Poems From The Portuguese
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José Tolentino Mendonça

(B. 1965)

José Tolentino Mendonça's poems assume a deep belief in poetry in as much as it is secret and delicate. His verse speaks to you in a quiet and enigmatic way, achieved through its lack of punctuation and unexpected 'enjambements'. His themes are his childhood in Madeira, Classic Antiquity, the difficulty of human love and the veiled evidence of divine love. Tolentino Mendonça's elliptic discourse, although containing a depth which doesn't preclude strong statements, becomes memorable through its oblique wisdom and attention to the 'other'.

José Tolentino Mendonça studied theology and was ordained as a priest in 1990. Following an MA in Biblical Studies in Rome, he became a teacher and chaplain at the Catholic University in Lisbon, where he completed a PhD in Biblical Theology. He is also a counsellor at the Culture Pontifical Council at the Vatican and has recently returned from a year as Strauss Fellow at the New York University.

Poetry books since 2000:

De Igual para Igual (2000), A Estrada Branca (2005), A Noite abre os meus Olhos (2006), O Viajante sem Sono (2009), Estação Central (2012), A Papoila e o Monge (2013)

Poems

Eschatology

21 Setembro, 2018By bitcliq

And, at last, God returns
full of intimacy and unexpectedness
contemplated already from centuries above
humble measure of a verbal silence
we thought destined to be lost
See God climbing the steep path
that we have paced a thousand times
and stop to wait without impatience
meek as a sick lamb
Which one of us is the other’s shadow?
Even if no pity preserves the maps
we’ll come down close behind
rampant and empty
like a tree trunk

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The just

They begin the day extolling imperfection
time that leans towards the broken side
the few oranges that turn
yellow amidst the straw
the wine-emptied amphorae
They look into the white innocence of the morning
and in everything that helps a man with his trade
they praise the vulnerable and the unfinished
They are sitting on the thresholds of spaces
slowly being worked by silence
When God comes back
he won’t have to break down every door

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This is my body

The body has steps, all of them steep
thousands of reminders of its own endurances
inheritance, geometry
acollapsethatbegins inside out
and shapes that nobody hears
The body is never the same
even when repeating itself:
whencethisarmtouching the other,
whereofthisintertwiningoflegs
how to reach this foot that I place ahead?
I don’t learn with the body to rise
I learn to fall and to question

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A song under the storm

They keep us busy with their fierce loneliness
we know their smell, their consuming habits, transparent to each other
With them it is impossible to disguise
irony or pity
They look for us among superficial
arrangements and beyond that
A friend is a machine for inhabiting
the pre-historic wind of frozen mountains
They belong perhaps to other worlds
we always hug like survivors
With them we can dredge up a song
From under the storm

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