Poems From The Portuguese
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Nuno Júdice

(B. 1949)

Nuno Júdice’s poetry (...) progressively abolishes the boundaries between the various domains of physical, spiritual and dream-like reality; such worlds are converted into hypotheses of language, and therefore into the poem, through a process which is very clearly conveyed by the title of one of his books: ‘the romantic mechanism of fragmentation.

Nuno Júdice was born in Mexilhoeira Grande, Algarve. He is a Professor of Literature at the Universidade Nova in Lisbon, where he lives. He is currently the Editor of the Gulbenkian Foundation literary magazine, Colóquio-Letras. He published his first poetry book in 1972, followed by many others and was the recipient of several renowned poetry prizes. Throughout the years, he has also published extensively as a novelist, an essayist and a literary critic.

Poetry books since 2000:

Poesia Reunida (1967-2000) (2000), Pedro, Lembrando Inês (2001), Cartografia de Emoções (2001), O Estado dos Campos (2003), Geometria Variável (2005), As Coisas Mais Simples (2006), As coisas mais simples (2006), O Breve Sentimento do Eterno (2008), A Matéria do Poema (2008), Guia de Conceitos Básicos (2010), Fórmulas de uma luz inexplicável (2012), Navegação de Acaso (2013), O fruto da gramática (2014), A Convergência dos Ventos (2015), O Mito da Europa (2017)

Poems

THE GRAPE HARVEST OF EROS

21 Setembro, 2018By bitcliq

And again this sky unfolds its autumn
matter. With the precision of a vintager, I grasp
the vine branches and cut bunches of mist pouring
over the earth. I load them on to the poem’s wagon
and drive them to the abandoned cellar of dreams
to turn them into a wine of words
made from the most liquid syllables, those which
can be drunk from the cup of the stanza. A smoke
of ancient inspiration rises from the vat
of mysteries. Barefooted girls wearing
aprons of sun climb on to the press
and tread the grapes. Juicy smells reach
their heads, and before they get too
tipsy they tell of perishable memories
born from nocturnal escapades
through unpunished fields of summer. I wait
for their work to be done and watch them leave,
their legs purple to the knee, their skirts lifted
to the thigh. Their eyes whirl like
wind-inebriated sails; and they open
their arms to the light, wanting it
to rid their bodies of clinging foam.
And I sing those bodies, as
if they had asked me to transform
the must of their lips into the pure red
of dawn. Thus, a wave of lines
uttered during the rituals of origin spreads over
their breasts, bestowing primeval whiteness,
and making me drink the liquid
distilled by their feet. I can only beg them,
as they dress in their gowns of cloud,
to go again through the severed vines
and embrace the vintagers, kissing them,
so they may taste the new wine on their lips.

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CHRISTMAS

I lie down under the shade of the shade-less tree – the tree
whose roots were forged in childhood – and it’s Christmas, and
the mid- of this endless night
is taking its time. I pray for
the most obscure uncertainties, for the souls who
falter at crossroads, for the tramps who
wait for midnight to sit at the church door,
on the one night they have somewhere to sit. With them
I learned the fate of human steps, the absence
of god on the world’s paths, the silence
of the sky on moonless nights. I played their card games
while mass lasted, enjoying the heat streaming
through the open church door, listening to the chorus
of the dead from the graveyard. I accepted
their cheating – in the name of those souls who listened –
as partnerships changed in the game. I paid
the demanded amount in order to be able
not to join them on the boat of time and
I saw them waiving good-bye before oblivion
clothed them in obscurity.

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Market pressures

Lend me words for the poem; or give me
syllables on credit, so I can invest them
in the market. But the price of metaphor is up,
restricting me to simple images, the cheapest,
those nobody wants: a flower? The smell
of the countryside? Waves that break, one after the other,
without asking for interest from onlookers?

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Hamlet and Ophelia

It’s not every day that hamlet takes
a cab to elsinore, where ophelia, expecting him,
has fried in haste some eggs for his supper. In the cab,
hamlet hears the driver asking him
his destination and, unsure, he answers
it’s to be the shortest way . But the cabdriver
can’t find that, between to be and not to be, and as
the eggs are getting colder, hamlet asks the cabdriver
to speak to polonius who should know if there is a
motorway to denmark.

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Fons vitae

Confidences linger on the palate
like slow clouds in an autumn sky. I blow them
away, and allow only a vague mist
to cling to what you want to tell me; but
your lips whisper in my ear and it is you who
tells me which sky this is, and from where
the clouds covering it have travelled. Feelings,
emotions, passions stand between
each sentence. There are no other subjects
when we meet and you start talking to me,
as if the heart were the only
source of what we say.

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A guide to basic concepts

Draw on the poem to create a survival
strategy in the map of your life. Make use
of the image layouts, knowing
it will provide you with quick access to the
resources of your soul. Avoid the predicaments
of sadness, and turn on the light that will bring you
the morning to come, when your time
is running out. If you need to
replace the tired feelings

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Lisbon light

13 Julho, 2018By bitcliq

The light crossing the room between
the two windows is always the same, although
on one side it’s west – where the sun is now – and on
the other it’s east – where the sun has already been. In the room
west and east meet, and it is this light
that makes my gaze uncertain for not knowing
which hour held the first light. Then I look at the thread
of light stretched between both windows, as if
it had no beginning and no end; and
I start pulling it inwards into
the room, winding it up, as if I could
use it to tie up both ends
of the day into midday, and let the time be
stopped between two windows, west
and east, until the thread
unwinds, and everything
begins all over again.

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