I do not know what

My world is not like the world of other people, I want much more, I demand much more, there is inside me a thirst for the infinite, a constant anxiety that I do not even understand, because I am far from being a pessimist; first I am an exalted one, with an intense soul, violent, tormented, a soul that does not feel well where it is, that misses… I do not know what!

Florbela Espanca (Correspondence, 1930)

 

 

Monday’s poetry came late to me this week

When Soft Voices Die

Music, when soft voices die,

Vibrates in the memory;

Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heap’d for the belovèd’s bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Missing my road trips

Spain was a taut, dry drum-head
Daily beating a dull thud
Flatlands and eagle’s nest
Silence lashed by the storm.
How much, to the point of weeping, in my soul
I love your hard soil, your poor bread,
Your poor people, how much in the deep place
Of my being there is still the lost flower
Of your wrinkled villages, motionless in time
And your metallic meadows
Stretched out in the moonlight through the ages,
Now devoured by a false god.

All your confinement, your animal isolation
While you are still conscious
Surrounded by the abstract stones of silence,
Your rough wine, your smooth wine
Your violent and dangerous vineyards.

Solar stone, pure among the regions
Of the world, Spain streaked
With blood and metal, blue and victorious
Proletarian Spain, made of petals and bullets
Unique, alive, asleep – resounding.

What Spain Was Like, Pablo Neruda

The time will come

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Love After LoveDerek Walcott

Silence is the place where you scream

Chego atrasado à frisa dos teus olhos.

A música violeta pestaneja na sala.

Há uma actriz transida que tirita

              transita

                                   mas não fala.

Entro no teu olhar

                                    Sou uma seta

que te cega e nos cala.

O silêncio é o sítio onde se grita

e a noite, minha amiga,

é mais discreta

como convém ao poeta

que se veste de gala.

 

O Smoking, José Carlos Ary dos Santos

 

I am late to the frieze of your eyes.

The violet music blinks in the room.

There is a transient actress who

               transits

                                    but does not speak.

I enter your gaze

                                     I’m an arrow

who blinds you and keeps us silent.

Silence is the place where you scream

and the night, my friend,

is more discreet

as befits the poet

who dresses up.

 

The Smoking, José Carlos Ary dos Santos ( my imperfect translation)

Photo: Written on the wall, Braga (November 26, 2017)

The Greater Sea

My soul and I went to the great sea to bathe.  And when we reached the shore, we went about looking for a hidden and lonely place.

But as we walked, we saw a man sitting on a grey rock taking pinches of salt from a bag and throwing them into the sea.

“This is the pessimist,” said my soul, “Let us leave this place. We cannot bathe here.”

We walked on until we reached an inlet.  There we saw, standing on a white rock, a man holding a bejeweled box, from which he took sugar and threw it into the sea.

“And this is the optimist,” said my soul, “And he too must not see our naked bodies.”

Further on we walked.  And on a beach we saw a man picking up dead fish and tenderly putting them back into the water.

“And we cannot bathe before him,” said my soul.  “He is the humane philanthropist.”

And we passed on.

Then we came where we saw a man tracing his shadow on the sand. Great waves came and erased it.  But he went on tracing it again and again.

“He is the mystic,” said my soul, “Let us leave him.”

And we walked on, till in a quiet cover we saw a man scooping up the foam and putting it into an alabaster bowl.

“He is the idealist,” said my soul, “Surely he must not see our nudity.”

And on we walked.  Suddenly we heard a voice crying, “This is the sea.  This is the deep sea.  This is the vast and mighty sea.” And when we reached the voice it was a man whose back was turned to the sea, and at his ear he held a shell, listening to its murmur.

And my soul said, “Let us pass on.  He is the realist, who turns his back on the whole he cannot grasp, and busies himself with a fragment.”

So we passed on.  And in a weedy place among the rocks was a man with his head buried in the sand.  And I said to my soul, “We can bath here, for he cannot see us.”

“Nay,” said my soul, “For he is the most deadly of them all.  He is the puritan.”

Then a great sadness came over the face of my soul, and into her voice.

“Let us go hence,” she said, “For there is no lonely, hidden place where we can bathe.  I would not have this wind lift my golden hair, or bare my white bosom in this air, or let the light disclose my sacred nakedness.”

Then we left that sea to seek the Greater Sea.

 Kahlil Gibran, The Greater Sea 
Photo: Peniche, October 2017

Words I said and never meant




        There are words
I've had to save myself from,
like My Lord and Blessed Mother,
words I said and never meant,
though I admit a part of me misses
the ornamental stateliness
of High Mass, that smell

        of incense. Heaven did exist,
I discovered, but was reciprocal
and momentary, like lust
felt at exactly the same time—
two mortals, say, on a resilient bed,
making a small case for themselves.

        You and I became the words
I'd say before I'd lay me down to sleep,
and again when I'd wake—wishful
words, no belief in them yet.
It seemed you'd been put on earth
to distract me
from what was doctrinal and dry.
Electricity may start things,
but if they're to last
I've come to understand
a steady, low-voltage hum

        of affection
must be arrived at. How else to offset
the occasional slide
into neglect and ill temper?
I learned, in time, to let heaven
go its mythy way, to never again

        be a supplicant
of any single idea. For you and me
it's here and now from here on in.
Nothing can save us, nor do we wish
to be saved.

        Let night come
with its austere grandeur,
ancient superstitions and fears.
It can do us no harm.
We'll put some music on,
open the curtains, let things darken
as they will

Here and Now, Stephen Dunn

Photo: Lisbon, Cais das Colunas (today)

Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles

In Lijiang, the sign outside your hostel
glares: Ride alone, ride alone, ride
alone – it taunts you for the mileage
of your solitude, must be past

thousands, for you rode this plane
alone, this train alone, you’ll ride
this bus alone well into the summer night,
well into the next hamlet, town,

city, the next century, as the trees twitch
and the clouds wane and the tides
quiver and the galaxies tilt and the sun
spins us another lonely cycle, you’ll

wonder if this compass will ever change.
The sun doesn’t need more heat,
so why should you? The trees don’t need
to be close, so why should you?

Sally Wen Mao

No part, but a whole

How have I laboured?
How have I not laboured
To bring her soul to birth,
To give these elements a name and a centre!
She is beautiful as the sunlight, and as fluid.
She has no name, and no place.
How have I laboured to bring her soul into separation;
To give her a name and her being!

Surely you are bound and entwined,
You are mingled with the elements unborn;
I have loved a stream and a shadow.
I beseech you enter your life.
I beseech you learn to say ‘I’
When I question you;
For you are no part, but a whole,
No portion, but a being.

Ezra Pound, Ortus in The New Poetry: An Anthology.  1917

LIFE WHILE-YOU-WAIT

Life While-You-Wait.
Performance without rehearsal.
Body without alterations.
Head without premeditation.

I know nothing of the role I play.
I only know it’s mine. I can’t exchange it.

I have to guess on the spot
just what this play’s all about.

Ill-prepared for the privilege of living,
I can barely keep up with the pace that the action demands.
I improvise, although I loathe improvisation.
I trip at every step over my own ignorance.
I can’t conceal my hayseed manners.
My instincts are for happy histrionics.
Stage fright makes excuses for me, which humiliate me more.
Extenuating circumstances strike me as cruel.

Words and impulses you can’t take back,
stars you’ll never get counted,
your character like a raincoat you button on the run ?
the pitiful results of all this unexpectedness.

If only I could just rehearse one Wednesday in advance,
or repeat a single Thursday that has passed!
But here comes Friday with a script I haven’t seen.
Is it fair, I ask
(my voice a little hoarse,
since I couldn’t even clear my throat offstage).

You’d be wrong to think that it’s just a slapdash quiz
taken in makeshift accommodations. Oh no.
I’m standing on the set and I see how strong it is.
The props are surprisingly precise.
The machine rotating the stage has been around even longer.
The farthest galaxies have been turned on.
Oh no, there’s no question, this must be the premiere.
And whatever I do
will become forever what I’ve done.

Wislawa SzymborskaPoems New and Collected 1957-1997, trans. S. Baranczak and C. Cavanagh

Is this then a book

Os Livros

É então isto um livro,

este, como dizer?, murmúrio,

este rosto virado para dentro de

alguma coisa escura que ainda não existe

que, se uma mão subitamente

inocente a toca,

se abre desamparadamente

como uma boca

falando com a nossa voz?

É isto um livro,

esta espécie de coração (o nosso coração)

dizendo “eu” entre nós e nós?

Manuel António Pina

Books

Is this then a book,

this, how shall I say? murmur,

this face turned to the inside

of something dark that doesn’t yet exist,

that if touched

by a suddenly innocent hand

opens helplessly

like a mouth

speaking in our own voice?

Is this a book,

this kind of heart (our heart)

saying ‘I’ between we and us?

Translated by Ana Hudson

we make mistakes and call them coincidences

If we never have enough love, we have more than most.
We have lost dogs in our neighborhood and wild coyotes,
and sometimes we can’t tell them apart. Sometimes
we don’t want to. Once I brought home a coyote and told
my lover we had a new pet. Until it ate our chickens.
Until it ate our chickens, our ducks, and our cat. Sometimes
we make mistakes and call them coincidences. We hold open
the door then wonder how the stranger ended up in our home.
There is a woman on our block who thinks she is feeding bunnies,
but they are large rats without tails. Remember the farmer’s wife?
Remember the carving knife? We are all trying to change
what we fear into something beautiful. But even rats need to eat.
Even rats and coyotes and the bones on the trail could be the bones
on our plates. I ordered Cornish hen. I ordered duck. Sometimes
love hurts. Sometimes the lost dog doesn’t want to be found.

Hunger by Kelli Russel Agodon

 

Photo: Hard Club, Porto (2014)

The syntax of things

since feeling is first

who pays any attention

to the syntax of things

will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool

while Spring is in the world

my blood approves

and kisses are a better fate

than wisdom

lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry

—the best gesture of my brain is less than

your eyelids’ flutter which says

we are for each other: then

laugh, leaning back in my arms

for life’s not a paragraph

and death i think is no parenthesis

e.e. cummings, Since feeling is first

Photo: streets of Porto. May there be forgiveness for the word.

I do pay too much attention to the “syntax of things” and it’s becoming harder to move beyond words.

a song with no end

when Whitman wrote, “I sing the body electric”

I know what he
meant
I know what he
wanted:

to be completely alive every moment
in spite of the inevitable.

we can’t cheat death but we can make it
work so hard
that when it does take
us

it will have known a victory just as
perfect as
ours.

Charles Bukowski

A song with no end

Photo CPF (September 16, 2017). This was the last place, the exact last room where I saw O. for the last time. I don’t know if he liked Bukowski. I hope he did because I seem to be having a Bukowski moment and this poem made me think of him.

you may not believe it

but there are people
who go through life with
very little
friction or
distress.
they dress well, eat
well, sleep well.
they are contented with
their family
life.
they have moments of
grief
but all in all
they are undisturbed 
and often feel
very good.
and when they die
it is an easy
death, usually in their
sleep.
you may not believe 
it 
but such people do
exist. 
but I am not one of
them.
oh no, I am not one
of them,
I am not even near
to being
one of 
them 
but they are
there 
and I am 
here.

 

The Aliens, Charles Bukowski

The Last Night Of The Earth Poems