– Who? The infinite?
Tell him to come in!
It’s good for infinity
to have human company.
– Our help? He hobbles?
If the fellow’s lame,
give him what used to be
– Some money? No way!
I know the poor swine
instead of bread
would just buy wine.
– He insists? Who on earth
does he take himself for,
when a tiger ended up
as the rug on our floor?
– To go see his mother?
He’s putting us on!
He’s not from up north,
and his mother’s long gone.
– A victim of what?
Look: life is tough.
How can he be infinite
if he’s not made of hard stuff?
If only, Portugal, you were just three syllables,
a beautiful view of the sea,
the green Minho, the whitewashed Algarve,
a tiny, tranquil donkey
foraging on the mountain ridge,
a mill swinging its arms at a wind as stubborn
as a bull but with padded horns and after all friendly,
if only you were just salt, sun, the south,
the shrewd sparrow,
the meek colloquial ox,
the sizzling sardine,
the waddling fishwife,
the scribbler bundled up in pretty adjectives,
the silent, almondish complaint
of sharp eyes with black lashes,
if only you were just the buzzing of summer, the buzz of fashion,
the decrepit asthmatic dog of beaches,
the caged cricket, the cagey customer,
the calendar on the wall, the pin on a lapel,
if only, Portugal, you were just three syllables
made of plastic, which would be cheaper!
Confectioners of Amarante, potters from Barcelos,
lace-makers of Viana, bullfighters from Golegã,
your celebrated sweets don’t hit my fancy,
no clay cock sings in colour on my shelf,
no lacy whiteness trims my daydreams,
and no banderilla adorns my neck.
Portugal: an ongoing discussion with myself,
a soreness to the bone, an unsated hunger,
a bloodhound on a leash, with no nose and no ducks,
a spruced-up nag,
a dingy fair,
my regret for us all…
When blind, I was famed
(what a lucrative game!)
for being able to tell the future.
So everyone everywhere claimed.
But now that I see perfectly
I use my eyesight to prophesy
and nobody wants to believe me,
since it’s plain,
they say, for all to see!
Make your verse flawed,
but do it for a reason:
with flaws that aren’t mistakes,
in the fight against what’s pretty.
Seize for me those perfectly
round rhymes that are
the sweet rolls of fools
and break their necks,
as someone else demanded
that we do to eloquence.
And if there’s an Excellency
who screams “This isn’t poetry!”,
tell him that no, it isn’t –
it’s a stumbling, it’s sandpaper,
the act of sawing, crushed glass,
shredded paper or a stone roll-
ing against a stone…
But you can also make use
of neat, regular rhyme,
for the rule is there’s no rule
except for your own rule,
with your rhyme and rhythm,
to make it not simply pretty
but simply expressive…