Friday, 24 February 2012

Ondjaki & Two Poems


Since poetry became, without intention, this week’s theme at St. Orberose, I figured before leaving for the weekend I’d write some words about a writer who is sporadically a poet.

Ondjaki is the pseudonym of Ndalu de Almeida, an Angolan writer born in Luanda, in 1977. Writing since his teens he made his literary debut in 2000 exactly with a book of poems, which he submitted to a literary contest. He got the second spot and the book was published. Since then he’s built a steady body of work that includes poetry, short-story collections, novels, children’s books, and recently theatre, and he’s received awards in Angola, Ethiopia, Portugal and Brazil, where he currently lives and is much admired.

Of all the Angolan writers I’ve read – and all really only comes down to José Luandino Vieira, Pepetela, Ana Paula Tavares, and José Eduardo Agualusa – Ondjaki is the youngest, and the only one to be born after the country achieved independence, in 1975; on the other hand that means he’s also the only one who was a child during the civil war that started ravaging Angola shortly afterwards, a reality he often depicts in his work, through the perspectives of his many child narrators, delicate fictions intermingled with his memories. In interviews, Ondjaki doesn’t hide that his early books had a strong autobiographical content, as he repeated in his short-stories countless variations about children growing up, their days spent in school, their relationships with their Cuban teachers (during Angola’s communist years), their games, their understanding of the world, and their inner life, to which Ondjaki is so well attuned. He lists amongst his many influences Jorge Amado, Clarice Lispector, Mario Vargas Llosa, Guimarães Rosa and Gabriel García Márquez, and if he’s never written anything I’ve read that matches anything by one of these masters, his work however is a wide window to post-colonial Angolan society and a vibrant, heart-warming chronicle of his people’s difficulties and aspirations.

Like almost each countryman of his mentioned above, with the exception of Paula Tavares, who remains untranslated, Ondjaki has known a brief moment of fame in the English-speaking world; in 2008 two of his books were translated: the novella The Whistler, and the novel Good Morning Comrades. It got good reviews; I’ve chatted with people on message boards who’ve even read them, and liked them. And then he returned to oblivion. This tends to be the fate of Portuguese-speaking African writers. Even heavyweights like Pepetela and Mia Couto haven’t gotten new translations in years. Agualusa’s winning the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize didn’t do him much good either since, after an apparent rise of interest in the English-speaking world, translations stopped coming out after 2009. I wonder why the initial impetus always loses power so quickly? Is it lack of interest? Poor sales?

Well, if his prose doesn’t sell, I guess it’s even more unlikely that his poetry will ever be translated. To date he’s published four collections; the latest came out in 2009. His poetic influences are as impressive as the ones that inform his prose: Ruy Duarte de Carvalho, Fernando Pessoa, Mia Couto, Manoel de Barros, and Ana Paula Tavares. Lyrical, dream-like, less autobiographical but more intimate, funny in a melancholy way, charged with wordplay. Ondjaki’s poetry is less mediated by history and society than Paula Tavares’, it feels completely different. I’m still trying to find out if I like it. I leave you with two of his poems:

GOODBYE

in my house’s garden I crossed paths with a slug.
she offered a look. I saw the world through the slug’s seduction:
everything trapped with simplicity.
I offered a sadness: it almost gave in to transparencies.
I learned with the slug: a sadness shouldn’t be
loaned.
the world, even shared,
is everyone’s skin.

lacking fingers
the slug waved goodbye with its body.
and rain came.

Thus we relearn the place of our souls.

CONSTRUCTION

construction of a house [and the house’s interior]
construction of a camp fire [and the fire, and the flame, and the ashes]
construction of a person [from the embryo to books]
construction of love
construction of sensibility [from the pores to music]
construction of an idea [including what the other one said]
construction of a poem [and of feeling the poem]

[there’s something of “de” in the word construction]

deconstruction of a prejudice
deconstruction of misery
deconstruction of fear
deconstruction of stiffness
deconstruction of the ego’s swelling
deconstruction simply [as an exercise]
deconstruction of a poem [for its rebirth]

construction is a word
that causes sweating
on being uttered.

I think that’s a beautiful sweat.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Ana Paula Tavares' Poetry


Ana Paula Tavares was born in the Huíla province, in Angola, in 1952, during the colonial era. More specifically, she was born in its capital, Lubango. Huíla was the home of her people, the Nyaneka-Nkhumbi, shepherds who subsist on their cattle, namely oxen. Due to the oxen’s importance there’s the annual procession of the Sacred Ox, a tradition claimed to be descended from the Egyptian god Apis; I only bring up this ethnographic curiosity because one of Paula Tavares’ book of poems opens exactly with an invocation of the ox:


Ox, ox,
Genuine ox,
guide my voice
Between sound and silence

Her poetry is deeply entwined with the traditions she grew up in. “To the Nyaneka society I owe poetry, music,” she says in an interview. She’s also a spiritual poet, concerned with the condition of women Angolan society, although she sees her poetry as feminine, not feminist. Frequently she mixes her ethnographic interest (she’s also an anthropologist) with her meditations about women, as the poem “Girl” shows:

The ox they’ll trade me for grows with me
They tied the plank to my back
Eylekessa
Daughter of Tembo
I tend the maize

I carry around my back the heavy bracelets
Of the days that have passed…
I’m from the ox’s clan.

From my ancestors I kept patience
The desert’s deep slumber,
the lack of limits…

From the mixture of ox and tree
effervescence
desire
disquiet
proximity to the sea.

Daughter of Huco
With his first wife
A sacred cow granted me
The favour of its fertile teats.

Paula Tavares completed her history course in Portugal, where she currently lives, and she’s written books on anthropology and the history of Angola and is deeply involved in Angolan cultural activities.

Her career as a poet began after the independence war. She published her first collection of poems in 1985, Ritos de Passagem (Rites of Passage), published by the Angolan Writers’ Union. In 2007 it was reprinted in Portugal with illustrations by Luandino Vieira. Due to the sensuality and frank descriptions of the female body and female sexuality, she was accused of writing pornography:

THE LAKE ON THE MOON

On the moon’s white lake
I washed my first blood
To the moon’s white lake
I’d return every month
To wash
My eternal blood
On each new moon

On the moon’s white lake
I mixed my blood
And white clay
And made the cup
Where I drink
The bitter water from my unquenchable thirst
The honey of clear days
In this lake I deposit
My reserve of dreams to take

Her fame has risen, though, and she’s Angola’s leading female poet. Paula Tavares has also written chronicles for the radio and co-written a novel with the Portuguese novelist Manuel Jorge Marmelo. But she’s mostly known for her poetic work. She’s published about four collections so far, the most recent dating from 2007. I think poetry lovers would like her. Her poems are delicate, concise and synaesthetic. She writes of love, death, tradition, war, nature, and the human body, in a serene voice that hides grief.

She’s practically unknown, like all African writers writing in Portuguese. The average reader seldom remembers African literature exists, but if he must grudgingly acknowledge it, it’s always with the proviso that all African literature is written in English and that it was inaugurated by Chinua Achebe in 1958. (Remember, Egypt is not African because it’s an Arab country and Naguib Mahfouz wasn’t already writing novels in the 1930s). Still Paula Tavares doesn’t seem very upset about her lack of fame. When questioned if she’s a universal writer, she replied, “No. Who am I? The world is vast and strange.” Like all good writers, she’s interested in what’s around her. “Angola hurts in me every day, it cheers me in the same way.” But like Tolstoy said, if you want to be universal, start by writing about your village. So I guess she’s on the right path.

BITTER LIKE FRUITS

“You tell me bitter words
Like fruits…”

                                               Kwanyama

Loved one, why do you return
with death in your eyes
and no sandals
as if an other inhabited you
in a time
beyond
all time

Loved one, where did you lose your metal tongue
the one of signs and proverbs
with my name written on it

            Where did you leave your voice
            soft as grass and velvet
            sown with stars

Loved one, my love,
what returned of you
is your shadow
split in half
it is one before you
bitter words
like fruits

Monday, 20 February 2012

Alexandre O'Neill's Poetry


I don’t know if anyone really cares, but when I wrote about Alexandre O’Neill, I ended up using fewer poems than the ones I had originally translated for the article. Since I think it’s sad to read about a poet without reading his poetry, I decided to post the rest of them. I’m no professional translator, but until Alexis Levitin or Richard Zenith take an interest on him, I hope readers will think it’s better than nothing.

As I was tweaking a couple of these translations last night, I figured I’d make this a hobby of mine, whenever I find the time and the inclination for it. So this post is going to be updated regularly, whenever I finish new translations. Make sure to check it out once in a while.

We’ll start with the six poems that constitute O’Neill’s first collection, Tempo de Fantasmas (A Time of Ghosts), published in 1951:

LEAVE

To your mother the crucified ivory
to your father the laziest vice
and to whoever wants it
the pretty combs of virtue

Famous sentences
all
and don't forget the one
that goes like this

FATHERS
what are you doing?
YOUR CHILDREN
are not pennies
SPEND THEM QUICKLY!

Leave also the illusion that they loved you
to those two you can’t see over there

Only in the age when suicides
spoke like animals
was disillusionment worth it

Leave also
what the most secret algebra
decided in your favour

The shadow you projected
Maybe someone will turn it
into a cruel diamond

SONG

May the last star leave
the avarice of night
and hope come burning
come burning in our chest

And leave also the rivers
the patience of earth
It’s in the sea that adventure
has the shores it deserves

And leave all the suns
that rotted in the sky
of those who didn’t want to see
– but make them leave on their knees

And may from the hands leave gestures
of pure transformation
Between the real and dream
We will be the vertigo

IN FULL BLUE

With poorly disguised horror
sincere disgust (yes!)
anguished blue tears
hand tense with pity
they see me passing singing
calamities disasters
impossible to avoid
the mothers

            mine yours
the ones who tenderly maim their children
for the monotonous and prudent
advancement of the family

And when I stop and propagandize
the biggest clichés of poetry
there's an almost obscene terror
in their maternal eyes

Then I promise congresses
in full blue

Promise a solution
in full blue

Promise not to do anything
in full blue

Without consulting the bureau
in full blue

Visibly relieved
it's time not to uphold
to recommence singing
calamities disasters
ruins left to decipher

                        *

If I weren't sleeping
I would ask poets
What time do you want me to wake you up?

Let's decipher ruins
identify the dead
sleep with real women
denounce the traitors
and betray poetry
poisoned in the words
that breathe rotten absence
let us say without capital letters
love life and death

                        *

And the mothers
where are they?

The mothers pray the mothers
sew shreds of pain
the mothers scream
cry
howl
in the thick river of sleep
now almost only animal

PASSING THROUGH

                                               I

Go away go away
you who walk like a blind man pretending to be a seer
you who leave adolescents marvelled
with your gestures of Ambassador of the Invisible
of Holy Man of Murmur
of generous Giver of the Blood of Vertigo
go away
and may the women who sometimes served you as mothers
take you back in and cover you with rags of tenderness
with lice of tenderness
with chancres
snot
manure of tenderness
and then undress you the way they do old men and children
and take years removing from your pained body
the scabs they placed on it by tenderness
years and years on the doorsteps
ridding you of the lice of the thousands of lice
that suck your idiot head

And when you can revolt
take the Path-of-All-Surprises
            the path you ran backwards
            in inhuman forbidden direction
fight the dream vagabonds you meet
and exterminate them
they are your old presence in this world of men
are what you thought you had of most human
fight them and move on
push your new being forth
run ahead of him
ignore the screaming and praying
the letters of the women you left behind
walk always walk
you begin looking like any one of us
and your laughter is already human

                                               II

And you too o one with the gestures of cosmic hammer
you too false stirrup of pride
vanity spied in shop windows
where luxury shows its teeth to the rabble
you indeed
splendid misery of these streets
complicated dream of impossible grandeurs
pale swan of cynicism
blue burp
borrowed blood
lapel of small virtues of the small myths
that sustain you still o dead man of long ago
disappear you too in the large sewer
that does justice for all
don't resign yourself to waiting
here you're just grotesque
only that moonlight that illusion of life
that you steal from the quotidian
that megalomaniac rapture
daily curse of fear
little mirror hourly interrogated

Disappear now that no one notices you
now that the cosmic hammers
sleep the sleep of eternal rust
somewhere in the already dead sky

BY THE COUNTERFEIT VOICE OF POETRY

Give us steps your steps
of triumphant morning of runaway city
the gestures we must have
when joy discovers fingers
where resides all the vertigo
it brings from the night
the first fingers of dream
your dream our dream kept
even in the most intimate abandon
even against the doors that close over us
in silence and night
in venomous tenderness
in murmur and praying
have already closed
even against the most voracious days
that assault us from all sides
and consume
even against the eternal rest
the easy journey
they threaten us with watching
the full route of our sleep
interminable sleep heart walled up
in the cruel wall of life
this one we live we die
thus waiting
thus dreaming
dreaming even when the dream
retreats ignored to the most intimate of each one of us
and is the groan without mouth
the precarious light that doesn't even reach the eyes

Don't say your name: it is Hope
it goes to those suffering alone
to the days' margins
and it's the word they don't write
on time's four walls
the admirable silence that defends them
or the smile the gesture the tear
they leave in faithful hands

Don't say your name: whoever knows it not
Whoever doesn't know your fire name
whoever hasn't seen it entering his night
of poor sickly animal
and taking care of her
if even for just the length of one dream

Your name
even objects know it
when they asks of us a different usage
the objects so worn out so tired
of the absurd circulation they're forced to

The things also scream for you

And the cities the cities that died
in the same exemplary curve of time
are nowadays in you are nowadays your name
they rise with you in the vertigo
of streets the tumult of squares
the guerrilla expectation in which you line up
your own sleep

*

Ah
where are the clocks that gave us
generous time
virtuous fingers the little
musical feet of time
the rooms where luxury unfolded its wings
and flew from chair to chair
from smile to smile
until it fell exhausted but happy
on the very blue pillow of sleep

Where is love the sublime
rose that lovers undressed petal by petal
so oblivious to everything kidnapped
by the aristocratic hand of time
the love made in the arms in the bosom
of an easy time
spendthrift
yours

Today time isn’t easy
is no longer your time
travellers of the dream that divides
sweet brothers of the rose
temple columns of the building
prudent friends of vertigo
delighted poets of an anguish
without real entrails
it is no longer your time

Brides of the invisible
it is not your time
Clocks of the eternal
it is not your time

*

Impossible

Impossible to sing you
the way I sang adolescent love
colouring with ingenuity
landscapes and figures reducing it
to the same rarefied atmosphere
of a dream without route in the real

Impossible to take the steep way
of the mental adventure
or to imagine you by the sterile thread
of solitary imagination

Let alone draw you like a star
in this infamous sky
speak you in newspaper language
or take you to others' emotion
by the counterfeit voice of poetry

Impossible

Impossible not to try speak you
with the few words that are left to us
from the daily usage
from the grotesque speech we hear
we utter
trembling with dream in time’s branch
where we remain like grass
little pebbles
perfectly useless things
small conversations of rust of moss
complaints
futile arguments
touching burps

*

But suddenly you return
in a pain of hope without reason of being

From its indifference
Aggressively things come out

We feel surrounded
threatened by things
and now we regret the lost time
in arranging them in our favour

Because it's time to break away from all of this
it's time to unite in the same gesture
the real and the dream
it's time to release the images the words
from the dream mines into which we sank
somnambulist miners of the imagination

It's time to wake up in the darkness of the real
in the desolate promise
of the real day

*

In this almost mad light
that clings to the roofs
to the trees to women's hairs
to the darkest eyes
we speak of you of your high example
and it's with intimacy that we do it
we speak of you as if you were
the most luminous tree
or the most beautiful most human woman
who passed by us with vertigo eyes
dragging all light with her

A DOG’S LIFE

No
it's not music box poetry
or mystic lice poetry buried in the tallow of days
or any other
that can dissolve your soul
so problematic
in the wine of beatitude

Ah
the "mystery" of poetry the technical
poetry of confusion
the poetic haberdasher and her first customers
still afraid still fearful
of asking you Pain in pins you don't have
right within your reach

And when you say "Poetry" I feel disgusted
that violent disgust that gives me
the furtive look the inattentive attention
of those who dally in the washrooms of cinemas
with distracted hands searching for
night's solution

They installed themselves in you
the same suspicious contraction
the same hypocrisy the same startled jump
the same obscene curve
that the look describes
mocks
and disguises

When you say "Poetry" you say fear
you say family tradition class
and the dog’s life that waited for you
and which today is your life your "transcendental"
dog’s life

*

They taught you words that seemed
ready to defeat whoever heard them
they taught you gestures for them
and they humiliated you to such a degree
that they stood you up
clean
intelligent
and well-dressed

Ready to follow
you followed
and now you're here
but of course you’re here
anguished and deluded
but delighted

*

To the last arcana
cafés and milk shops
you followed André Breton
or his shadow
and the mental adventure he searched
an exterior sign
a living shrapnel of chance
A Lisbon Nadja who could save
or night or life
ended in "good" poems "bad" poems
in words and words

And covered in words buried
in a land of murmurs of moans
your heart no longer moves anything
but word mills
and "the pain is huge" you say
"but sublime"

*

But it's not me who laments you
Your myths await you
already impatient

Now get lost
Now come back in a few years

Maybe you'll find me
maybe I can do something for you
some simple thing
almost useless
almost ridiculous
            offer you a syllable
            an advice
            a cigarette

UPDATE 30/03/2012:

In 1958, O'Neill published his second book of poems, No Reino da Dinamarca (In the Kingdom of Denmark); I leave here four of poems from that collection:


A PORTUGUSE GOODBYE

In your highly dangerous eyes
still thrives the most rigorous love
the shadow of pure shoulders and the shadow
of an already purified anguish

No you couldn't stay trapped with me
to the wheel in which I rot
we rot
to this bloodied paw that vacillates
almost meditates
and advances mooing through the tunnel
of an old pain

You couldn't stay in this chair
where I spend the bureaucratic day
the everyday of misery
that climbs the eyes reaches the hands
the smiles
the poorly spelled love
the stupidity the despair without mouth
the straightened up fear
the somnambulist joy the maniac comma
of the civil servant way of living

You couldn't stay in this bed with me
in mortal transit until the sordid
canine
police
day until the day that comes not from dawn's
purest promise
but from the misery of a night created
by an identical day

You couldn't stay trapped with me
to the small pain that each one of us
gently holds by the hand
to this little Portuguese pain
so docile almost vegetable

No you don't deserve this city don't deserve
this wheel of nausea in which we spin
until idiocy
this small death
and its meticulous and filthy ritual
this absurd reason of ours of being

No you're from the adventurous city
from the city where love finds its streets
and the burning cemetery
of its death
you're from the city where you live by a thread
of pure chance
where you die or live not of asphyxiation
but at the hands of an adventure of pure commerce
without the false currency of good and evil

*

In this bend so tender and harrowing
which will be which already is your disappearance
I bid you farewell
and like an adolescent
I trip in tenderness
for you 


NOW I WRITE

What did you want to turn me into?

A word, an obscene groan
A night without any way out.
A heart that could barely
Defend itself from death,
A comma trembling with fear
In a blue requirement, blue,
A night spent in a brothel
Resembling life, brutally
Summing up life!

            The key of dreams, the secret
            Of happiness, the one thousand and one
            Nights of loneliness and fear,
            The stewed potato of the everyday,
            The muscular weekend,
            The sardines sleeping,
            decapitated, in olive oil,
            Love made and unmade
            Like a bed
            And at the end - the sea...

But I defended myself and now I write
Furiously, now I write
For someone:

Do you remember, my love, of our strolls
Through the city? Of the days we spent
in the arms of the city?
We collected people, simple faces, sentences
Of no value beyond the mystery
Also simple of our love.
We invented destinies, crossed lives
Made of compact will,
Of hard necessity, cold faces
Possessed by an atrocious absence,
Extenuated bodies but not sleepy enough to sleep,
Eyes already void of anguish, of hope, of any
Poor remainder of life!
We followed the children's joy, aggressive
Like coal scratching a wall,
We learned to laugh (oh the shame!...)
With "ordinary" people, and silently
We went down to the river - and stood there
Watching!

            Love remains very high,
            Greatly above, greatly outside
            Life, very rare
            And difficult: wonderful
            When it should be faithful.
            Faithful every day,
            Patient and natural every day,
            Profound and at the same time aerial,
            Green and simple,
            Like a tree!

Together we won what we lost separately:
The incomparable light, this almost mad light
Of springtime, this seagull
Fallen from light's shoulders,
And the light, delicious sadness of evening,
Like an unopened letter,
An unspoken word...

Together we won what we're losing
Separately:
Joy - innocent
City,
Open heart in the morning,
Small boat going
clearly up the river,
Steaming, smoking
With its important air of little man...
And the tenderness - kiss flying over
Your faithful face,
Fire intensely green over the earth,
Intensely green in your eyes,
Small "ordinary nose"
Which between my fingers protests
And jerks…

            Two trees as a head start,
            A mad race...
            ... And your heart in my mouth!

And love,
Not the one that destroys, for it’s not love,
Not the fury of bodies when exchanging
Despair for despair,
Not the supreme sadness of existing,
The obscene art of living,
The science of not giving and taking,
But love translated as
Kindness, trust,
purity, fraternity,
The strength to live, of triumphing over death
Triumphing over luck,
The vertigo of knowing
Necessity and freedom!

*

Together we won what we lost separately.

High-speed arrows,
Our dreams flew
Towards life,
And it was life they wanted to hit,
It was life they wanted to bite,
It was to life they wanted to connect us!

Living people entered our dreams,
Entered letters, poems, verses
As full of meaning as streets
And streets full of rhythm and meaning,
Like the best verses.
Entered friends, desires, fights
And common hopes,
Recollections, ancient loves
Like ships lost in the distance
Or immobile already under years and years of silence,
Discussed, evoked readings: dreams
And close destinations, sorrows and similar joys,
Exemplary lives,
Lives resplendent with life!

            Michaux, who said
            At every step: "Et comment!"
            To express his bond with life,
            His indomitable happiness!
            And N-2 and Berta,
            To each other chained
            Like phantoms,
            But living and helping to live!
            And Éluard, his poems
            Simple as gestures of joy,
            Direct as words
            Of just rage,
            Irrepressible as kisses
            Warm with tenderness
            Complete like birds
            Quick in the blue!
            And many others still,
            Many other lives,
            Real or invented
            Exemplarily from the real!

In our days doubts and errors entered,
The terrible loneliness of certain hours
Without a friendly shoulder,
The heart abandoned, floating
Like a dead fish, a trace
Of heat inside the cold.

Doubts, errors,
And the temptation to raise scaffolds,
To be “under construction,” to install
In each day a "problem"
And to gild
The "problem" of each day...

But not just doubt and error,
The spilt heart, the lost head
Entered our days.
However
It was about realising.

            "Realising:" to pass
            Into reality,
            Put dreams into practice,
            Ideas, theories.
            For instance: industry,
            Agriculture realise
            Certain chemical,
Physical, biological
            Theories.
            For instance: today
            Men’s oldest
            Dreams are
            being realised.
            For instance – more personal
            But no less important:
            In you
            I saw my dreams realised!

THE THIRD-RATE REVOLVER

They want to turn me into a third-rate revolver,
They've already turned me into a third-rate revolver,
The type everyone, once, twice in their lifetime,
Theatrically rests against an ear
That closes up in shame.

A good domesticated revolver:
Some pre-suicidal notions, but no more,
For life is too expensive and adventure
Not always returns the ship they send it.

Whoever waits for me isn’t waiting for me
And perhaps finds me on a distracted occasion.
But in my obscene display case of gestures,
I keep the most obscene
For when the illusion occurs...

SUNDAYS IN LISBON

Sunsays in Lisbon are Sundays
Horrible to go by – and I’ll say!
In the morning you attend the St. Domingos mass
And in the afternoon we catch a few drops
Of rain or we scratch the belly.

The crosswords, the cinema or a cake,
And the day closes with a final burp.
Another hour or two and night is
Over, and clinging to me like a limpet,
You take me to bed where I arrive already dead.

And then your demands begin, the worst ones!
You want me to follow by force your whims!
What the hell! Aren’t we even masters of ourselves?
Are we like the gold in pawn-shops
Or the irrational critters in the Zoological Garden?
………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………
But are you my “dear wife,”
The one who offered herself to me as a girl?
Oh! Keep your kisses of poisonous spider!
Shut that white eye that mocks me
And let me dream like a building in ruins!...

UPDATE 12/09/2012:



THE FOUL TIME

There are days I hate
Like insults I can not reply to
Without the danger of a cruel intimacy
With the hand that launches the pus
That works at infection's service

They’re days that should never have left
The bad fixed time
That challenges us from the wall
Days that insult us that throw us
The stones of fear the shards of lying
The small coins of humiliation

Days or windows over the bog
Mirrored in the sky
Days of the everyday
Trains that carry sleep grumbling on the way to work
Badly dressed badly fed
To work
The hammer’s blow to the head
The small malicious death
Which in the sirens’ spiral
Hides and whistles

Days I spent in the sewer of dreams
Where the sordid holds hands with the sublime
Where I saw the essential where I learned
That only amongst men and for them
Is dreaming worth it.


INVENTORY

A word that became dangerous
A sailor from a “friendly” country
A poor woman with tuberculosis
And the proud woman I chase

The little old lady driving in a Buick
A fire about to break out
And the streets the streets where I saw
What I don’t yet know what to see

An elegant beach a clothesline
Of beautiful indolent bodies
And a newspaper’s last lies
A propos of recent facts

A gentleman absolutely serious
A doctor who was this close
To being part of a new ministry
And a very old man who tells us

Adverse to the crowd its madwoman shouts
I have nevertheless a great love for Man
But careful An idea doesn’t live without bread in the mouth
I do not want you to take me for something I am not

Another gentleman absolutely honest
Still the old lady of the Buick
And the very old old man says the rest
Says the rest and so it’s noted

My motto is known my voice far less
But what I say reaches your heart
Through discreet precious serene paths
Like a rare stamp into a collection

(And in a silence that everyone heard
Only the fly made itself known
Saying with grace and irony
O Cesário Verde how I wish
You were here!)


INVENTORY

A gold tooth laughing at the pamphlets
A husband ignorant after all
Two really black crows
A cop who says he’s certain

The very wretched seamstress
An infernal smoke-producing machine
A professor who knows almost nothing
A colossally good student

A disappointed revolver
A child crazy with joy
An immense lost time
An adept of symmetry

A count who blushes on being decorated
A man who laughs from sorrow
A disappeared lover recovered
The grasshopper called surprise

A deserter singing on the bandstand
A huge crook coming on tiptoes
A man thoroughly dressed in black
An organist who lost his faith

A person tricking the affectionate
A pipe singing the Marseillaise
Two prisoners actually dangerous
A small instant of beauty

An amused octogenarian
A boy collecting caps
A congressman saying I won’t go on
An old lady who dies some pages ahead.