:22 AM
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Oh, how wonderful!

Posted by: Rana at March 11, 2005 10:23 AM
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I remember this song! I think.

Posted by: Allison at March 11, 2005 11:19 AM
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I may have played it for you in utero.

Or in Buffalo.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at March 11, 2005 12:22 PM
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It was on your wedding day, I think.

Posted by: Allison at March 11, 2005 12:40 PM
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It's a lovely song. If you don't know the words, they are below, along with my translation:

Vasija De Barro / Clay Pot

Yo quiero que a mi me entierren
como a mis antepasados,
en el vientre oscuro y fresco
de una vasija de barro.
Cuando la vida se pierda
tras una cortina de años,
vivirán a flor del tiempo
amores y desengaños.
Arcilla cocida y dura,
alma de verdes collados,
barro y sangre de mis hombres,
sol de mis antepasados.
De ti nací y a ti vuelvo,
arcilla, vaso de barro,
con mis muertos yazgo en ti,
en tu polvo enamorado.

I want to be buried
like my forefathers,
in the dark and fresh womb
of a clay pot.
Though life may be lost
behind a curtain of years,
love and disappointment still live on
in the flower of time.
Clay fired and hard,
soul of green hills,
earth and blood of my men,
sun of my ancestry.
From you I came and to you I return,
clay, earthen pot,
with my dead I lay in you,
in your beloved dust.

You can find another nice performance of it (under the title vasija de barro, at itunes. Same price as the smithsonian one. It is not a traditional folksong, tho it sounds like one. It was written decades ago by a guy who, now old, sez he does not care where they bury him.

Posted by: Jim McCulloch at March 16, 2005 09:58 AM
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