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luís soares

Blog do escritor Luís Soares

Natasha Trethewey - Imperatives for Carrying On in the Aftermath

Do not hang your head or clench your fists

when even your friend, after hearing the story,

says, My mother would never put up with that.


Fight the urge to rattle off statistics: that,

more often, a woman who chooses to leave

is then murdered. The hundredth time


your father says, But she hated violence,

why would she marry a guy like that?—

don't waste your breath explaining, again,


how abusers wait, are patient, that they

don't beat you on the first date, sometimes

not even the first few years of a marriage.


Keep an impassive face whenever you hear

Stand By Your Man, and let go your rage

when you recall those words were advice


given your mother. Try to forget the first

trial, before she was dead, when the charge

was only attempted murder; don't belabor


the thinking or the sentence that allowed

her ex-husband's release a year later, or

the juror who said, It's a domestic issue—


they should work it out themselves. Just

breathe when, after you read your poems

about grief, a woman asks, Do you think


your mother was weak for men? Learn

to ignore subtext. Imagine a thought-

cloud above your head, dark and heavy


with the words you cannot say; let silence

rain down. Remember you were told,

by your famous professor, that you should


write about something else, unburden

yourself of the death of your mother and

just pour your heart out in the poems.


Ask yourself what's in your heart, that

reliquary—blood locket and seedbed—and

contend with what it means, the folk saying


you learned from a Korean poet in Seoul:

that one does not bury the mother's body

in the ground but in the chest, or—like you —


you carry her corpse on your back.

Natasha Trethewey - After My Father

Right off I hear him singing, the strings
of his old guitar hemming the darkness
as before—late nights on the front porch—
the mountains across the valley blurred
to outline. We are at it again, father
and daughter, deep in our cups, rehearsing
the long years between us. In the distance
I hear the foghorn call of bullfrogs,
envoys from the river of lamentation
my father is determined to cross. Already
I know where this is headed: how many times
has the night turned toward regret? My father
saying, If only I’d been a better husband
she’d be alive today, saying, Gwen and I
would get back together if she were alive.
It’s the same old song. He is Orpheus
trying to bring her back with the music
of his words, lines of a poem drifting now
into my dream. Picking the first chords,
my father leans into the neck of the guitar,
rolls his shoulders until he’s lost in it—
the song carrying him across the porch
and down into the damp grass. Even asleep,
I know where he is going. I cannot call
him back. Through the valley the blacktop
winds like a river, and he is stepping into it,
walking now toward the other side where
she waits, my mother, just out of reach.

Natasha Trethewey - Myth

I was asleep while you were dying.
It's as if you slipped through some rift, a hollow
I make between my slumber and my waking,


the Erebus I keep you in, still trying
not to let go. You'll be dead again tomorrow,
but in dreams you live. So I try taking


you back into morning. Sleep-heavy, turning,
my eyes open, I find you do not follow.
Again and again, this constant forsaking.




Again and again, this constant forsaking:
my eyes open, I find you do not follow.
You back into morning, sleep-heavy, turning.


But in dreams you live. So I try taking,
not to let go. You'll be dead again tomorrow.
The Erebus I keep you in—still, trying—


I make between my slumber and my waking.
It's as if you slipped through some rift, a hollow.
I was asleep while you were dying.

Natasha Trethewey - Vespertina Cognitio

Overhead, pelicans glide in threes—
        their shadows across the sand
                dark thoughts crossing the mind.


Beyond the fringe of coast, shrimpers
        hoist their nets, weighing the harvest
                against the day's losses. Light waning,


concentration is a lone gull
        circling what's thrown back. Debris
                weights the trawl like stones.


All day, this dredging—beneath the tug
        of waves—rhythm of what goes out,
                comes back, comes back, comes back.

Natasha Trethewey - Theories of Time and Space

You can get there from here, though
there's no going home.


Everywhere you go will be somewhere
you've never been. Try this:


head south on Mississippi 49, one-
by-one mile markers ticking off


another minute of your life. Follow this
to its natural conclusion—dead end


at the coast, the pier at Gulfport where
riggings of shrimp boats are loose stitches


in a sky threatening rain. Cross over
the man-made beach, 26 miles of sand


dumped on the mangrove swamp—buried
terrain of the past. Bring only


what you must carry—tome of memory,
its random blank pages. On the dock


where you board the boat for Ship Island,
someone will take your picture:


the photograph—who you were—
will be waiting when you return.

Kitchen Maid with Supper at Emmaus, or The Mulata

Natasha Trethewey, 1966


                                    —after the painting by Diego Velàzquez, ca. 1619


She is the vessels on the table before her:
the copper pot tipped toward us, the white pitcher
clutched in her hand, the black one edged in red
and upside down. Bent over, she is the mortar
and the pestle at rest in the mortar—still angled
in its posture of use. She is the stack of bowls
and the bulb of garlic beside it, the basket hung
by a nail on the wall and the white cloth bundled
in it, the rag in the foreground recalling her hand.
She's the stain on the wall the size of her shadow—
the color of blood, the shape of a thumb. She is echo
of Jesus at table, framed in the scene behind her:
his white corona, her white cap. Listening, she leans
into what she knows. Light falls on half her face.