The College Magazine
Web supplement: Intimate Microscopy / Microscopía Íntima, by Jorge H. Aigla
Farolito Press, 2010
While reading Intimate Microscopy by Jorge Aigla, Santa Fe tutor and head karate-do instructor, I had the telling experience of saying, “Yes. That’s right. That’s it.” It was an experience such as one has reading Montaigne, something akin to friendship on a very deep level. Aigla’s ensouled words take me to places I had forgotten about, or -- ignoring the truth of our shared humanity -- to places I thought only my memories inhabited.
In “The Need for Trees,” he says: “I have no first tree inside of me / as many boys do or ought to have / since as a child I lived up high / in gray apartments far from soil.” This must be me writing about growing up in the desert of the South Bronx, the feeling, the very thoughts of my youth. How can another have these same thoughts, unless this other is not “other,” but rather one whose lens reaches into the depths of human experience—focusing so sharply on the particular that he illuminates the universal?
This lens was polished during Aigla’s medical studies at the University of California at San Francisco, and later while he was employed as a medical examiner in the Bay area. The intuition, however, on where and how to focus this lens, is borne by a realization we all share yet often forget: before we are anything else, we are human first, struggling to understand the chaos we are thrust into. For instance, “Dog Surgery” is not simply an examination of what happens as dogs are experimented on in preparation for the study of medicine. Aigla says: “It is necessary to do this, we were taught; / it is right to do it, said my peers / -- better to learn on a dog than man- ; no, it was not, I now know, / and wonder at the effect of our incisions / and their depths on the victims and our souls.” This poem is not just a story of how one becomes more humane, or even a plea for more humane treatment of animals, but an examination of how most of us go through our lives, carelessly handling others with our “gloves and blades removing spleens, gall bladders, parts of guts.” We sacrifice the other on the altar of knowledge rather than using love to discover others as ourselves. In reaching the very ground of human experience, like all fine poets, Aigla shows us who we are and what being human ultimately means.
“Father’s Day 2007” sounds a note of wisdom heard earlier: “Fear not: it is from An Other / That fear arises -- and Mankind is One.” Later in the same poem, he offers a clarion call that at the deepest level we are all interrelated. The way to this experiential knowledge then follows: “Love comes before understanding: / Love is acceptance, the only Way to knowledge; /
Love is the catalyst to Freedom / and the only Organ of contact with the World.” Yes, the capital “W” is important.
“An Oasis” points out that it is consumerism that is the ultimate diversion, echoing Eliot—it blocks thinking. Consumerism is that diversion that diverts us from diversion. It kills time. It kills life.
I really love this book. It is written with precision, sympathy, and compassion -- a scalpel in the hand of a poet, sharpened by the abrasive sufferings of life, carving slices of moments in time, stained by the colors of a vivid imagination, focused through an intelligent, disciplined mind. Aigla grapples with life and especially death, understanding that there are many deaths -- which, handled intelligently, are gateways to a richer life and a brighter light.
Some of these poems were written in Spanish and then translated into English, while others were written in English and then translated into Spanish. I wish I knew enough Spanish to comment on the translations, but alas, I must beg away from this task and remain content with the rhythm and melody of his native tongue. Readers who know Spanish will find this book that much richer.
--Charles Fasanaro, tutor emeritus, Santa Fe