I could probably write as many poems of anxiety as there are poems of anxiety left to be written, or, better yet, I could likely claim that every poem I have is, at least partially, a poem of anxiety. I’ve also resigned to my dread of giving titles to compositions; unless they come naturally to me while conceiving a poem (or, in other words, before I’ve written said poem) I never feel as if my titles are adequate in approximation. So, I suppose I’ll be a titular minimalist, see if it suits me, perhaps it might.
If you, too, suffer from this ailment (which in this modern world of ours, seems inextricably woven into our fabric of being), I can’t provide a pyre or tell you that you’re not alone; you are not alone, but our caltrops of loneliness are not ones we can dodge merely equipped with the knowledge of companionship, but one we can bear the pains of by cultivating a veritable motion of hearing, of communicating individually, within and without. We are not alone in others, we are alone within ourselves; the only pyre, the only voice which is worthwhile in exiting that artificial solitude, is your own within yourself, and if it stands sincere and kind, it shall too reverberate in others, which shall return the same measure of sincerity and kindness; if not, they are undeserving of your pain, and you still hold yourself firm. This is, of course, my experience.
My communications are always open if (hopefully exempt of vaticination) those pestiferous ghosts of anxiety come to plague you. I will help as I best I can.
the days without anyone impish notes scrawled quickly crumpled in our fingers
the honeysuckle was beautiful rising through the night of forsaken residence
exact stones scented dusts fireflies napping in the flexibility of clay sands covered of insects bones and teeth and the river hauling weary nights
luminous inflorescence acid moons crumbling fissures of earth coastline cities birds fragile paths in open flight during the tremendous lucidity of dreaming
I’m left with halls of glass where I drown the calcined remains of body I open the door leading to my visage descend the mossy steps of the yard cross the masonry garden where I lived the entire time before I hurried “Days Without Anyone” – Al Berto
Landlocked mid poetic subject and poet, mid experience and body, mid reality and the act of writing, lies an indubitable reflective surface lightly swiveling as the halo of a flame. Mário Lugarinho illustrated Al Berto “between the poetic and the experimented, installed as a bridge — the mirror itself, recurrent metaphor in his oeuvre. Between poetry and experience, the subject, incontestable mediator between the real and the written and establishing between them the flagrant coincidence.” In a sensory blossoming of ontological experience, Al Berto carries the brutalism of existence as one does scars in one’s own body, exhibiting those elements of suffering with timid thrusts while words cannibalise their own element of sincerity. The body, in his poems, rises as a monolith of subjectivity laved in the hemorrhage of experience; it is cumbrous with sensuality, hatred, speech, infancy, shards of things-in-themselves in a scenery of mournful abandonment:
I sleep within a disheveled body fear encroaches the somber hall I find a water scintillating in plaster a scar of mossy crystals opens porous to my touch, indicating there shall be no forgetting or breeze to clean the immemorial time of this home
of this simulated sleep, it left but bitter iodine the waxed woods covered in dust dried herbs in rain sheafs of rosemary, jonquils, snapdragons, campions, clover yet no escape has been restarted my infancy remains sad where I abandoned it nearly does not live yet I still hear it breathing within me.
now all is different I restart life from the emptiness of dark days in silence in-between skin and a beam of magnificent veins I feel the bird of age dragging its wings
where it develops a calm lunar flight
I enumerate objects thoroughly, classifying them by sizes and textures, by functions I want to leave everything tidy when madness comes from the sharpened extremity of my winged body and my face is intruded by a shard of wing
so shall life collapse unto a sheet of paper where verse by verse I illuminate and wear myself out.
“Vigílias” – Al Berto
The stark provocation of image — which binds itself both cruel and ethereal in a procession of memory — is not merely symbol, but a counterpoint to denotation; the wound is palpable, as each verse widens its longitude with unstinting force where the absence of breath is not merely a quality of form but a proxy to restlessness. A frondsome garden is thus woven and hydrated in white obscurity: reality is held in a crystalline distance, writing cannot approximate it, regardless of eloquence, of thought, of philosophies, we lie in open sight and sketch an estimated geography, and, from time-to-time, an embodiment of placid light befalls our lips and we are disfigured by castrated toponymies; our place in the universal lie unfurls. Al Berto carries out his death in poem successively, both the wanting of his death and the pestilent, modern malaise of the death of wanting, inherited from a legacy of weighted dichotomies and promises–too long has the poet promised, too epic was the oneiric journey of poetics, too arduous the return. Thus, his poetry is a summon for a corpse, the buoyant corpse of his infantile yearn, the mossy corpse of his lyrical dreams, the winged corpse of his light, yet merely a corpse: the gallows of his life plaintively whistle within, and in reality lies a frigid inheritance of death. Our body, lush with herbs and snapdragons and rosemary positioned as a reflective vessel of both, a world of unbearable cruelty made of particles and waves of synthesized beauty. There is, yet, an ethereal release from anguish in his mirror of corpses that, even if still anguished, serves to lighten the breath:
I write to you feeling all of this and in an instance of lucidity I could be the river the goats shrouding the tinkle of sleigh-bells in the silver crystals of a photograph I could rise as the chestnut-tree of those tales whispered by a fire and wander, trembling with the birds or accompany the sulfuric butterfly revealed by humid lips I could mimic that shepherd or mistake myself for the dream of a city which little by little bites its own immobility
I inhabit this world of water by error I’m required radio-graphic images of bones unfocused faces hands on bodies printed in paper and mirrors notice I have nothing else if not this note stained with fine arils of pomegranate I sent today notice how a heart of paper is yellowed by the forgetfulness of loving you.
“Trabalhos do Olhar” – Al Berto
Passion, even in passing, is an effusing stroke, and a world perhaps collapsed is reshaped (albeit perfunctorily) only to support that florescence, as loving is the most human of all Arts, notice we have nothing else.
My mother worries about me, as one tends to. I can’t really write much to soothe her (and I have tried), so I wrote this one, quite a while ago, to soothe myself. It was translated from Portuguese, and it is quite old, but I have some strange affection for it. It truly does soothe me.
(I shall craft some more compositions soon, but I’m having some trouble writing in English; something about it always feels artificial to me. Perhaps it is the artifice of translating emotions.)
Endless gratitude to anyone that still manages to find energy to read me!
The voices of the world becoming quieter and fewer.
Kafka, October 21 of 1917 – “In Sunshine”, The Third Octavo Notebook.
Every action of scrawling begins with fossicking old dusts in search of eventful shapes, harnessing memory as a mass of particles brought alight; cold fountains dance, pellucid, in a constellation of footfalls, and a blond-featured priest halts the litany, displaying the grimace of revolt, placing a tome of interrogations over the a vine-perfused lectern, passing his tongue over the thumb, and falling silent; indolence befalls substance. Every memory is a phantom of sensation, a tender ogive of contingency launched to annihilate the fabrication of a transmissible instinct, remembering drops of oil distilled from silence and density, a black orb siphoning air, zest, faces, skins — the page is famished, and tinted of ghost. In the hunting grounds of Memnosyne, man is prey and prayer. Our meat is glazed in agonic shouts, our skin, scented of sanctity, towards which the hunters coil in disgust; vipers, red vipers, snip at our ankles. My head is a catalogue of agonies and heavens, of pains and heavenly hours, painful hours in heaven, heavens within painful hours, and the surreal commune of figures therein: cicadas and silence, mango foam and silence, heaviness, milk, laughter. Self — resuming the balance of plates — lies unrevealed, and a poem threads the stumbling cord held just above the floor in search of light and contour; fruitless. Memories are burnished pebbles in a rusted sieve, as ineluctable as they are indelible, and contain no glimmer further than that of any sedimentary measure of pain or minimal relief; ages, alone, transfigure them into pearls in shape of traumas, individuations and statuettes of peace, which we paint with garish colours as to dilute their stillness. A poem is an instrument that translates the silence of all, into sound; fruitful. The poem now remembers, as prey and prayer. We can rest.
Listen, my child, the silence. It is a rippled silence, the silence whence vales and echoes slither, and that turns faces to the ground.
Luís Carlos Patraquimlives, but I read him as if he never lived. When I cogitate of his life, I sight odd coppery faces and calcined terrains, the hollowing of plasters in the decrepit walls and fences of Lourenço Marques, a sublimation spawning the vividness of Mozambique in memory, a Mozambique that can only wound memory akin to the rattling of trains; we primp the man, he has no pulse, but acacias bloom and fade within; we primp the man which primps itself by his own labour, and a parsonage remains, history, a seamless image. The image-of-man is defenseless, exists only in exposition, in row with other images inasmuch as one cannot probe the colour of irises, begginings of laughter or threads, one cannot see sortileges that aren’t extenuatingly pestiferous, nor loves without the clatter of taking steps with a shattered heart; nothing lives in these men, nor is there will to give them such textures, as we are not soothed by seeing such images as articulated flesh, we do not care for the mensuration of their days, or the instances of vitreous fear for time: a first kiss, a first flight, the ontology of a motherly caress, or the satin fever of nights. There is so much to being, so much that refuses to be transfigured in narrative movements, so much matter centred in itself, held in a tattered cloth which is twisted, and twisted, twisted tirelessly for some droplets of varnish. In my manufacture of symbols, I see swollen ossuaries, bronze wheat-ears and cans of castor-oil, and there, I see Patraquim, scanning the acacia’s thirsty leaves. I see him distantly, cindery, as an ornament of my youth when I would grip any poem whose language allowed for my understanding, before I balanced myself with the rabble of cities, before I was an image-of-man; that, perhaps, goes mostly unspoken. Some speak of machinery, filters and filtering, of means and censorship, vilifying aesthetics and the gelid action of refining a countenance, some speak of calculating innocuous improbabilities while calculating the probability of being understood. Lesser, it seems, speak of the editing of people, of the being made, created and formed by fictions, and I can say without contesting that I know more of those that never lived than I do those that live; I know myself more in the I which never lived, the I in constant persiflage towards improbabilities, the I in a barrage of dreams and quests and pretensions tinted of the same coppery faces, engineered by books and almond-trees, seeing in them a more veritable texture than in the spent colours my eyes still receive. Patraquim, the image-of-man, gushes in me those droplets of varnish — as if my image-of-man took form of an ewer — and so gushes Stevens, bleeds Hatherly and Sebald, gushes the lad from the subway that crossed my eyes and timidly retracted his own, and I gush, outside, within, impish droplets that inflame me, small blades from a barbershop, small threads of faces petrifying slowly beneath the stepping noises. Is there an autochthonous child, a storm’s prelude, a fleeting seagull that can cast a linen string over men and images-of-men, a life-saver that rescues them as they were, before they were images of lives? If there is, I fear that remembering that nude version of being may be more maddening than swallowing mercury.
(…) And your silence, your silence, where they bloom, bloodied, the acacias of Lidemburg Street and Lagos shivers in blue and spawns a styled solitude and a bull which recoils in the labyrinth of an inflamed aorta,
your mouth, your mouth and your silence and no longer the inquiry, none, and your wonderment and that of stars, lightly the torpid mist submerging your profile,
in the afternoon where I thread, and the stone registered in a snowing sun.
Luís Carlos Patraquim in “O Círculo”
Lúis Carlos Patraquim vive, mas leio-o como se jamais tivesse vivido. Quando cogito que lá terá vivido, vejo semblantes de estanho e terra calcinada, o escorchar do reboco lá nos muros e nas grades de Lourenço Marques, uma sublimação que engendra as forças de Moçambique na memória, um Moçambique que apenas fere a memória como o estertor dos comboios; ataviamos o homem, não tem pulso, tem acácias florindo e morrendo, ataviamos o homem que a si próprio se atavia em seu labor, e resta-nos personagem, história, uma imagem inconsútil. O homem-imagem é inerme, existe apenas numa exposição, a renque com tantos outros, e não se dedilham cores de olhos, príncipios de risos ou traços, não se vêm sortilégios sem os mesmos serem extenuantemente pestíferos, nem amores sem o ruído acutilante dum coração em cacos; não há nada de vivo nestes homens, nem há vontade de lhes dar essa textura, não nos afaga saber dessas imagens como carne articulada, não nos interessa a mensuração dos seus dias, das instâncias de medo envidraçadas p’lo tempo: o primeiro beijo, o primeiro voo, a ontologia do desvelo materno, a febre acetinada das noites. Há tanto em ser, e tanto que não se transfigura em momentos narrativos, tanta matéria ensimesmada num trapo velho, que é torcido e torcido, torcido infindávelmente por umas quantas gotas de lacre. Na minha manufactura de símbolos, vejo os ossuários entúmidos, espigas de bronze e nas latas de rícino, e existe Patraquim, a perscrutar a sede das acácias. Vejo-o na distância, cendrado, como um ornamento da minha juventude em que perfilhava qualquer poesia cuja língua me permitia que a lesse, antes de me sopesar na turba das cidades, antes de ser homem-imagem; disso, talvez, poucos falam. Falam da maquinaria, dos filtros e filtragens, dos meios e da censura, aviltam a estética e a forma gélida de editar o rosto, falam-nos do cálculo das improbabilidades inócuas, calculando a probabilidade de os enterdermos. Menos falam da edição das gentes, do humano crescido, criado, formado pela ficção, e posso dizer sem barganha que sei mais dos que jamais viveram do que sei dos que estão vivos; e sei-me mais no eu que jamais vivera, eu no chorrilho dessas improbabilidades, eu na torrente de sonhos e demandas e pretensões pintadas de cobre, um eu engendrado por livros e amendoeiras, vendo-lhes uma textura de realidade mais sincera que as cores exauridas p’los meus olhos. O homem-imagem de Patraquim jorra em mim as gotas de lacre — como se o homem-imagem que sou fosse em forma de caneco — e jorra Stevens, sangra Hatherly e Sebald, jorra o miúdo do metro que se acanha por me cruzar o olhar, jorro eu, lá fora, cá dentro, pequenas gotas que me inflamam, pequenas lâminas de barbeiro, pequenas linhas de rosto que se petrificam lentamente ao passo dos ruídos. Haverá uma criança autóctone, um prelúdio de tempestade, uma gaivota fugitiva, que lança sobre as gentes e imagens de gentes um cordão de linho, um salva-vidas, que as salve como elas eram, antes de serem fotografias de vidas? Se haverá, temo que rememorar essa versão nua seja mais enlouquecedor que beber mercúrio…
(…) E o teu silêncio, o teu silêncio, onde florescem, sangrentas, as acácias da Rua de Lidemburgo e Lagos estremece em azul e punge uma solidão ática e um boi se recolhe no labirinto da aorta que infla,
A boca, a tua boca e o teu silêncio e não mais a pergunta, nenhuma, e o teu pasmo e o das estrelas, ao de leve a cacimba lenta submergindo-te o rosto,
pela tarde onde caminho, e a pedra se inscreve no sol que neva.
Recently, I came across the endlessly talented Tadzio and his blog of English translations of Italian poems. A little apprehensive at first, I decided to give a shot of my own at translating some of my most adored portuguese compositions.
Florbela is the poet I credit with my interest in composing, so it would be fair to say that any verse of mine you might have liked, is due to her incredible humility and fine-crafted lyricism. Very devalued in life, she now stands as the most important female poet of the portuguese poetic pantheon, one whose influence reaches far and wide within our culture.
And its portuguese, original version:
Disclaimer: I’m not a professional or academic of this subject, this translation is merely an attempt at a very arduous and respected Art, that of translating poetry, and I have no intentions of devaluing it with my impish attempts.
Second Disclaimer: I did severely alter the verse that mentions “saudade”. There is a common myth that saudade is an exclusive word of Portuguese, and there is another common myth debunking the former, stating that “longing” and “missing” are direct translations. Neither are correct, there are translations of saudade, and also imports, as Catalan shares the same word (thus making it not exclusive), and other languages have direct translations. English is not one of them. Missing or longing do not mean saudade.
I could not recommend more that you visit The Container and be delighted with Tad’s brilliant translations.