Poems From The Portuguese
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Pedro Mexia

(B. 1972)

In many of his poems, Pedro Mexia tries to deal with the fluidity, even with the vacuity of meanings - in one of his lines he appears to regret having lost his childhood faith in glossaries. Seeped with the nostalgia for word and world orders that seem to have vanished along with the 20th century, Pedro Mexia’s poetry offers a challenging reading of high modernist tenets, interspersed with the swift sound-bites of contemporary tunes and lives.

Pedro Mexia is a writer and a literary critic who lives in Lisbon. He writes regularly for various newspapers and literary magazines and collaborates in radio and television programmes.

Poetry books since 2000:

Em Memória (2000), Avalanche (2001), Eliot e Outras Observações (2003), Vida Oculta (2004), Senhor Fantasma (2007), Menos por Menos - Poemas Escolhidos (2011)

Poems

PARAPHRASE

21 Setembro, 2018By bitcliq

This poem begins by comparing you
to the constellations,
with their magical names
and precise drawings,
and afterwards
a jeu de mots signals
that without you astronomy
is an unfortunate science.
Two metaphors follow
introducing the theme
of light and of the beloved’s
Petrarchan contrasts,
in the sad safe haven
of imagination.

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WALLACE STEVENS ON HIS WAY TO THE OFFICE

En route, Hartford stiffens
and at the same time becomes lighter.
Fall ceases to be the fall.
The cockerels don’t sing.
This necessary world of objects
is transmuted in the gaze
of the weary man, weary but contented
with everything made in himself
by the imagining mind.
In Hartford, it’s always fall,
as it is in certain jails. Connecticut
and here’s the poem. As soon as he gets
to the office, Mrs Halliwell will write it down.

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LIFE OF CHRIST

n the improvised church hall,
disordered rows of chairs announced
a film on ‘the life of Christ’.
We were children, on holiday
at the seaside, who still took communion
untroubled, and in the company
of curious or loafing adults
went at eight sharp to the life of Christ.

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FUNERALS

We meet the family at funerals.
We’re never as transparent
as when we mourn
and tell measured anecdotes
recalling the deceased.
What blood runs here
that mine may resemble?
Some of the old people bring the flowers
they already gave at weddings
and among them they decide
we are a family,
they know the cousins I don’t
know, regret the fate
of those whose story is known,
they are even graver
than us, and use
endearing terms.
My name will turn to dust
with my body, a widowed
woman is thinking,
there are siblings who are completely silent
and children who play blindman’s buff.
We follow the cortege
straightening our ties,
the wind can’t tell that someone has died.
Ten people keep up with the priest,
the others can no longer remember
the prayers,
ten people think about
what they are facing,
the others follow the coffin.
Soon enough
the younger will bury
the older digger.

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DRAWERS

You should not open closed
drawers: they were locked for a reason,
having now found
the key is a happenstance you can ignore.
You know what you’ll find inside drawers:
lies. Many paper lies,
photographs, things.
Drawers are home to the world’s
imperfection, the unalterable imperfection,
the sorrow that repeatedly feeds your disillusion.
Drawers have always been packed
by people as weak as you
and locked by someone wiser than you.
A month ago, never mind a century.

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‘THE BALLAD OF THE SAD CAFÉ’

I bought the ‘Ballad of the Sad Café’ from her,
after having almost passed as a book
thief, touching books without looking
at them, while I circled from all
sides those eyes that could be spotted
from every place in that book fair, even
if there came any obstacle that colour
green would have come through, green that turned
everything green between me and her and
in the midst of that unanimous colour the girl
stood out even more. It doesn’t matter much,
reader, if afterwards the story went further,
between man and woman not much else
happens: eyes that are suddenly
necessary and may take you for
a book thief or worse.
I’ve never read ‘The Ballad of the Sad Café’.

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ALEXANDRIA

13 Julho, 2018By bitcliq

Lisbon is not Alexandria but then
Alexandria is only a metropolis
heightened and exalted in verse, its geometry,
its incisions of small despair.
Give me a city, for this which is mine
is tired and I don’t want any other,
give me steps always going down,
old palace balconies,
give me an Alexandria of thought,
with an antiquity that gilds every hour,
every afternoon, but a false,
hyperbolic antiquity,
subtle from being so often imagined, unreal city.
Lisbon is not Alexandria and is tired, there
were places I knew, others hidden,
there are routes I conjecture as the crowds
advance, feast days,
window settings, sills.
I don’t want this river, nor that other,
the Heraclytian one, offered to me
in some abridged complete works on the bookshelf.
Give me an earthly city, without posterity
or tongue, a city where I may
open the past of its streets
and, with no other purpose, breathe.

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