Poems From The Portuguese
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José Miguel Silva

(B. 1969)

In having to choose just one poet, I choose José Miguel Silva. My reasons (which I would rather not have to explain, as I lack ability for this sort of thing) should be obvious for any discerning reader that picks up one of his books. On the one hand, the critical, lucid and unencumbered gaze he sets on the world and on the times we live in. On the other, the formal precision, the impeccable rhythm and the richness and expressiveness of vocabulary that distinguish all his poems. But enough of generalities (forgive me, José Miguel). I just want to add that some of the most perfect poems I know were written by him.

José Miguel Silva was born in Vila Nova de Gaia, on the southern bank of the river Douro mouth. He is a translator and contributes sporadically to literary magazines.

Poetry books since 2000:

Ulisses já não mora aqui (2002), Vista para um Pátio seguido de Desordem (2003), Movimentos no Escuro (2005), Walkmen (com Manuel de Freitas) (2008), Erros Individuais (2010)

Poems

Wild Strawberries – Ingmar Bergman (1957)

21 Setembro, 2018By bitcliq

A human being is a blend of selfishness,
pain and foolishness. Doesn’t move anyone.
A stone doesn’t move anyone. Beauty
is an ordinary hazard and presupposes death;
it’s often surrounded by folly, and if it speaks to us,
it can be frightening. Intelligence, refreshing
like a shower, feels good in the summer; but now,
when it’s forever winter, what place shall we allocate
intelligence? The one of a maid servant in the chambers
of greed. It doesn’t obviously move anybody.
Goodness does. But it’s so frail
and so rare that nobody hears it. It isn’t easy,
therefore, to find something we can love. I’ve been
searching, and swear I don’t know what to do:
everything, even music, seems to me the result of some flaw.
I wander these streets at random and don’t come across
anybody who can convince me that life could well
be different. Everything is seen under distorting mirrors,
all burns in strange acceptance. Frankly,
I wish someone would prove me wrong.

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User Complaints

I pay my taxes, recycle
the rubbish, haven’t watched
telly for five months, everyday
I pray for at least two hours
with a book on my knees,
never miss a family visit,
always use public
transport, rarely forget
to leave water in the cat’s
dish, try to be civil
to my neighbours and never spit
on other people’s shadow.

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Penelope writes

It’s more than sure: I don’t miss you.
I spent the whole afternoon tiding up your papers,
reading again the five letters you managed to send
during the week that was wasted: you in the Alentejo,
and I under water. Then I watered the roses
you left in the garden. Always by myself and
not moaning about my lot (since I don’t miss you),
I put on the Chavela record you gave me for Christmas
and started to cook your favourite dish.
Cooking made me lose my appetite; and so
I opened a bottle of red and it’s not hard
to confess that I don’t miss you.
Around 10 pm, I made myself refuse
two invitations to go out (I gave androphobia as an excuse)
and right now I’m cutting out your image
(I don’t miss you) from the photos I own of both of us
in order to punish with the paper basket
the awkward idiot who let you go.

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Nocturne

Art we already know is born
from the imperfection of the things
we bring home
with the street dust
when the afternoon is over
and we don’t have hot water
to wash our hair.
With weirs of prayer
we try to regulate
the course of sadness
we change chairs
and spend the night
saying if only
as if these words
were an anaesthetic.

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‘Uffizi’

What can a hedonistic and surly sceptic do
in the country of sacred art? How can he
escape the notion that these games of
volume, these vividly coloured
layouts, represent all he doesn’t
believe in: fanaticism, eternalife,
the sacrifice of the body?

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