ISLAND OF COAL
(Translation of Samantha Hoffmann)
I have never discovered a New World. I haven´t populated exiles. I have never set foot on a new island awoken from ancient sleep in geography. That, which is yet to be discovered – as an estimate – either rests in the bottom of the ocean, or levitates in the Milky Way beyond the reach of nautical charts.
But I have discovered how to get there, by treading the off-centre, to the exact spot of an disappearance. I arrived when I wasn´t looking for it. It was through the mirror of a postcard that I crossed the old days and, in the end, I got to the Island of Coal, the supposition land in the narrow sea of the South Bay.
It was the stone plateau that emerged from the waterline, in the bottom of photographs, half a world between Hercílio Luz Bridge and Hoepcke shipyards. It was used for storage, in the ground Castle, the black cargo, fuel and inflammables. They used it to fuel the steam of ships in the sea and to guard the Rita Maria wharf against fire.
It was called, in mutters and grumbles, island of mice. It was the pantry island. But those who saw it from a distance – from the Island of Vineyards or from the shoreline of the Public Market – would guess its coordinates: it was situated between two oblivions. Exactly. She, a timid utopia, the coal-storing island of an immaterial character.
I cannot imagine the photograph without it, but when I cross the memory lapses of the old town – the pedestal without the column as a monument to the Paraguay War, the roofless Miramar or the pedestals without any immortal busts at Praça XV -, I almost reach the rest of the ghost on the Coal insula. It is said that the ectoplasm of its stones lies in the stale bread of Sunday beggars in Anita Garibaldi Street or in the dwelling of wanderers on the sidewalk of Victor Meirelles Museum.
I imagine it was consumed within, in the woody of its body, as ember, and found its end in the ashes of the aftermath, losing itself in the internal combustion of the island of Santa Catarina, a fire that took hold of its small grounds and levelled the high tide, stitched arteries and ring roads and built up a new exile on lifeless embankments. In Burle Marx ruins. In the survival of its confuse skyline.
They say it has been stepped by Colombo Salles bridge pillar. Others say it buried itself in the lake of flags, in the empty space if front of Rita Maria Bus Station. It slowly entered the land of amnesia. Its suffered groundings. It got city constricted.
I must say: I haven´t had island as a mother language – I am from river and speak estuary, fresh water idiom that I translate into salt –, but I understand, in the silence of satellites, the s.o.s. sign that another island, Aranhas, the Spiders Island, sends to the last of the urban planners. It fears the Coral peninsula advance and its possible hotel and land tentacle which, at the end, covers her right in the middle of the mortis-bay. But these are but the variables of a capital world. I have no prophecy and my eyes are at peace with the still living islet, in the calm black and white seat of the postcard.
“Photography is the reminding mirror”, as written by Benjamin on a page of his book “Das Passagen-Werk”. The mirror, although empty, got used to have us remember. Conversely, the water mirror over the bay has forgotten the Island of Coal, but, nevertheless, the signature of Colombo is on the postcard that reminds us of it (Colombo postal photograph, that sold the picture). It refers to the other world, of things that were but no longer are, and still are on files or on the land of oral history.
The new world of the recovering era.
Land of suppositions at the mouth of the Strait, the Island of Coal forgot itself in the opaque side of the mirror. It is inside this steel-grey surface that she reveals herself, hidden, and awakens me to new dreams of geography.