I have to share this with the reader: I love conceptual poetry books, that is, poetry books that don't just put together a handful of poems but follow a unifying pattern, whether it be a theme, a style, or a structure. For instance, I’m a sucker for William Blake’s The Songs of Innocence and Experience, with its symmetrical structure, and Jorge de Sena’s The Metamorphosis, in which each poem is based on a picture or painting. For that reason I have focused on Eugénio de Andrade’s books that incorporate this conceptual construction into them, like his all-prose poem books or his book of homages. So for my final post on his poetry I’m taking poems from a book that is all about places: streets, countries, cities, villages, dunes, castles, gardens, you name it. It’s not so much a book of descriptions but a book of moods and impressions connected to those places. It’s also where his poetry is more economical, lithe, condensed and enigmatic, I’d even risk saying that the poet owes a huge debt to the Imagism of Ezra Pound for this book. The book is called Escrita da Terra (Earth’s Writing, 1974):
Like that linen smell
Only caressed shoulders have
The earth is white
In Summer at the evening’s end,
like Hadrian or Virgil or Marcus Aurelius
I entered Rome by the Appian Way
and by Antinous and all the world’s love
I swear I saw the light turn to stone.
there’s just wind in my country
green black wind
cuts the voice in the root.
Will the night in order to sleep
ask a drop of water from me?
With the last waters the trees depart
the whole garden is then a smile.
There’s a rupture
a crack in the dark
of the silence:
one hears the murmur
from the soldiers against the wall.
What music would you be
If you were not water?
lacks only the blade.
It’s over the buttock’s splendours
that I reconcile myself with tears.
One thing is to live in the skin
another to have night for a frigate.
This mist over the city, the river,
the seagulls of other days, boats, people
in a hurry or with all the time to while away,
this mist where Lisbon’s light begins,
rose and lemon over the Tejo, this water light,
I want nothing more from step to step.
Like in the Whitman poem a boy
Approached me and asked: what is
Between his gaze and mine the air hurt.
Under other afternoons’ shades I spoke
to him of bees and thistles close to the earth.
of the slow restless
loneliness of the choked
finally the black,
like in Alentejo
the obstinate white.
You approach the earth. Now more.
With eyes closed you contemplate a stone.
Small. Uninhabitable. Almost white.
It’d be perfection if it were water.
(A child sings like in dreams.)
and the strident
Sun vertical to the cicadas.
the river almost at hand.
And a whisper,
not of nymphs: of words.
Blue is white,
The two men sleep
in the afternoon’s shade.
MALÁ STRANA SQUARE
I like these pigeons, these children.
Eternity cannot be but like this:
pigeons and children turning
the incomparable morning light
into the poem’s innocent place.
With my mouthful of sun, so much sun,
how could the shadow and its rings
approach from scale to scale
and quickly bite your waist?
ANOTHER MEXICAN NOCTURNE
With this sun, this vertical blade
between the eyes,
how to give you so much thirst to drink?,
the piercing blade tearing deep.
So the Romans were
like me: they loved
places where greatness
walked hand in hand.