Say Her Name

My ears ring with the anticipation of sound.  It is slowly shuffling from the back of my head over to the sides, about ready to round the curve and hover over my ears. So many sensory memories are stored somewhere back there,  but more and more begin to emerge to the surface as my journey back to Portugal begins, right here where I am now- in a place far from there.

I hear the teasing lap of the Tejo River on the concrete retaining walls that attempt to contain the city, as the river beckons Lisbon to take a swim.  And in fact,  I think she would dive in, head first, if no one were watching. Portugal’s centuries-old love affair with the sea is colored in bright and tarnished imagery; the valiant Cabral, Dom Henrique, Vasco da Gama, and the husbands, brothers, and sons that never returned home.  A national history that sings proudly a song of expedition and discovery, mixed with the  melancholic tears for those lost at sea.  The song is fado and it’s filled with that famous Portuguese nostalgia, the one they call saudade.

I hear the ç, sh, ão, oi, ãe: the nasal back-of-the-throat vowels, complex diphthongs that only grant proper pronunciation to those who live in the place where this language was born.  And those final syllables at the ends of words, I hear those too, the ones that seem to be forgotten as they slide out of the mouth without being attributed any audible qualities.  If I didn’t know otherwise, I’d think they were simply omitted in an attempt to get somewhere faster, to catch the next metro, to rush off to the next cafezinho.  And yet, no one seems to be going anywhere, not very quickly anyway.  These final syllables are simply thrown to the air without care, left for the listener to discern their purposeful silence.

And then there are those more personal sound memories, the ones that were made just for me.  I long for those ones too, for my special people to say my name in the way that they do.  There’s the “Morenita” of my favorite Mexican in Lisbon, and the “MAUR-een” of my British buddy, where the stress gets turned upside down and the first syllable acquires an importance it never had in America.    And then there is the soft, exact “Maureen” my Portuguese friend pronounces as if she’d been saying it her whole life. There’s one other I love to hear.  It’s the “Morín” of my former Portuguese colleague, and her Portuguized version of my name, and the languid sweet speech that would always follow.  Her Portuguese was a gift to me-the colleague that sat across from me at Médicos do Mundo.  If it weren’t for her rare way of pronouncing every word and syllable and speaking at such a slow, steady pace, I probably would have never gained any confidence in my comprehension skills.  She was the best buddy a language learner could hope to have.  It’s these sounds I long to hear, the ones that don’t exist here.  I will return to hear them in less than two short weeks.

The title of this post, “Say Her Name,” has been borrowed from a recently published novel of the same name by author Francisco Goldman.  I’ll miss his ALOUD talk while I am on my trip, but the themes in his book-yet to be read-modeled my thoughts.  Goldman bases the book on a real-life account of losing his wife of two short years in a tragic sea accident in Mexico.  The semi-fictionalized memoir is his catharsis: writing their story, recreating parts of it, keeping her name alive.  He weaves in a future with her that never happened, that never will.  With all great loves, there is loss.  And in remembering them, it is hard not to affix a bit of fantasy to the memory.  I feel that nervous excitement of reencountering one great love of mine, Ms. Lisbon.   Questions flood my anxious mind:   Will I feel the same?  Will she?  Will the encounter be full of joy or sorrow; will it  transform my memories, changing them into something new?   Those questions are left to unfold as I  return to a place that once felt like home.

I can’t wait to say her name, <LeezhBOA>, and I just hope that she remembers how to say mine.


~ by maureenmoore on April 26, 2011.

8 Responses to “Say Her Name”

  1. I have no doubt she’ll remember your name; anticipating how it sounds is the enjoyment of going back to find out! I just relived some of my own memories of Lisboa with you as our travel guide and translator; you brought them to life in a beautiful way! I’ll be waiting for your return… ~xoxo

  2. I FEEL your memories, and even the sense of anticipation of my, oops, I mean your, return visit there. Wow!

  3. Such deep emotion in this post, so beautifully expressed, contained, explored through the sounds of language…

  4. Your writing brings to life the power and pleasure of words, Mosey. Anticipating your post upon your return from Lisboa. Buon viaggio! ~Auntie TFJ

  5. gorgeous post. can’t help but think – what new experiences will you have this trip? you have so many memories there – and it is also a place with so much still to discover. what new souls will you meet this time and where will they lead you? what new streets will you roam and fall in love with? what new flavors will inspire you?…

    • Thank you for reminding me about the new! Sometimes we focus too much on the old. Ready for discovery! (same goes for our glorious city of Los Angeles!)

  6. Wow! My favorite so far… your words were mermaids luring me out of comfort into longing for new life… my eyes are welled up; is it because of your artistic words mixed with my morning with grandma; tradition mixed with something never explored; i feel sad in a good way! Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with such elegance and style. I can’t wait to see how your amazing journey unfolds! You are such a light and unending depth.

    • we were both marvelous mermaids today…do you believe that i thought of you a few hours ago the minute my feet touched atlantic waters for my first ´bath´of the season, as they would say. packed up some sand to send back to kelly land. xo

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